Before we dive in to today’s hot fudge sundae cake, I need your help. I’m reaching out to you, human to human, desperately in need of encouragement, advice, whatever you’ve got for me.
You see, I recently decided to branch out beyond my usual arsenal of dinner recipes. I had grown comfortable with simple dinners of a lean meat, vegetable, and starch, and wanted to start experimenting with new recipes and flavors. It seemed realistic to incorporate one new recipe into our weekly rituals, so I made that my goal and started cooking new things.
Like most new ventures of my naive adulthood, I began this quest with grandiose expectations. I saw my family sitting around the dinner table, happily slurping bowls of Vietnemese pho. Aimee operates her chopsticks with age-defying precision and George requests extra pickled onions. No one picks through their food, complains, or asks “what’s for dessert” because they’re entirely enamored with their super-authentic, made-from-scratch meal. “And honey, is that a new dress? You look almost as ravishing as this bowl of noodles!”
There’s other nights too, ones where Brett suddenly develops a deep appreciation for mushrooms and we dive into hearty dishes like creamy polenta with braised beef cheek and chanterelles. Aimee and I pick herbs from our garden for spicy fish tacos and even spicier red curries, margaritas and mango lassies entirely optional.
In theory, it all works. I shop for groceries, sweat over the stove, and people enjoy the food. It should be a given, right?
Wrong. Instead, dinnertime is a personal beating, a full-blown assassination of this mother’s morale, as not one but three pairs of eyes stare at their dinner with disgust and despair. There’s no tofu meatloaf or fried frog legs on the table- just a simple meal of (what I wrongfully assumed to be) dinnertime basics- things like broccoli, chicken, and quinoa. You’d think I was serving a whole human head with a side of gun powder and hand grenades. Brett pushes his food around and proceeds to ask 125 questions about the preparation of the ingredients on his plate. Aimee goes to time out twice during dinner and has to be hand-fed broccoli florets in order for her to consume her second and third bites. The floor around George’s highchair is covered with food, a million little quinoa granules that someone (read: Mom) will have to clean up after suffering through this God-forsasken meal. What even is this?
So here I am, attempting to nourish my family with delicious and interesting food with absolutely zero luck. Everywhere in the media, writers and doctors and mommy bloggers go on and on about the importance of incorporating wholesome food and unique ingredients into everyday life. Gweneth Paltrow write a 550 word think piece on the necessity of beet roots while Ina Garten laughs in the face of store-bought chicken stock, but I’m over here just trying to get my kids to eat anything besides yogurt-covered raisins. Even my own mother, a saint in her own right, sends me a box of tools I need to prepare kefir water, because not only is it essential for gut health but what kind of mother would I be if my children drank filtered refrigerator water, and who cares that you’ve killed every house plant you’ve ever owned because feeding organic cane syrup to this jar of fermenting water is the only means by which your family will survive! I ask you, HOW I AM SUPPOSED TO KEEP ALL OF THESE THINGS ALIVE?!?
How do you do it, Moms? How do you feed your family well? And please don’t write to me about how simple your toddler’s vegan diet is or how you hand-mash your infant’s acorn squash that you grew in your 15-acre organic garden, because honestly, I might institutionalize myself. I want to hear it from the moms who have to will themselves not to order pizza every night. I want to learn from the moms who have to bootstrap it, night after night, just to encourage a diet from their family that expands beyond brown-and-serve sausage links and applesauce squeeze packs. What is our plan for feeding our family well when everyone at the table (self included) is crying? When hotdogs and Kraft singles seem like the easier path to follow?
I need the opportunity to throw in the towel for a minute. Instead, for now, I’ll make dessert. No one cries at the sight of a hot fudge sundae cake. Everyone wins when mom makes a dessert like this.
I came up with this cake last year for my mother. She’s a huge fan of Bruster’s hot fudge sundaes and that was the single request for her birthday. In fact, I made several personal phone calls to the kind people at our local Bruster’s because I just had to learn more about these illusive Dixie nuts that my mom wouldn’t stop talking about. I discovered that these ultra-desirable nuts were nothing more than finely chopped mixed nuts roasted with butter and a healthy helping of salt. Sidenote: Call me a child, but listening to my mother rave about how much she loved these nuts was giving me all the Michael Scott “That’s What She Said” feels. These are entirely inappropriate conversations to have with your parents and, okay, anyone over the age of 50. If your mother starts talking about Dixie nuts, do yourself a favor and just change the subject.
To make this hot fudge sundae cake, you need a baked package of brownie mix. We all know boxed brownies are actually delicious, so just cut yourself some slack, okay? The baked brownies are layered with a simple, no-churn vanilla ice cream, hot fudge sauce, and the infamous Dixie nuts. We coat the whole thing in an extra layer of the whipped ice cream, more fudge, and a few cherries on top because that what you do with ice cream sundaes, right? The beauty of this cake is that you can make it as easy as you need it to be. I love this recipe for homemade hot fudge sauce, but if you desperately need to simplify, just buy it from the store. Don’t want to make the no-churn ice cream? Buy a half-gallon of the real deal in the freezer section and no one will ever know. This hot fudge sundae cake should make your life infinitely better, not harder, so if at any point you find yourself crying into a pan of Dixie nuts, just abort the plan and eat the brownies straight from the pan. You have my permission.
