There is something hopelessly cheerful about this cake with its alternating layers of delicate pink and vibrant red that create a delicious contrast and give it a celebratory appearance. The flavors are fresh and bursting with each bite. It turns out that homemade ice cream is great fun both to make and to eat. Making an ice cream cake from scratch is deeply rewarding and justifies all the effort put into it.
Coconut milk (especially with a high fat content) mimics dairy ice cream very well and makes it creamier than other dairy alternatives do. It also combines well with other flavors. Coconut gives the cake an exotic tropical twist, while the addition of sugar intensifies the tangy sweetness of the cherries. The ice cream cake feels unexpectedly light, fruity and delightfully refreshing.
Although the whole preparation is time-consuming, the layers are easy to assemble once the cherry compote is ready. The good thing is that the cake can easily be made the day before the event and taken out of the freezer and allowed to soften for a few minutes before serving.
7 cups ripe sweet cherries, halved – roughly 160 g/cup, a total of 1.1 – 1.2 kg cherries (2 cups per can of coconut milk, plus an additional cup for the sauce)
Note: 1 cup = 250 ml. You could use a mix of sweet and sour cherries, or add a little lemon juice to the compote to cut the sweetness a bit. You could also leave out the agave nectar if you find that the combination of coconut milk and cherry compote is sweet enough for you.
Place the cans of coconut milk in the fridge overnight.
Remove the stems from the cherries, wash and drain them. If you have a cherry pitter, remove the pits and cut them in half. Otherwise use a small knife to cut them in half and pull out the pit with your thumb (that’s how I did it and found the process to be very relaxing).
Place all the cherries in a large saucepan and add the sugar. Mix with a spoon so all the cherries are coated. Leave for about half an hour so that the cherries start releasing their juice. Place the pan on medium-high heat and bring it to a boil. As the cherries release more juice it will start to bubble heavily. Reduce the heat to simmering point and continue cooking for about 10 minutes, at which point there will be a lot of juice in the pan. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon to prevent sticking. Carefully pour some juice into a measuring cup till 3/4 full. You will use this to make the sauce for topping.
Place the pan back on the heat and continue cooking the compote until considerably reduced and slightly thickened. Turn the heat off and place the pan on a wire rack, leaving it to cool completely. The compote will thicken further. Finally, pour it into a food processor or blender and blitz for a few seconds to remain slightly chunky (for a smooth ice cream, blend it into a purée).
Pour the 3/4 cup cherry juice in a small pan and place it on medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer gently for a few minutes until reduced to about 1/2 cup. Remove from heat and let it cool.
Assembling The Layers
Prepare a 22 cm (8.7″) cake pan (a springform pan works best) by lining the bottom with cling film for easy transfer to a serving plate. I had a regular cake pan which I lined with a couple of cling film sheets; to remove the cake I simply placed a large plate on top and inverted the cake onto it, peeled off the cling film, then placed the serving plate on top of the cake and inverted it again.
Remove one can of coconut milk from the fridge and without shaking turn it upside down. Open the can from the bottom (which is now up) and discard the transparent liquid, leaving the solidified coconut milk.
Transfer the creamed coconut milk to a bowl, add 4 Tb agave nectar and whisk briefly to combine.
Divide the cherry compote into 4 – 3 parts (about 2 heaped tablespoons each) for the 3 layers and the last part divided in 2 for the middle cherry layers. Mix one part into the creamed coconut milk and pour into the pan. Give it a little shake to make an even layer and pop it in the freezer for 30 minutes.
2-3 minutes before removing it and adding the second layer, take the second can of coconut milk out of the fridge and follow the instructions above. Now remove the pan from the freezer, spoon some cherry compote over it and spread it into a thin layer. Pour the second layer of ice cream on top and give it a shake to even it out. Put the pan back in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Repeat the process with the second middle layer of cherry compote and the third ice cream layer and give it another 30 minutes in the freezer.
Remove the cake from the pan, carefully peeling off the cling film, and transfer it to a serving plate.
Dip a knife in warm water, wipe it dry and cut a slice out. Dip it again in warm water and cut another slice.
Just before serving drizzle some cherry sauce on top and let it drip over the sides.
Treat yourself to some coconut cherry ice cream while cherries are in season, that’s when they taste the best.
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