(Note: this post was originally published on September 29, 2019. The date above reflects migration to the new platform.)
A Show-Stopping Fall Treat
Get ready for the most awesome, most unique fall treat. A vegan ice cream cake stuffed with figs, bourbon, and cinnamon. Could anything be better?
I'm indescribably in love with this cake for several reasons. First and most importantly, it's absolutely delicious. Second, it's not too difficult to put together and yet is a total shining star. And third, even though it poses as an indulgent cake, the ingredients are essentially just nuts and fruit. Win, win, win.
This cake is packed with classic fall ingredients: figs, cinnamon, pecans, maple syrup, and even bourbon. But because it's ice cream, it's a really unexpected twist on these flavors. This cake would be perfectly at home for a September deck party, an October harvest party, and even Thanksgiving.
Good For the Body
Even though this cake may seem decadent, it's actually loaded with ingredients that are good for the body! It's almost completely just fruit and nuts.
The "crust" of this cake is a protein bar in disguise; just dried figs, almonds, and cinnamon. Have you seen my guide to Homemade Lara Bars? It's the exact same idea. The ice cream filling is actually "nicecream", made with pureed frozen bananas (and dressed up with more figs, cinnamon, and a dash of maple syrup). Roasted pecans on top bring it all together.
Thanks to all those great ingredients, this dessert is surprisingly high in protein. It's vegan, free of refined sugar, and you can make it entirely fruit-sweetend with one minor tweak. Doesn't that just make you want to have another slice??
Here's How to Do It
While nothing about this cake is difficult, it does take a few steps, with freezing time in between. The downside is that you'll need to plan ahead... the upside is that it's entirely make-ahead and hence is great for entertaining! Just whip it out of the freezer when you're ready for dessert, slice it, and enjoy.
My recommendation for how to get this done most efficiently and easily: - Day 1: Slice and freeze the bananas, make and freeze the crust, simmer and cool the dried figs for the filling - Day 2: Make the nicecream and assemble the cake - Day 3: Add the pecans on top, slice, and serve
A Secret Surprise Inside
As you can see in these photos, it's gorgeous to embed some fresh figs inside. Isn't this the most beautiful ice cream cake you've seen?? You'll just place some fresh figs on top of the crust, before adding the nicecream (see the photo below). Pack them in as tightly as you can so they stay in place! Then nestle the nicecream around them, being sure to fill in all the gaps. When you serve the cake, slice it so that you expose the very center of each fig, which is the most beautiful part!
Of course this part is totally optional, but in my opinion it's what makes this cake so special. If you'd rather not deal with it, just omit the whole fresh fig aspect of the recipe and make the crust and nicecream as directed. That's also a good option if you can't find fresh figs.
Let's Talk Ingredients
Here's what you'll need for this recipe, as well as some thoughts, tips, and possible substitutions. If you make any substitutions, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below.
Dried figs. You'll use these for the crust and nicecream. I like the pale-colored, large Calimyrna figs best, but use what you can find.
Almonds. For the crust! I prefer roasted and salted almonds for the best flavor. Raw will work too, but they won't taste as nutty. If you end up using unsalted nuts, I suggest adding a little dash of salt to the crust mixture.
Cinnamon. This warming spice makes an appearance in both the crust and the nicecream. You could also add a bit of ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and/or cardamon if you like those flavors; just use restraint since they're all quite strong.
Fresh figs. For nestling inside the cake! See my thoughts above on this piece and other possible options.
Bourbon. You'll use this to plump up the dried figs for the nicecream AND you'll add it directly to the nicecream to keep it creamy in the freezer overnight. See the note below for more thoughts on my rationale and possible substitutions.
Ripe, frozen bananas. For the nicecream. They MUST be frozen ahead of time!
Maple syrup. I like to sweeten the nicecream with just a bit of maple syrup. If you're trying to avoid sugar, you can certainly omit this, although your cake may not feel sweet enough. You can always taste the nicecream and adjust the sweetness level as you see fit.
Splash of nut milk. You'll use this to thin out the nicecream. Any milk will work fine, or even water in a pinch. Or more bourbon... I won't tell...
Roasted pecans. To garnish the top of the cake. These are an iconic fall nut and I love the flavor they add. Walnuts would be tasty too. Bonus points if you can find maple-roasted varieties!
