When Spoonful guest Gail Fournier's son, Scott, turned seven, she was hot on throwing a poolside bash. The coolest part of the party was the cake, modeled after the above-ground pool in their backyard in New Hampshire. Make this cake and we guarantee your guests won't hesitate to plunge right in.
To add variety, you can layer different flavors of ice cream or mix in candies (chocolate fish, anyone?). The trick is to loosen the ice cream without melting it, so don't hold the mold in the hot water for more than a few seconds. Ask your children to work quickly while they place the chocolate cookies around the outside -- otherwise, they'll have a melted "pool" of ice cream. For foolproof whipped cream, chill the bowl and beaters in advance. Take the kids with you to buy pool accessories at a party supply store, suggests Gail. "They have a better concept than we do about what makes good pool toys." If you can't find plastic swimmers, call Sugarcraft at 513-896-7089 or go to www.sugarcraft.com to place an order.
Begin by making the ice-cream base of the pool cake. Let the ice cream soften at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes, then ask your kids to help you spoon it into an 8-inch round springform pan, souffle dish, or plastic container. Pack the ice cream into the mold and smooth out the top. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 4 hours or overnight.
After the ice cream has frozen solid, unmold it by dipping the container quickly into a pan of hot water; if necessary, you can also loosen the edges of the ice cream with a knife. Invert the mold onto a large plate and carefully lift off the pan to reveal the ice-cream cake.
Your kids can then carefully place the fudge sticks (we alternated plain and chocolate-peanut butter) along the sides of the ice-cream pool cake, the cookies will resemble the panels of an aboveground pool. Return the cake to the freezer while you prepare the whipped cream.
To make the blue whipped cream waves, pour the cold heavy cream into a bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until the cream begins to thicken and soft peaks form. Add the sugar and vanilla extract and beat until stiff. Mix in several drops of blue food coloring. Frost the top of the frozen cake with the blue whipped cream, then return it to the freezer for 15 to 30 minutes or until set.
Next, let your kids turn the cake into a bustling pool with gummy ring inner tubes, Gobstopper beach balls, paper umbrellas, and plastic swimmers. Add a licorice ladder with licorice rungs (use decorators' frosting to glue it together).
Now it's time to take the plunge into the pool cake. For best results, serve it immediately and do not let it stand at room temperature for long. Store leftovers in the freezer. Feeds 10 to 12 hungry swimmers.