I’m not going to jabber on and on about this hot fudge sundae cake, because I know you already have one foot out the door on your way to get the ingredients. If you, like me, have had a time of it this past week, throw a bottle of wine in your cart and tell your family they can order carry-out. You’ve got a hot fudge sundae cake to make. For extra help on assembling multi-layer ice cream cakes like this, check out this post. Enjoy!
If you like this hot fudge sundae cake, you should check out:
Hot Fudge Sundae Cake
This hot fudge sundae cake is inspired by the ice cream shop specialty. A few layers of brownies, no-churn vanilla ice cream, hot fudge sauce, whipped cream, and salty buttered nuts.
- Prep Time: 60
- Cook Time: 240
- Total Time: 5 hours
For the brownies:
- 1–20 ounce box of Dark Chocolate Brownie Mix, plus the ingredients to prepare them with (see notes)
For the salted nuts:
- 1 cup unsalted mixed nuts, chopped (I use almonds, peanuts, cashews, pecans, or walnuts. Whatever you prefer)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
For the ice cream mixture:
- 1–1/2 cup (360 mL) heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 cup (100 gm) sugar, divided
- 6 ounces (170 gm) cream cheese, room temperature
- 1–1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (vanilla extract can be substituted)
- 1 cup prepared hot fudge sauce (see notes)
- Maraschino cherries (If desired)
To prepare the brownies:
- Preheat the oven according to brownie package instructions. Grease two 6” round cake pans with cooking spray and line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper for easy removal from pan. Alternatively, you can grease one 9” springform pan, also lining it with a parchment paper round.
- Prepare brownie batter according to package instructions. Divide the batter evenly between the two 6” pans or single 9” springform pan. Bake the brownies according to package instructions until done. Allow to cool completely. You can expedite this process in the fridge.
To prepare the salted nuts:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Combine the chopped nuts, butter, and salt in a small bowl. Spread the nuts out on a small baking sheet and bake in the oven to toast, tossing every few minutes, until slightly darkened and fragrant, about 10-15 minutes. Allow to cool completely.
To prepare the ice cream mixture:
- In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cold cream with a whisk attachment on medium-low speed until foamy. Add ¼ cup of the sugar and increase the speed, whipping until stiff peaks form. Remove the whipped cream to a separate bowl and store in the fridge until ready to use.
- In that same large bowl or bowl of stand mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 1-2 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl along the way as needed. Add the remaining ¼ cup sugar and vanilla and beat briefly to combine.
- Fold in ½ of the whipped cream mixture until almost uniform. Add the remaining whipped cream and fold until well combined, being sure to not overwork it. Store this mixture in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble your cake.
To prepare the cake:
- Remove both brownies rounds from the pan and remove the parchment liner from the bottom of one brownie cake. Line the sides of one of the 6” pans (or the 9” springform pan) with and acetate sheet (see notes) or a sheet of parchment paper barely longer than length of the diameter of the 6” pan, folded in half lengthwise to serve as long, reinforced sheet of parchment. Tape the acetate sheet or parchment to secure along the sides of the pan as needed.
- If making a 2 layer 6” cake, place the layer of brownie with the parchment sheet still attached into the bottom of the prepared pan. Smooth 1-1/4 cups of the ice cream mixture evenly over top of it. Sprinkle with approximately ¾ of the nuts. Drizzle on 1/3 cup of hot fudge sauce.
- Place the second layer of brownie on top of the fudge sauce. Smooth an additional 1-1/4 cup of ice cream mixture on top. Place the whole pan in the freezer and freeze until solid, about 6 hours. Place the remaining ice cream mixture in the fridge.
- If making a single layer 9” cake in a springform pan, place the brownie into the bottom of the lined pan. Drizzle the brownie with ½ cup hot fudge sauce and sprinkle 2/3 of the nuts on top. Spread the ice cream mixture on top, reserving about 1 cup to frost the sides, if desired. Freeze in the freezer until solid, about 6 hours.
- When ready to frost the cake, carefully remove the cake from the pan and pull off the acetate sheet. Use the remaining ice cream mixture to “frost” the cake. Drizzle the remaining hot fudge sauce on top and decorate the cake with any additional ice cream mixture, nuts, or cherries. Store the cake in the freezer and thaw 5 minutes prior to eating.
- I prefer to use Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate Brownie Mix, but you can use whatever standard box mix you prefer. It just needs to be enough to make an 8-9” pan of brownies.
- I keep a jar of homemade fudge sauce in my fridge, but a store-bought fudge sauce is fine. See the link in blog post to check out the hot fudge sauce from Gourmet Magazine that I prefer.
- To be sure that your cream cheese is soft enough, you can spread it out in an even layer on a plate and microwave briefly for about 10 seconds. This will help to ensure your cream cheese is soft enough to cream easily. Be sure not to melt your cream cheese though!
- Be sure your hot fudge sauce is not too hot when assembling cake or you will melt the whole thing!
- See the link in blog post for some notes on building naked cakes with acetate sheets.