There is always room for ice cream!

Psssst.  Hey you!  Yes…you.

Need a great dinner party dessert?  Something elegant and impressive but criminally easy to put together?  Something that might make you feel like you are dialing-it-in while outward appearances argue ooh-la-la?

I’ve got what you need.  It’s a little something I call the ice cream torte.  Oh sure, it exists under a variety of names and circumstances.  In fact, the possibilities are nearly endless.  Just mix and match your favorite ice cream flavors and toppings.

For instance, I took some of this.

And some of this.

Added some of this.

And topped it with this (well, really, the brownie formed the base once the whole treat was dished-out).

Even the necessary tools are simple: a vessel (I like to use a loaf pan), plastic wrap and something to spread it all with.

Line your container with cling wrap so that you can easily “un-mold” your creation.

Allow your first layer of ice cream to melt to the point of malleability and evenly spread to desired thickness.  Then, into the freezer until solid (30 minutes or so).  Follow-up with desired layers until you reach the top of the pan.

Then, cover with cling-wrap and let it chill-out until dessert time. This could be hours or days.  Nice huh? About 10 minutes before serving, pop the whole thing out of the mold, slice and sit back and listen to the ooohs and ahhhs.

For those of you playing along at home, here are the layers (bottom to top) from an ice cream torte I made for a little dinner last weekend: brownie, ganache, coffee ice cream, ganache, chocolate ice cream (you can’t really see the ganache layers because they’ve blended with the brownie and chocolate ice cream.  But…they are there).

I know the presentation here is pretty sloppy, but I like to reserve some of the ganache, heat it gently in a water bath and serve against the cold dessert.

There really isn’t a recipe for this one, folks.  The sky is the limit when it comes to what goes into your torte.  I’ve made my own chocolate sauce and brownies here but who says you can’t go store-bought?  My only word of advice is to use ingredients that have about the same consistency when frozen.  If you want some crunch, my suggestion is to  break-up whatever it is (candy, nuts) into smaller bits so that the overall texture similar.

My Guilty Pleasure…with sprinkles on top!

This post should be titled “The Misanthropic Hostess Goes Abroad” as I happen to be in Hong Kong at this very moment.  I should be giving you roast duck, dim sum and stories about items bought, coveted and bargained.  I promise we’ll get there eventually.

Instead, let’s talk about guilty pleasures.

A couple of years ago I read a great article in Town and Country Magazine about the guilty food pleasures of some favorite chefs.  I’ve tried to find the article, with no luck–but remember feeling liberated by the fact that one had a deep and nearly religious love of hot dogs while another loved Velveeta cheese so much that he kept a block in his walk-in at all times.  If professionals with incredibly sophisticated palates could have a soft spot for twinkies, it made me feel just a little bit better (as a regular schmuck) about my own secret love.

Well, make that two.  But they are related.

My name is The Misanthropic Hostess and I love those soft, frosted sugar cookies sold, well, everywhere. I’ve loved them for years.  Especially  frozen. Yes, definitely frozen.

I always thought I thought I was the only one over the age of nine who still got excited over the colored sprinkles and pink frosting.  Well, I was wrong.  Turns out this particular take on sprinkled sugar cookies are a national guilty pleasure.

Turns out, these cookies are associated with a certain brand called Lofthouse. And, the recipe for their soft sugar cookies is super duper secret.  Of course, this not only adds to the mystique but has also spawned a host of copy-cat recipes.

I gathered as many of them as I could find and then began the process of narrowing-down and refining the ingredient list.  What I’ve come up with isn’t quite the original.  But it’s close and gives me an excuse to conduct further research.

The recipe is simple.  Sugar, butter, flour and a healthy dose of sour cream.

Years of market research had me thinking that the commercial version rolled into logs, chilled and then cut icebox-style.

So I tried this and really, the dough was too sticky even when chilled.

Here are the cut-out versions.

In this version, I rolled the cut pieces into balls, floured the bottom of a glass and then flattened them.

Much more round.

The resulting cookie is almost like a shortcake in flavor.  Not very sweet and cakey.  The frosting has a shortening and confectioner’s sugar base (I know what you are thinking.  People still use shortening all the time.  Get over it).

The frost the cookies I recruited my live-in hand mode because I know he won’t make nearly as much fuss about royalties as the apple-holding Twighlight model did.

Just spread.

And sprinkle.

