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 We Do It?
So 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?
Hot Fudge Sundae Cake
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.
Making the Cake
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:
No-Churn Coffee Cookie Dough Ice Cream
Pretzel Shortbread Peanut Butter Brownies
No-Churn Mocha Brownie Fudge Ice CreamPrint
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.
36 thoughts on “Hot Fudge Sundae Cake”
ONG!!! Your story is the same as so many. Not to worry, you are in very good company. My kids are older now (some moved out and living productive lives) but I lived your story. Three kids, each with their own picky eating issues and none of them ate the same thing. My youngest son ate nothing but plain noodles and rice cakes until he was 8 years old. Then one day he decided to try something new. Today he is the most adventurous eater of our entire family and his favorite vegetable is Brussels sprouts! .My advice to you is don’t stress it!!!! No kid goes to college eating only chicken fingers and the human body will not allow itself to be starved. They will all survive and one day will be curious enough to try something different. The less of a big deal it is, the better.
high fives to the Brussels sprouts kid. He knows what is up!
Just found your blog; this cake looks awesome and I feel your pain! (My kids are 3 & 1 with birthdays coming up – and this cake looks awesome!) These are our family guidelines and coping strategies, that have helped us gain some dinner-time sanity:
1. Communicate & Celebrate! My kids respond really well to positivity. We speak positively about food, and are encouraging and excited for others who finish their meal or do a good job. If there’s something we don’t care for, we do not use strong language about it. We also talk about how too many treats are not good for us, and that we should try to eat a balanced meal.* My husband and I try to be a united front, as our 3 year old has already learned how to divide and conquor.
2. Candlelight dinners (and now most every meal). If the kids behave and finish their dinner early enough, they can blow their candle out. My kids love birthday candle practice!
3. Dessert (fruit or literally a spoonful/bite of ice cream etc.) most, but not every night.
4. Finish food in a timely manner (i.e. if adults have finished dinner and dessert, and the kids are not done, they will not do 2 or 3 above.)
5. If my kids don’t finish their dinner, and are hungry later, they can eat their dinner. If their food has been otherwise eaten or thrown away (arg!), they can have a simple snack (plain yogurt and/or banana). Going hungry to bed hasn’t worked for us, as my kids will literally keep us up all night, or my 3 year old will raid the fridge.
6. The kids have to do ‘try bites’ of anything they don’t want, AND we celebrate them doing it, even if they didn’t like it/spat it out.
7. When we hit a lull, we play a game: together bites (1,2,3 everyone bite!); alternating bites (I do one, you do one!); rotation bites (broccoli, chicken, rice, broccoli..); guess how many bites until the end, etc.
8. No seconds (chips, french bread etc.) unless the other items have been ‘worked on’, or they can sometimes weasel seconds early in order to play a game.
9. If forks (etc) are banged on the table, they go in the penalty box.
10. Say Cheers (as needed), and thank you (as much as possible).
I have food allergies and cook a lot from scratch. However, I grew up on chef boyardee beef ravioli & kraft mac’n’cheese, and I’m a firm believer that “you’ve got to do what you’ve got do”. Sorry this was as long as a blog post, I hope something in those details is helpful to someone!!
*My daughter misbehaved the other day, and I said, “You will not have dessert tonight!” She said, “Well, I already had a treat today, so I don’t really need dessert anyway!” …Doh!
WOW! This in incredible! I especially love number two!! The idea of doing a candlelit dinner sounds terrifically fun. Thank you thank you THANK YOU for this tremendous feedback!! <3
My boys are 9, 7 and 4. They all turned picky at 2 and spent nearly 5 years only choking down the minimum number of bites at dinner. The oldest is a great eater now, the 7 year old is pretty good and the youngest eats so slowly and with such complaining that we’re sure we’re going to die at the table each night. Our method was just the hang-in-there combined with i-truly-dont-care-if-you-eat-but-breakfast-is-13-hours-away. They eat grilled meat, a few veggies and bread really well so that’s our go-to dinner. I make a few other things a couple times a week and allow them to eat, not eat, pick all the onions out, whatever. They are allowed to state that they don’t particularly care for something, but then they have to zip it because I can’t stand the complaints every. single. day.
I’m sure it’s not funny, but I am crying laughing at the “I’m sure we’re going to die at the table.” Bless you. Thank you for the encouragement. 🙂
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Never fear Kate. You’ve heard stories about Tom I’m sure. Now he eats everything…..sorry I can’t say that about Michael. You know that story too well. Just hope for the best. They usually grow up to be healthy adults in spite of themselves.
That cake looks amazing. Maybe you’ll be around when I have my Birthday…… Or maybe I’ll get ambitious and try it myself.
my drive to keep feeding my children new foods is Michael. I refuse to put up with that kind of eater! I don’t know how you and mom do it!
This cake is superb!! I will be requesting this very cake for my next birthday…with Dixie nuts, of course. Ha! Love!
hahahaha you’re a terrific sport. 🙂 love you!
this is hilarious lol the best thing i can say is, keep trying. fortunately for your family you love food, so it will come to you. pinterest is full of food ideas from all over the world and has helped me out more times than i can count.
p.s amazing cake! i love how it actually looks like a sundae and how you hit us with the semi homemade twist xx
I agree. pinterest is a terrific resource. I LOVE following you– you pin the best images!!
