Baked Sunday Mornings: The New Orleans

This week's Baked Sunday Mornings recipe is "The New Orleans," a brown sugar praline ice cream cake in honor of Mardi Gras. At first blush, this dessert might seem easy because it's basically just graham cracker crust layered with ice cream. But the ice cream required two sub-recipes, for pralines and salted caramel sauce. So making The New Orleans is a bit of a production and I had to spread it out over a couple of days.

On the first day, I made the pralines and caramel sauce, both of which are straightforward. To make the pralines, you heat sugar, dark brown sugar, cream, corn syrup, and salt to 238 degrees; add pecans, vanilla, and butter; scoop out the mixture onto a parchment-lined sheet; and cool. The salted caramel sauce is the same sauce used in the Sweet and Salty Brownies from Baked Explorations. It's a mixture of sugar, corn syrup, and water heated to 350 degrees, finished with cream, sour cream, and fleur de sel.

On the second day, I made the ice cream and assembled the cake. The ice cream has a custard base made from brown sugar, cream, milk, butter, salt, tempered egg yolks, and vanilla. I put the custard through a fine-mesh sieve and chilled it for a few hours before freezing it in an ice cream maker. Shortly before the ice cream was done, I added 140 grams of crushed pralines and 1/4 cup of the salted caramel sauce. I transferred the ice cream to a container and let it firm up in the freezer for a few hours before assembling the cake.
You're supposed to assemble this cake in an 8-inch springform pan, but I don't have one that size. I decided to use a tall 6-inch springform pan (it's designed to be used for panettone) instead. I used about half of the specified amount of graham cracker crust (a mixture of crushed graham crackers, sugar, and melted butter) but the full amount of ice cream, figuring that there would be no harm in ending up with a cake that was taller than intended.
It does take a while to assemble the cake (as you have to freeze each layer of ice cream and graham cracker crust before adding the next one), and you have to freeze the finished cake overnight before serving it -- so I wasn't actually able to eat the cake until day three. You're supposed to finish the cake by pressing more pecans on the sides and top, but I liked the visible layers on the sides and so I just sprinkled a few pecans on top, along with some extra graham cracker crust I had left over.

This cake was freakin' delicious. I was afraid that the ice cream would be too sweet, since pralines are basically sugar bombs. Maybe it was the bit of salted caramel sauce that helped offset the sweetness, but I found the ultra-creamy ice cream to be quite well balanced. Since the pralines were soft, I couldn't detect any distinct bits of candy in the ice cream, except for the pecans. The contrasting textures and flavors from the nuts in the ice cream and the layers of crunchy graham cracker crust layered throughout the cake are what make this dessert so delightful. I had extra salted caramel sauce and it would be been a nice accompaniment -- but honestly, the cake didn't need it. I loved everything about this cake and it was well worth every bit of effort.

Recipe: "The New Orleans" from Baked Occasions by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, recipe available here at Baked Sunday Mornings.


Louise said…
WOW. That's a really attractive dessert. Did you share it with anyone other than your husband?
Thanks! We're going to be greedy and keep it for ourselves. Hopefully it will hold up in the freezer for the next week or so... if it lasts that long! It's really quite addictive.
Chelly said…
That looks so good! I miss baking with you all so much!