Where there’s ice cream, there has to be sprinkles! This ice cream loaf cake features layers of buttery sprinkle cake and ice cream while chocolate ganache and sprinkles add a delicious and decorative finishing touch. You can use your favorite ice cream flavor, but stick to an ice cream that doesn’t contain a lot of large chunks. (See recipe note.) The cake is pretty solid after freezing, so give it a few minutes before slicing and serving.
Ice Cream Loaf Cake Details
Flavor: The cake reminds me of these funfetti cupcakes because it’s buttery and sweet with notes of vanilla. The ganache topping is, of course, rich and chocolatey. The ice cream flavor is completely up to you, so have fun with this. Some ice cream options I love for this ice cream loaf cake recipe are chocolate chip, strawberry, pistachio, peanut butter ripple, cookies & cream, and mint chocolate chip.
Texture: Right out of the freezer, the slices taste frozen (obviously) so I like to let the cake sit out for a few minutes before slicing. I even let the slices sit for another few minutes before serving because I prefer a softer cake with ice cream– just as pictured above. Test cakes were MUCH denser even after sitting out and you can read about my recipe testing next.
Ease: This is a very straightforward cake recipe. You don’t need a mixer or any special equipment, but have some parchment paper or plastic wrap handy for assembly. Slicing the cake into layers takes some time, but don’t stress. As long as you have a very sharp or serrated knife, it’s manageable. Note that a cake leveler isn’t very helpful because this is a denser cake. The hardest part is waiting for the assembled cake to freeze! Or, if you’re indecisive like I am, choose an ice cream flavor.
How & Why This Recipe Works
My go-to ice cream cake recipe is all ice cream with layers of Oreos and whipped cream on top. Today’s recipe includes actual cake. I prefer softer cakes, so my #1 goal was to start with a soft cake that was still sturdy enough to assemble and serve frozen. It was certainly a tall order and about 7 test recipes later– and that is no exaggeration– I had a workable recipe.
Butter-based cakes, like pound cake, are notoriously heavy and even denser when frozen. I knew this wasn’t the place I wanted to start, so I opted for an oil-based cake. The oil-based sprinkle cake was fine, but it looked and tasted more like a quick bread. I swapped oil for melted butter so there could be a little more flavor in the cake. I also switched to cake flour to provide a lighter crumb. I tried using 2 egg whites instead of a whole egg, since egg whites make a lighter cake (see white cake), but that made no difference here. Use cake flour, melted butter, 1 whole egg, and the rest of the ingredients listed below. The cake has great structure, but is still a little soft as the cake slices thaw.
How to Assemble This Ice Cream Loaf Cake
Start Assembly: After removing the completely cooled loaf cake from the pan, slice it into 3 layers. This can be tricky, so take your time. I usually stand the loaf upright on one end and slice downward. Be careful and watch your fingers if doing it this way. Line your loaf pan with parchment paper or plastic wrap with an overhang on the sides. Place bottom cake layer in:
Ice Cream: Spread half of your ice cream on top. This is much easier if the ice cream has slightly softened and I worked that into the recipe instructions below. I just use a spoon to scoop it out of the container and spread it around. It’s a thick layer of ice cream:
Repeat: Repeat this one more time with the middle cake layer and 2nd layer of ice cream.
Finally, place the top cake layer on top then cover and freeze.
Topping, Slicing, & Serving This Ice Cream Loaf Cake
Can it really be a cake without a glorious finishing touch? Top this ice cream cake with a thick layer of chocolate ganache. Since the cake is so cold, the ganache sets very quickly and tastes like a layer of rich fudge. The chocolate ganache instructions are below, but if you’d like to learn more see my How to Make Chocolate Ganache post.
Let the ganache cool and thicken for about 10 minutes, then spread onto the frozen loaf cake. The cake is obviously very cold, so I recommend letting it sit for about 3-5 minutes before slicing. (Otherwise, you’ll have a heck of a time trying to cut it!) And if you prefer a softer ice cream cake as I do, let the slices “melt” for a few more minutes before serving them.
Such a fun treat for a summer birthday!
Best Sprinkles to Use in Cakes
I’ve been baking cake and cupcake batters with sprinkles for quite a while and have learned exactly what works– and what doesn’t. Here’s what I know:
Use confetti quins if you can. They’re usually sold as little discs, but you can find other shapes such as stars or hearts too. This type of sprinkle rarely bleeds color in the cake batter. These shimmery ones hold their color nicely too.
I really like these rainbow sprinkles if you’re looking for traditional jimmies. (Not sponsored, truly what I personally use.) They don’t bleed color too much. They aren’t crunchy, so they taste nice as decoration or garnish too.
Do not use nonpareils (the little balls) in cake batter because they are notorious for bleeding color. Save them for decoration or garnish.
Naturally colored sprinkles are wonderful in cookies and as decoration, but– depending on the brand– can lose their color in the cake batter.
