When I talk to friends about ice cream, the conversation invariably turns into a brainstorming session about all the various kinds of dessert that could be made into an ice cream. So when my cousin’s son made a special request for German Chocolate Cake ice cream, it sounded like a great challenge. Chocolate ice cream with coconut, pecans, and caramel. How hard could it be?
My first attempt was based on ideas from the net, and a few guesses. I decided to use the Jerry’s Chocolate  recipe from the Ben & Jerry’s book for the base, since it has such a great mix of flavors from melted chocolate and cocoa powder. I’d read about someone using pieces of chocolate cake for this recipe, so I tried that. Then I added toasted coconut and pecans, and then stirred in some caramel syrup I had on hand.
The result was interesting, but definitely not worthy of the German Chocolate Cake  title (or its interesting history — check it out), so I tried to figure out what went wrong. First, the cake pieces disintegrated into a sort of powder, so that didn’t work at all. I’ve used brownies before with great success, but cake just doesn’t hold up as well. I decided that the chocolate ice cream would be enough chocolate for this recipe, and I’d skip the cake.
The next problem was the coconut and pecans. I had toasted them both because, well, that’s what you do with coconut and pecans, right? But the coconut ended up hard and chewy, and the pecans tasted bitter. And the caramel syrup was great but I needed a lot more of it, and I needed a better way to mix it in. Stirring it in at the end just didn’t work very well and the caramel sort of got lost. In the big factories, they have a pipe that the ice cream runs along, and the syrup (or whatever they’re mixing in) is added along the way. Ingredients swirled in like that are called “variegates”.
So for the second attempt I skipped the cake and used untoasted coconut (shaved and sweetened, from a bag), untoasted pecans, and a lot more caramel syrup. I was watching a show about gelato the other day and noticed them layering the gelato with various other ingredients as they put it into the containers, and I realized that was the solution to my problem of how to do the swirls. I put a layer of chocolate ice cream into the container, then covered it with a thin layer of coconut and pecans, and then covered that with a generous layer of caramel syrup. Then I just repeated the layers until the container was full. It’s not exactly “swirled”, but the result is the same, with visible layers in each scoop.
I took the final result to a party the next day and it was a huge success! I’d brought several flavors, but this one was gone in a matter of minutes, and I’d found a new crowd favorite. The chocolate ice cream base was perfect and I didn’t miss the cake at all. The coconut and pecans tasted just like in the cake frosting, and the layering and extra caramel made a perfect mix of all the flavors.
German Chocolate Cake Ice Cream
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup coconut, shaved and sweetened, from a bag, not toasted
1/2 cup pecans, chopped, not toasted
Caramel or caramel syrup
(makes about one quart)
The first part of the recipe is the Jerry’s Chocolate  ice cream recipe from the Ben & Jerry’s book. To prevent the chocolate from seizing when you melt it, chop it up and toss it in with the cocoa, milk, and cream, and heat it all together on medium-high heat. Usually about the point it starts to bubble is the time to take it off the heat, and whisking it a bit will make a nice smooth consistency that looks like chocolate cream, rather than tiny bits of chocolate mixed in with the cream. You can then follow the basic process in my Sweet Cream Base  post to get everything mixed together.
Chop the pecans and mix them with the coconut, and then chill them in the refrigerator.
Freeze the ice cream in a machine and then use a pre-chilled spoon to transfer it to a pre-chilled container. Fill the container with layers of ice cream, coconut and pecans, and caramel (I used caramel syrup like you’d put on ice cream sundaes).