A Note About Bourbon
You'll see that this recipe calls for bourbon. There are actually three reasons for this: (1) I adore bourbon, (2) you need a flavorful liquid to plump up the dried figs for the nicecream, and (3) adding bourbon to the nicecream keeps it from freezing too hard in the fridge.
I guess item #1 is self-explanatory; bourbon is an absolutely iconic and wonderful fall flavor.
For item #2, boiling the figs in bourbon helps them soften up and become more easily-incorporated into the nicecream. This step actually cooks off most of the alcohol too. If you'd rather not use the bourbon, doing this step in water will still help soften them but won't add any additional flavor. If you go that route, I'd add maybe a teaspoon of vanilla to the cooking water. Or even better, use apple cider!
For item #3, the alcohol actually serves a really important purpose: it depresses the freezing temperature, such that your nicecream won't freeze as hard. This is a good thing! You want your nicecream cake to be creamy and easy to cut, not a solid brick. See my Boozy Nicecream Guide for more thoughts on this. That said, if you don't do alcohol, you can omit the bourbon. Just be forewarned that your nicecream will be harder and you might need to let it sit out for 15 minutes before you can cut the cake.
Phew, sorry for all the rambling. This one is a bit complicated and I had lots of tips and substitutions to share! Please don't let the numerous steps deter you from making this recipe. Nothing about it is difficult, and the reward is so great in the end. Just follow the schedule I outlined above, and make sure to start the process two days in advance. The total hands-on time will only be about an hour to an hour and a half, which is nothing for an elegant-looking, party-worthy dessert.
I hope you'll invite this cake to your fall festivities! It's such a symphony of fall flavors, but in a totally unexpected package. Who knows, maybe Thanksgiving Ice Cream Cake will become a new thing??
It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.
A show-stopping dessert, this nicecream cake features sweet juicy figs, warming cinnamon, and a dash of (optional) bourbon. It's a perfect dessert for early autumn, since it straddles summer and fall flavors. Best of all, it's entirely make-ahead and uses good-for-the-body ingredients!
At least one day before, slice the bananas and freeze them.
To make the crust: combine the dried figs, almonds, and cinnamon in a food processor, and process until the mixture just starts to make a sticky ball.
Line a bread pan with several layers of plastic wrap or parchment paper. Make sure the wrap goes all the way into the corners and up the sides. Leave enough sticking out the sides so you'll be able to pull the whole cake out after you're done. This is critical, don't skimp on this step or your cake won't come out!
Spoon the crust mixture into the pan and press it down firmly. You want to achieve an even layer that will stick together well, so press it hard. Then, let your crust sit in the freezer for at least an hour before adding the filling. Overnight is fine too, but in that case cover the top of the pan tightly with a lid or plastic wrap.
Remove the crust from the freezer and sit whole fresh figs upright along the length of the bread pan, squishing them in a bit to fit as many as you can. Return the crust (now with figs on top) to the freezer.
Now, begin to make the filling. Cut the dried figs into quarters and put them in a small saucepan with half the bourbon (about 2 tbsp). Simmer them for ten minutes until the figs are soft and the liquid is absorbed.
Cool the figs fully, otherwise your nicecream will melt! This can be done in a short time in the freezer, or you could easily prep the figs the day before and keep them in the fridge.
To a food processor, add the cooled, bourbon-bathed figs, frozen bananas, maple syrup, cinnamon, and the remaining 2 tbsp of bourbon. Process until you have a very smooth, creamy consistency. As needed, add a splash or more of nut milk to help the nicecream smooth out. You want to achieve a consistency similar to soft-serve ice cream so that you can easily spread it into the bread pan.
Remove the crust from the freezer and spread the nice cream over the crust. Make sure to press down firmly so that the nicecream fills all the corners and gaps. Work around the fresh figs carefully, putting half of the nicecream on either side. Leave the stem of each fig just barely exposed so that you can find the prettiest places to slice the cake. Or, if your figs are too short to reasonably keep the stems exposed, stick toothpicks in their tops.
Cover your cake tightly and return it to the freezer. Let it sit at least overnight, although it's fine to stay for a couple days if it's tightly wrapped. Freeze any extra nicecream in a separate container for easy snacks or desserts.
When you're ready to serve your masterpiece, let it sit out for about five minutes to soften slightly around the edges. Then pull it out by the plastic wrap, sit it on a board, and cover the top with pecans.
Locate the stems of the whole figs and slice directly down through them so that you expose the center of the figs. Enjoy immediately!