These cookies remind me of little girl parties, lip gloss and ponies–though I can’t really explain why.  Of course, you can tint and decorate the frosting any color you would like.

As a serious researcher (well, I do play one in real life), I plan to continue my quest to perfect this recipe.  What can I say, I’m committed.


This is the recipe I came across most though it doesn’t seem to belong to anyone, some adaptions made


  • 1 C  butter, softened
  • 2 1/2  C sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 t  vanilla extract
  • 1 t  baking soda
  • 1 t  baking powder
  • 1 1/2 C  sour cream
  • 6 C  flour

Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs and sour cream. Mix in dry ingredients. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 425ºF.

Roll dough into 1 ounce balls (or desired size).  Place 3 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.  Flour the bottom of a glass or mug and flatten each dough ball.  Bake for 8 minutes or until the dough bounces back when gently pushed with finger.  Cookies will not be browned but watch the bottom of the cookies for browning.

Lofthouse Frosting

  • 4 C confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 C shortening
  • 5 TBS milk
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • food coloring (optional)

Cream together sugar and shortening.  Add remaining ingredients until smooth.  This is a hearty frosting that is ready to use as soon as it is mixed.  It will also save well in an airtight container in the fridge for at least a week.

Oh those crazy Irish

They say the Irish have  a wicked sense of humor.  Case in point: this recipe.

Lets see if you can figure out what the ingredients in the following photos ultimately made.

Okay.  Let’s stop here a moment.  For those of you keeping track, we’ve seen mashed potatoes, egg yolks, grated chocolate and soft-peaked egg whites.  Not to mention the almond flour I forgot to photograph.

I swear, this is one of those recipes where someone’s (Irish?) grandmother opened the pantry and decided to add a little of this and a little of that.  What’s that you say?  Those are the best kinds of recipes?  I have to agree.

Behold, the potato cake!

It’s got potatoes but doesn’t taste potatoey.  It also has chocolate…but doesn’t taste particularly chocolatey.  Huh.

This cake is pretty fantastic with just a dusting of powdered sugar.

Or, assuming this really was someone’s grandmother’s recipe, take it one step further (as my own grandmother would have done).  And take some of this:

And add it to some of this:

To make some of this:

Either way, you can’t go wrong even if the recipe has you wondering if its author might have kissed the blarney stone one too many times.

Irish Potato Cake

Original source: Traditional Irish Cookbook; Full and Plenty (1960), Maura Laverty

pilfered and adapted by TMH from

  • 1/2 lb (225g) butter
  • 2 1/3 C (450g) granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs (separate the whites and yolks, keep both)
  • 3 standard squares (90g) baking chocolate
  • 5 TBS (50 g) almond flour/ ground almonds
  • 1 C (150g) cold mashed potatoes
  • 2 1/2 C (300g) cake flour
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2/3 C (150 ml) milk
  • additional flour/cocoa for prepping pan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Prepare a bundt or tube pan by buttering and then “flouring”

Grate the chocolate with a fine grater or food processor.

Sift the flour once by itself and a second time with the cinnamon, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

Cream butter with the sugar until light and fluffy.  Add in egg yolks one-at-a-time beating well after each.  Stir in the grated chocolate and ground almonds. Add in flour alternating with milk beginning and ending with the flour.

In a separate bowl, whip egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold egg whites into cake batter.

Spoon batter (it will be very thick) into prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes or until an inserted toothpick or skewer comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest in the pan for at least 20 minutes.  Cool on rack and dust with confectioner’s sugar.

Chocolate Whiskey Icing

  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate or chocolate chips
  • 1/4 C cream
  • 1 TBS whiskey (or to taste)

Bring cream to a simmer in a heavy saucepan.  Turn off heat and add chocolate.  Let sit for 5 minutes.  Gently whisk until chocolate is combined.  Stir in whiskey.

Chocolate Stout Cake

Let’s get this month started properly.

Guinness Stout.  Chocolate.  Buttercream.

Shall I continue?

A work colleague (and fantastic baker) introduced me to this cake recipe several years ago. And I’ve been exploiting it ever since.  This is by far my favorite way to make chocolate cake.  It is dark and not as sweet as some chocolate cakes, which makes it a perfect foil for the globs of buttercream I like to slather on top.  And, if you are so inclined (as I am from time to time), it gives you a good excuse to pop the little widget on the Guinness can or bottle and enjoy a pint or two while baking.

This cake recipe is a little unusual in that you start it by boiling together a couple of cups of a good stout beer, butter and cocoa.  Strange brew indeed.