I have always loved to cook, I even taught cooking classes for a while but making dinner for three kids under 6 had become a new form of torture. Especially since my husband was still expecting gourmet meals every night but also has a history of heart disease in his family. I swear chcicken thighs had saved me. I useless boneless and skinless. I sear them and then add Mexican seasoning and pinto beans for tacos, or add chicken stock, carrots, celery and onions for soup, or add Asian flavors and noodles, mushrooms and wine if I’m feeling fancy. Whatever. It’s always flavorful and takes 10 minutes of prep. And about 45 to simmer and cook. Also swear by frozen veggies. Everyone has to take 3 bites. Oh and I banned quinoa from dinner after my baby massacred my kitchen with it one too many times.
yes! I totally hear you. thighs are a great go to. One of my favorite blogs for recipes, once upon a chef, has a recipe for spicy chicken thighs that I ADORE. you need to check it out. 🙂
also, the clothes are your site are ADORABLE. the photography is excellent too. great work!!!
the only ting i can say is don’t give up. now this is much easier said than done. my teens still bitch if they don’t see pizza or burgers on the menu, but night after night i try and block out the whining as they eat their salmon or chicken and heaven forbid a veggie or two.
bless. I need all the encouragement I can get. We all do, right?
What mother can’t relate to this hilarious post?!. As the mother of twin boys that eat top ramen, canned potato chips and anything else that might harden their arteries before they are 30, I have had to come up with a couple of tricks. The biggest success to date has been what I call vegetable hash. I take every freaking vegetable I can get at the farmers market and chop it in to confetti size pieces. We are talking broccoli, cauliflower, kale, spinach, red, yellow, orange bell peppers, onion, zucchini, yellow squash and most important of all potatoes! Make sure they see the little cubes of potatoes because that means ketchup will be involved and therefore the world has not fallen off of it’s axis. As long as they are taking big ol’ scoops of that veggie hash I am okay with them squirting copious amounts of organic, sugar free ketchup on top! P.S. I tried sneaking in sweet potato brownies as a treat for eating all their veggies but that was an epic fail remember to quit while your ahead.
hahahahah I love your vibe. can the moms just rally together and take a stand together?! either that, or save me a seat in the looney bin.
Read Ellyn Satter. (“How to get your kid to eat, but not too much” is a good book of hers.) Also, the “Raise Healthy Eaters” page on Facebook (a pediatric dietitian). They are all about the division of responsibility when it comes to food/eating. Seriously helps take the stress out of meal time! And hang in there, kids really do start to try and appreciate more and more new things as they get older. 😊
bless bless bless. I will check those out. As a dietitian myself, you’d think I’d have a few tricks up my sleeve, but NOPE. and I refuse to “hide” veggies and other foods, because I’m too stubborn///lazy. sheesh.
I too was once delusional about how healthy I was going to feed my family. I gave up on that dream. I LOATHE making food that does not get eaten. So, I make things I know everyone will eat that is at least somewhat “healthy” and carry on with getting all of life’s other demands met. We end up – like I am sure almost everyone does- rotating through our tried and true and once in a while I’ll make some variation on one of those meals. We eat A LOT of mexican type meals and pasta variations.
My kids love Mexican too, primarily bc they see it as an opportunity to eat chips for dinner. WHAT?!?! hmph. Truly, I’m just glad to know it’s not just me.
Lord this cake is such a beauty. It usually makes me cringe when people writing “drooling” in comments but to be honest I kind of am right now.
I so wish I had some amazing advice to offer you, but since I’m not a mom I’ve got nothing except that now that I’m older, I absolutely love when my mom makes me super simple meals like broccoli and quinoa when I come home to visit. Not that it helps at the moment you’re in, but there’s hope for the future, right? xx
Ok, so will you come eat at my house then?????
Haha absolutely! xo
Definitely check out Jenny Rosenstrach and her blog Dinner, A Love Story and her book of the same name. It was written at a time when she had two picky children (albeit a slightly more adventurous husband) and was fed up with making multiple meals every night. Her book especially has some great tips and tactics for getting everyone sitting down and trying new things together!
I LOVEEE that book. You are so right. Thank you for that reminder!!!
Stella will eat anything. Gavin will tell you the two times he’s seen me cry was when my grandfather died and when he refused to eat a DELICIOUS dinner I had made. I find it so infuriating words can’t even begin to describe… He threw up when I had him eat a tomato FRESH OFF THE VINE in our backyard. We have much to discuss next week. xoxo
Oh my gosh. A tomato. I’m crying laughing// in sadness for you. Bless him. 😉
As we all know I am a briber, especially at meal time. Want that big fat brownie Luke? then eat your green beans!! Want that Rice Krispie treat? Ain’t happening until those carrots are finished. Is this a good method? Probably not, but thankfully all of my children appreciate dessert so much that they will in fact clean their plate. Which leads me to my next tip-make their plate small enough that this is obtainable. Since you actually have a degree in this you could probably teach me this, BUT I have seen too many moms stress out about their kids eating all their veggies–when honestly there are like three servings on the plate. I think it is a southern thing. Lastly, be creative in what it is they are eating–eggplant is elephant meat, quinoa is oyster pearls, zucchini is well zuchinni and you better freaking eat it Holden. Brett is beyond redeemable so no tips there.
all of this gave me hope, except for the last sentence which really just made me laugh. 😉
I’ve had those Rice Krispie treats and I would eat my broccoli for them too.
hahahahahahah TRUTH TRUTH TRUTH
Haha! Erin, so proud of your nomination too!