Ice Cream Loaf Cake
Prep Time: 45 minutes Cook Time: 55 minutes Total Time: 9 hours, 40 minutes (includes freezing) Yield: 1 loaf cake; 10-12 servings
This ice cream loaf cake features layers of buttery sprinkle cake and ice cream while chocolate ganache and sprinkles add a delicious and decorative finishing touch. For best success, review recipe notes and video tutorials before beginning.
- 2 cups (236g) cake flour (spoon & leveled)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 Tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup (80g) sour cream (or plain yogurt/Greek yogurt), at room temperature*
- 2/3 cup (160ml) whole milk, at room temperature*
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup (about 50g) sprinkles
- 2 pints (4 cups; about 960ml) ice cream (see note)
- Ganache Topping
- one 4-ounce (113g) quality semi-sweet chocolate bar, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces; 120ml) heavy cream or heavy whipping cream
- optional: sprinkles for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Spray a 9×5 inch loaf pan with nonstick spray.
Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk the melted and slightly cooled butter, egg, granulated sugar, sour cream, milk, and vanilla together until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, then whisk to completely combine. Avoid over-mixing. Fold in the sprinkles.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake loaf cake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, covering loosely with foil about halfway through to prevent the top from over-browning. Poke the center of the cake with a toothpick. If it comes out clean, the cake is done. Oven times will vary between ovens. My cake usually takes 55 minutes. Cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack.
Slice cake into layers: The video tutorial above is a helpful visual for the next few steps. Carefully remove cooled cake from the loaf pan. (You will use the loaf pan again in the next step.) Place on a cutting board and using a very sharp or serrated knife, slowly slice horizontally into 3 even layers. As shown in the video above, I usually stand the loaf upright on one end and cut it down vertically. Feel free to use a ruler for precision. A cake leveler isn’t very helpful because this is a denser cake.
Remove ice cream from the freezer. Let it soften for 15 minutes or microwave it for about 20-30 seconds.
Assemble & freeze cake: Line the loaf pan with parchment paper or plastic wrap with enough overhang on the sides to lift the ice cream loaf cake out of the pan after freezing. Place bottom loaf cake layer into lined pan. Slowly and carefully spread 1 pint of softened ice cream in an even layer on top. Top with a center loaf cake layer. Slowly and carefully spread 2nd pint of ice cream evenly on top. Place atop the loaf cake layer on top, pressing it down gently so it really sticks to the ice cream beneath it. Cover assembled loaf cake with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and freeze for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days. (If freezing for longer than 1 day, let it sit for 10 minutes at room temperature before pouring ganache on top in step 9.)
With about 15 minutes left in freezing time, make the ganache topping: Place chopped chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it begins to gently simmer. (Do not let it come to a rapid boil– that’s too hot!) Pour over chocolate, then let it sit for 2-3 minutes to gently soften the chocolate. With a metal spoon or small rubber spatula, very slowly stir until completely combined and chocolate has melted. The finer you chop the chocolate, the quicker it will melt with the cream. Set aside for 10 minutes to thicken as you complete the next step.
Remove loaf cake from the freezer and using the parchment overhang on the sides, carefully lift it out of the loaf pan. Parchment may tear, but do your best to remove the whole cake. Use a knife to loosen it from the pan if needed. Remove parchment from the cake and place the cake on a cutting board.
Pour and spread ganache on top. Garnish with sprinkles if desired. The ganache will set quickly since the loaf is so cold. Let the cake sit for 3-5 minutes to slightly soften before slicing. (Slicing will be VERY hard to do otherwise!)
Using a very sharp or serrated knife, cut into slices about 3/4 inch thick. The cake will be hard since it’s frozen but softens as the minutes go by. I like it better when the cake and ice cream are a little softer after a few minutes.
Cover and store leftover cake/slices in the freezer for up to 1 week.
Make-Ahead Instructions: You can make this ice cream cake ahead of time since it needs to freeze. Freeze assembled cake for up to 3 days. See the end of step 6. It’s best to add ganache topping soon before slicing and serving. If absolutely needed, you can top with ganache then carefully cover and place back into the freezer for up to 8 hours. Let it sit at room temperature for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.
Cake Flour: Sometimes a cake flour substitute works in recipes calling for cake flour, but it’s best to use real cake flour here. The cake tastes a bit dense if using the substitute. You can find cake flour in most grocery stores in the baking aisle.
Sour Cream & Milk: Full fat sour cream and whole milk are strongly recommended for the best taste and texture. A full-fat plain yogurt would work instead of the sour cream, though the cake may not taste as tender. The same goes with lower fat or nondairy milk.
Sprinkles: Feel free to leave out the sprinkles if desired. For the best sprinkles to use in cakes, see details above the recipe.
Ice Cream: You can use any flavor of ice cream, but I recommend avoiding ice cream with large chunks in it. Slicing the cake will be very difficult (almost impossible!) if you have to slice through large chunks of the ice cream. I used chocolate chip ice cream, which has thin and small pieces of chocolate throughout.