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Feed your inner child with Layered Ice Cream Crunch Cake

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Last summer when I was spending time with my young granddaughter, the ice cream truck rolled down the street. We could hear the lilting, clearly recognizable music coming from the truck when it was a block or two away. Suddenly, I was a child again. We ran into the house for some money, in a panic the truck would come by before we got back outside. And then we giggled with excitement as that feeling of great relief washed through us when we could hear the music getting closer.

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Sitting cross-legged on the grass near the curb, we waited and thought about what cold sweet treat we might choose. For me, ice cream elicits treasured memories of slurping root beer floats on the back steps with my mom and scraping out the last of the luxurious hot fudge sticking to the sides of a sundae glass at Bridgeman's on one of my excursions with my dad. Maybe that's why the child within me peeks out every time I eat ice cream.

When my favorite guy recently celebrated one of those significant birthdays that end with a zero, I thought it a good time to turn adults into children by serving an ice cream cake. The week of his birthday was a succession of sweltering hot and humid days. To avoid turning on the oven, I prepared a no-bake crust to hold the ice cream. It seems an unlikely combination of ingredients, but ground granola crumbs mixed up with a hit of honey, some cocoa powder and milk creates glorious texture and flavor.

And it's not just for ice cream cakes. This crumbly mix can be used anytime you need a graham cracker or cookie crust. It never needs baking. I've discovered that putting the ice cream in the refrigerator while I mix up the granola crust gives it a chance to soften. I like to mash it around in a bowl and stir it until it becomes the texture of soft-serve ice cream. At that point, it's easy to stir some mini-morsels of semisweet chocolate into the smooth ice cream.

I used coconut ice cream for the birthday cake, but vanilla or any light-colored ice cream in your favorite flavor will work fine. After adding another layer of the crunchy granola crumbs to the cake, I topped it with mocha almond fudge ice cream. Here again you could choose your own favorite flavor in a darker color than the first layer. How about stirring chopped peanut butter cups into chocolate ice cream? About 10 minutes before serving the cake, take it out of the freezer to give it a chance to soften slightly. I find that a bench scraper or dough scraper is a great tool for cutting frozen cakes. If you don't have one, run the blade of a large sharp knife through some warm water before slicing the cake. The knife will slide through much more easily.

Whether you've got a birthday coming up in your family or not, add this cake recipe to your list of things to do before summer comes to an end. And take time to be a child again.

Layered Ice Cream Crunch Cake

4 cups granola

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tablespoons milk

3 tablespoons honey

1/3 cup miniature semisweet chocolate morsels

1 quart vanilla ice cream

1 quart mocha almond fudge ice cream

Place the two quarts of ice cream in the refrigerator so they can begin to soften. In two batches, grind granola in bowl of food processor to fine crumbs. This can also be done by putting granola in a large zip-top plastic bag. Roll over the bag with a rolling pin or a can from your pantry until the granola becomes crumbs. Place granola crumbs in a large bowl. Add cocoa powder, milk and honey. Mix with a wooden spoon or your clean hands until all ingredients are thoroughly blended. Press half of the mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Set aside. Scoop vanilla ice cream into a large bowl. Smoosh it around with a spoon until it becomes the consistency of soft-serve ice cream. Stir in the chocolate morsels. Pack the mixture in an even layer in the springform pan, covering the granola crust. Sprinkle the remaining granola mixture over the ice cream in the pan. Save a little of the granola mixture if you'd like to sprinkle some over the top when serving. Cover and freeze for 30 minutes. Remove pan from freezer. Scoop softened mocha almond fudge ice cream over the top. Use the back of a spoon to smooth the ice cream to completely cover the granola layer. Cover and freeze for a few hours before serving. Makes 12 servings.

Tips from the cook

--Your own homemade granola will work great in this recipe. I used a vanilla-almond granola from the store. The flavor of the granola will come through in the cake, so be sure to use a granola you love to eat.

--Use any ice cream flavors you like. It's prettiest when a light- and a dark-colored ice cream are used. I love coconut ice cream with the mocha almond fudge. Dairy or non-dairy ice cream are both splendid choices for this cake.

--Using a springform pan to shape the ice cream cake makes slicing and serving so easy, because the sides can be removed. If you don't have a springform pan, use a deep 9-inch round cake pan or two loaf pans to make 2 separate cakes. If using cake pans or loaf pans, line the pans with parchment paper so you can easily pull out the cake to slice it.

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