While the brew cools a bit, beat together eggs and sour cream.

Then the beer mixture is added to the sour cream.

After this, the dry ingredients are incorporated.

The result is a gorgeous, silky cake batter.  I’ve made layer cakes, sheet cakes and cupcakes with this recipe.

Here is the do what I say, not what I do portion of the post.  I thought it would be cute to make mini cupcakes without the wrappers so that when I topped them with the frosting they’d look like little beers.  Good idea in theory, a little short-sighted in operation.  First, if making cupcakes, only fill each cup about 2/3 full.  In the picture below they are filled to the top.  Not a good idea.  Second, these guys need wrappers.  Despite oiling the already non-stick pan, I had a heck of a time getting the little buggers out of the pan. This recipe will make about three dozen full-sized cupcakes, six dozen babies or two eight-to-nine inch cakes.

While this cake would be fantastic topped with a cream cheese or sour cream frosting, my go to is an Italian buttercream recipe from Gourmet magazine.  Hey–you know how some people have the dates of their deceased loved-ones in decals across the back windows of their cars.  Do you suppose there is a foodie out there with a Gourmet Magazine RIP on their car?  Just wondering.

Anyhow, Italian buttercream starts by creating a sugar syrup.  Yes, you’ll need your candy thermometer.

While the syrup is coming up to temp, egg whites get whipped into soft peaks with a little sugar and salt.

Then things get really fun.  Start up your standing mixer and slowly add the hot syrup in a steady stream.

This is going to heat things up a bit.  Don’t worry though, keep that whisk attachment (or handmixer) going.

It wouldn’t be buttercream without the butter. The butter gets added a tablespoon at a time.

At some point it will start to look like something has gone horribly wrong.  It hasn’t, keep on whisking.

A little later you’ll think, really, this isn’t right.  It is.

Eventually, the whole mess will come together and you’ll have beautiful, smooth butter cream frosting.

What you do after is up to you.  Me?  I topped my little stout cupcakes with a dollup of butter cream and dusting of sanding sugar.

If what TD says is true about there being a sandwich in every beer, there is definitely a cake in every pint!

Chocolate Stout Cake

Bon Appetit, September 2002


  • 2 C stout (such as Guinness)
  • 2 C (4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 C all purpose flour
  • 4 C sugar
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • 1 T baking soda
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 C sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare pans

In a saucepan, bring stout and butter to a simmer over medium heat.  Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth.  Cool slightly.

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in large bowl.  In a separate bowl or standing mixer, beat eggs and sour cream to blend.  Add stout mixture to egg mixture and beat to combine.  Add-in flour mixture and blend briefly on slow speed until just combined.  Divide batter as desired.  Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes our clean, 18-35 minutes.

Vanilla Buttercream

Gourmet, January 2004

This recipe makes about 6 cups frosting


  • 4 large egg whites at room tempurature
  • Rounded 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 2/3 C water
  • 1 1/3 plus 2 T sugar
  • 4 sticks (2 C) butter, cut into tablespoon pieces and softened
  • 2 t vanilla

Combine whites and salt in a very large bowl. Stir together water and 1 1/3 cups sugar in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan until sugar is dissolved, then bring to a boil over moderate heat, without stirring, brushing any sugar crystals down side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in water.

When syrup reaches a boil, start beating egg whites with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until frothy, then gradually add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and beat at medium speed until whites just hold soft peaks. (Do not beat again until sugar syrup is ready.)

Meanwhile, put thermometer into sugar syrup and continue boiling until syrup registers 238 to 242°F. Immediately remove from heat and, with mixer at high speed, slowly pour hot syrup in a thin stream down side of bowl into whites, beating constantly. Beat, scraping down side of bowl with a rubber spatula, until meringue is cool to the touch, about 10 minutes in a standing mixer or 15 with a handheld. (It is important that meringue is properly cooled before proceeding.)

With mixer at medium speed, gradually add butter 1 piece at a time, beating well after each addition until incorporated. (Buttercream will look soupy after some butter is added if meringue is still warm. If so, briefly chill bottom of bowl in a large bowl filled with ice water for a few seconds before continuing to beat in remaining butter.) Continue beating until buttercream is smooth. (Mixture may look curdled before all of butter is added but will come back together by the time beating is finished.) Add vanilla and beat 1 minute more.

Note: buttercream will freeze very well in an air-tight ziplock bag.