Salted chocolate pretzel ice cream cake
I think it's safe to say that the stress of the wedding was making me certifiably insane. Not the wedding itself, and not the details involved because I pretty much had every tiny detail planned. Right down to our first dance to Jose Gonzales' Heartbeats that the DJ would scratch about 56 seconds in - a surprise to Thom - because as long as I can remember he's talked about how epic it'd be to have a "first dance" to Ginuwine's Differences. And so we would.
There was a grand entrance to Beirut's Postcards from Italy. And although we weren't going to get married under willow trees, we were going to get married under trees and the big, blue Colorado sky. I was going to dance down the aisle with my dad, but was working on getting him a djembe so that he could opt out of the whole dancing thing, if he wanted. There was going to be a family-style feast with seasonal, organic eats and so much booze that everyone would be completely shitfaced by the end of the night. This was everything I wanted for a good six months. Rather, everything I convinced myself I wanted because there are certain expectations that come when you decide to make a lifelong commitment to another human being. Expectations to focus on, not only your relationship and the love and devotion but, the people involved who have supported and carried and helped you trudge through the bad and coast through the good. I do not doubt the importance of these people but for me, the significance of a wedding has always been to solidify a pact we made so many years ago. It has always been about us.
After crunching the numbers and looking at the total cost for the wedding, which was only a few grand shy of the amount we saved to spend four months in Europe (insert seriously horrified emoji face), I came to my senses and he did, too. One early spring morning before we were both heading our separate ways we laid across the bed and talked about our dream wedding. What would you do if no one else mattered? Turns out we wouldn't get married in Denver. We wouldn't even get married in the States. So I let out a heavy sigh followed by a questioning, Thom, what the fuck are we doing?
Four years ago we spread Thom's dad's ashes near a little island in County Fermanagh, Ireland. I never met his father, unless you count the time I had to help identify him at the morgue then, well, I guess I did. I always joke with Thom when he gets down about us never meeting that, We did!Chuck was just reaaaaally quiet. It's a pretty terrible joke but I think if you can't make light of a heavy situation, you're not doing it right.
Besides, he laughs every time.
So anyway, I planned a surprise trip to Ireland, contacted members of Thom's Clan, secretly smuggled the remains of what would have been my future father-in-law onto a plane (there's a really funny story about that but.. another day) (maybe), and next thing I knew we were having a Gaelic ceremony in the middle of Ireland with people who welcomed us and took us in and loved us like their own. After we spread Chuck's ashes I gave Thom some time at the end of the dock to say his goodbyes. I remember looking at him in his dark gray suit, watching the way the hazy sunlight flickered and danced on the surface of the water around him, and the way my heart completely shattered because laying your father to rest, after a very unexpected and tragic accident, might be up there with One of the Most Terrible Things a 26 Year Old Has to Do. So I stood there watching him, heart breaking but my love for him deepening and I told myself - and I think I even said it out loud - I will marry this man, in this spot, one day. I will commit to love and protect and ground him, as long as we're both alive. And I will do so right here, with the powdery speckles of Chuck that have since become one with the land.
And so we are, on 20 June 2015. We're taking a plane and inviting our favorite humans (plus our beloved wedding photographer) and getting married on that little Island. And afterward we're hauling everyone back to Dublin for a feast at one of our favorite restaurants, followed by a pub crawl where I expect my ivory gown will get heavily stained with Guinness and Jameson-gingers. But it'll be worth it.
As for me? The wedding is no longer making me certifiably insane. In fact, I'm over the moon and anxious, counting down the days and laughing at the fact that I tried so hard to go against my instincts when I knew better. Trust that gut, folks. It'll never steer you wrong. Now, how about some ice cream cake?
Notes: I went back and forth debating whether I wanted to make this with pretzel or graham cracker crumbs, but in the end the pretzels won out because I had two big bags of them in the pantry. However, graham cracker or cookie crumbs would work just the same. Or maybe even waffle cone crumbs? Someone please make this with finely ground waffle cone crumbs. I should note that if you're not into sweet/salty desserts, you probably will not like the pretzel crust. The hot fudge recipe makes just enough to swirl the top of the cake, but I tripled it because I like to keep a jar of fudge in the fridge. If you want to do the same, it will keep for 2-3 weeks. Although the cake looks over the top and complicated, many of the components are made beforehand, making the assembly process ridiculously easy. But I cannot stress enough: Make sure your ice cream is soft and spreadable (but not runny). If it's not, assembling the cake will be a huge pain in the ass.
This post is sponsored by Califia Farms. All opinions are my own (and I think Califia rules).
SALTED CHOCOLATE PRETZEL ICE CREAM CAKE
1 1/2 cups finely ground pretzel crumbs
2 tablespoons cane sugar
1/3 cup unrefined coconut oil, melted
2 tablespoons Califia Farms unsweetened almondmilk
2 ounces good quality dark chocolate
2 tablespoons brown rice syrup
2 tablespoons Califia Farms unsweetened almondmilk
Pinch of flaky sea salt
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper then set a round 8" cake ring (at least 3" deep) in the middle. Line the cake ring with a piece of round parchment paper and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the pretzel crumbs and cane sugar then mix in the coconut oil until combined and mixture is sandy. Add the almondmilk and mix with your fingers, just until it's combined. Take a couple of handfuls of the mixture and press it into the cake ring. The thickness is up to you, but I prefer the bottom layer to be no more than 1/4" thick. Layer with 1/3 of the softened ice cream and gently use a spoon to spread it over the pretzel crumbs. Don't press too hard or else you'll crack the crust. Take a few more big handfuls of the pretzel crumbs (I like this layer to be the thickest) and sprinkle them over top of the ice cream. Transfer the cake and batch of softened ice cream to the freezer for at least 45 minutes, but remove the ice cream 15 minutes before the cake. When the cake has chilled, spread remaining softened ice cream over the pretzel crumbs then add the rest of the pretzel crumbs in your bowl. Cover cake and freeze for at least 6 hours.
Prepare the hot fudge sauce by melting the chocolate in a double boiler over medium heat (microwaving would work, as well - but microwaves freak me out so we don't own one). Once the chocolate has melted, stir in the rice syrup, almondmilk, and salt, then remove from heat. Transfer to a small jar and refrigerate until ready to use.
To finish assembling the cake, heat the chilled fudge in a hot water bath (put it in a bowl with boiling water up to the fudge line and let sit for 10 minutes). Top cake with coconut whipped cream, then transfer the hot fudge to a small plastic bag and snip the corner of the bag, making a small opening. Squeeze over coconut whipped cream then drag a knife through it to swirl. Top with pretzel pieces, if desired.
Place the cake back in the freezer and let the whipped topping firm up for 20-30 minutes. To remove the cake from the ring, heat it using a blow torch or wrap the ring in a hot, wet towel for 2-3 minutes. Use a hot knife to slice the cake and serve immediately. Cake will keep in a freezer safe, air tight container for up to four weeks. Let thaw for 30 minutes before serving a cake that's been freezing longer than 24 hours.
Yield: 12-14 slices