Festive ice-cream cake for the big day

Showstopper dessert is gorgeous, creamy and adorned with little jewels

Christmas ice-cream cake. Photograph: Harry Weir

Christmas ice-cream cake. Photograph: Harry Weir


This festive ice-cream cake is a fabulous addition to any Christmas table and can be prepared and frozen a few days, or even weeks, ahead of the big day. It is simple but beautiful and will look like you made a big effort. It is a showstopper dessert, gorgeous and creamy and adorned with little jewels.

I love this sort of recipe; you feel a sense of smugness ticking another item off your prep list as it is done in advance. It is an alternative to the usual Christmas sweets, so if you are not a fan of plum pudding or trifle, give this one a go.

Here I have made three layers of light vanilla and orange sponge, filled and enveloped in a quick, grown-up ice cream, speckled with chocolate, fruit and nuts and then frozen completely. It just needs a few minutes out of the freezer before eating, to soften a little.

This recipe doesn’t call for making a traditional ice-cream, more so an impromptu ice with no churning involved. Eggs, mascarpone, double cream and fortified wine are mixed together and piled in between and on top of the sponge layers. Here I have used marsala, but sweet sherry, madeira or even port would work well too. The alcohol lightens the ice cream and gives a warm little spike when it hits the tongue. Crucially, it also stops the ice cream from freezing too solid, creating a lovely creaminess as it softens.

Chopped dark chocolate, pistachios and candied orange are folded into the ice cream and the cake is finished with some reserved fruit and nuts and a final flourish of vibrant pomegranate seeds. The fruit and nuts in this recipe give the cake a wonderful texture and look beautifully festive piled on top of the finished cake. I love these flavours paired together as they remind me of panettone, the sweet Italian bread filled with fruit and nuts that is eaten at Christmas time.

You will need smaller round cake tins to bake the sponges and then a larger one lined with clingfilm to build your cake, which will happily sit in the freezer, well covered, until the big day.


Serves 12


For the sponges:

335g unsalted butter, cubed

335g caster sugar

335g self-raising flour, sifted

6 eggs

Zest of 2 oranges

1½ tsp vanilla extract

For the ice-cream filling and topping:

2 eggs

85g caster sugar

500g mascarpone

500ml double cream

150ml fortified wine, marsala, sherry or port

125g dark chocolate, chopped

100g pistachios, chopped

100g candied orange, chopped

50g pomegranate seeds


For the sponges:

1 Preheat the oven to 175 degrees. Grease three 20cm cake tins and place a disc of parchment paper at the bottom of each.

2 Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and soft. Add the eggs one by one, allowing each one to incorporate fully before adding the next.

3 Add the orange zest and vanilla, mixing well to combine, followed by the flour, folding gently until fully incorporated.

4 Divide the batter between the three cake tins and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of each comes out clean.

5 Set aside to cool for 10 minutes before turning out on to a wire rack and cooling completely.

6 When they are cool, trim the top of the sponges to ensure each sponge is flat. Set aside until ready to assemble.

For the ice-cream filling and topping:

1 Put the eggs and sugar in a bowl and whisk for about five minutes with an electric beater or by hand, until light, pale and fluffy. Add the mascarpone and cream and continue to whisk until smooth and the cream reaches soft peaks.

2 Add the fortified wine and continue to whip until fully combined.

3 Fold in 100g of the chocolate, 50g of the pistachios and 50g of the candied orange, reserving the remainder of each for the topping.

To assemble:

1 Line a large 24cm springform cake tin with clingfilm, leaving some hanging over the edges. Place one of the sponges in the centre and spoon over some of the filling. Repeat with the remaining sponges, and pour the remaining filling over the top of the cake and down the sides, pressing down using a palette knife or spoon to remove as many air bubbles as possible, ensuring the entire cake tin is filled with the ice-cream filling.

2 Smooth the top of the cake and place in the freezer overnight.

3 When ready to serve, remove the frozen cake from the cake tin, remove the clingfilm and place on a serving plate.

4 Garnish the top of the cake with the pomegranate seeds and the remaining chopped chocolate, pistachios and orange, and serve.

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