Three years ago, I was in the waiting room of an eye clinic experiencing what is possibly my biggest pet peeve.
Like most people, I hate waiting.
With nothing better to do, I daydreamed about a sci-fi novel I read. The novel centred partially around global warming and how hotter temperatures were melting the Arctic permafrost and releasing a catastrophic amount of trapped methane gas –much like that one family member would always do at Thanksgiving dinner, only much more disastrous for everyone on Earth.
I was very hungry at the time so as soon as my stomach growled and snapped me out of my trance, it occurred to me that “Permafrost” would be a great name for a frozen dessert.
I started with a bottom layer of frozen chocolate cake to represent frozen soil, then envisioned spreading over a layer of chocolate soft-serve ice cream to be the frozen mud closer to the surface. Finally, I imagined the whipped cream topping that represented ice and snow at the surface, as well as chunks of chocolate cake, chocolate chips and drizzled sauces that passed for rocks and debris.
Conceptually, Permafrost was born, and I was adamant to make it a reality.
With help from my friend Curtis Saunders, we came up with the following recipe.
1 box chocolate cake mix (plus required cake ingredients)
2 litres chocolate ice cream
2 cups milk
1 cannister Cool Whip or 1 piping bag of whipped cream
4 cups chocolate chips
Prepare cake as indicated in the directions. Pour batter evenly onto a 18x13 inch sheet pan and bake for roughly 10 minutes or until evenly firm.
Let cake cool and level it by shaving away the risen centre. Reserve cake shavings to be used as cake-crumb topping. Place cake in freezer.
Let two litres of ice cream stand in refrigerator for 10 minutes. Scoop ice cream into a large bowl and add 1 cup milk. Stir until smooth, thick and creamy.
Remove hardened cake from freezer and pour chocolate ice cream mixture over top evenly, spreading to ensure its level. Put cake topped with a layer of softened ice cream back into the freezer for at least an hour to set.
To prepare chocolate sauce:
In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and place a metal bowl over top of saucepan. Add chocolate chips and 1 cup of milk to bowl and stir until mixture is melted and smooth. Hot fudge also works as an excellent topping - for that, add a1 cup sugar to the mix along with a heaping tablespoon of butter.
After ice cream cake has set, remove from freezer and cut into uniform pieces of desired dessert size (saucer-sized portions recommended).
Remove a piece and place it on plate for topping, return remaining ice cream cake to freezer. Top with whipped cream as desired, sprinkling on reserved cake crumbs along with a few chocolate chips.
Drizzle on chocolate sauce or hot fudge with a spoon and... VOILA! You've got yourself a delicious and decadent chunk of frozen terrain to escape the summer heat!
Curtis and I gorged on Permafrost that evening. Later that summer we also experimented by building elaborate edible sculptures out of ice cream sandwiches and various other dollar store delights as a fun and creative way to beat the summer heat with a cool treat.
We worked so well as a team in the kitchen that we thought about opening our own ice cream parlour called Taste-Buds. (I know).
It wasn't long before I was making vanilla and peanut butter-chocolate versions of Permafrost for other friends as well. I've made it in three restaurants as a featured dessert. Not only is this my signature summer dessert, but it's also my desktop wallpaper. That's how good it is.
This treat also inspired me to come up with a line of terrain-style dessert cheesecakes - Blackcherry Forest, Blueberry Field, Banana Beach, Desert Rainstorm, Mint Meadow, Caramel Cave and Rocky Mountain.