Mud Pie, or ice cream cake, is easy to put together and totally customizable based on your preferences for flavour. If there’s an ice cream substitute you like, you could make a non-dairy version and make it vegan. I have heard good things about frozen coconut milk-based “ice cream.” Depending on your options you could easily be nut free too.
What I didn’t like, I now realize, is frosting, and there are a few yummy cakes I make in rotation for special occasions (and the only frosting I like is cream cheese on carrot cake!). Mud pie ice cream cake is a great cake-like option that isn’t cake, and is quick and easy to do. Bonus – it can be really inexpensive too. Because it’s no-bake all it really requires is the freezer space to store the pie plate.
What is mud pie?
Mud Pie is version of ice cream cake that is a frozen dessert you make in a pie plate. It is easy customizable to your tastes, and has layered deliciousness of:
- A crumb layer – graham crumbs or Oreo crumbs, or something else if you’re feeling adventurous, or crush a package of cookies that are lurking in the back of your pantry.
- A drizzle of topping, whether it’s one you make yourself or simply squirt out of a bottle. Favourites here are chocolate or caramel sauce out of a squeeze bottle, all the better to make swirly designs with.
- An ice cream layer (or ice cream substitute layer).
- More drizzle, and possibly some garnish such as coconut, chopped nuts, sliced fruit, or chocolate curls.
The actual assembly of this takes very little time. What does require some planning is the few hours to freeze up.
Mud Pie Ice Cream Cake Ingredients:
- 1 cup cookie crumbs of whatever flavour you like (graham or Oreo)
- ⅓ cup melted butter (or vegan butter or coconut oil)
- Approximately 5-7 cups of ice cream or ice cream substitute
- Approximately 1-2 cups of sauce, of whatever flavour(s) you like
- Toppings (optional)
Mud Pie Ice Cream Cake Directions:
Take your ice cream (or substitute) out of the freezer and let it sit on the counter for a few minutes while you prepare everything else. It’s much easier to work with if it’s slightly soft. Don’t leave it so long that it’s ice cream soup! I did that once, and my mud pie ice cream cake was salvageable, but it took forever to re-freeze, and was extremely solid when it came to the cutting and serving.
In a microwave-safe bowl or glass measuring cup, melt ⅓ cup butter. Add crumbs and stir until well-combined. Press the crumb mixture into a greased 9-10” pie plate (something like this) and using the back of a spoon or clean hands, even it out and flatten it. It can come up the sides of the pie plate, or not. Either way works. Aim for evenly distributed, and firmly packed.
Drizzle some of your sauce(s) onto the crumb layer. It’s best to aim for a random drizzle rather than trying to spread evenly, because you don’t want to lift your crumb layer by trying to move the sauce around.
Using an ice cream scoop or a large spoon, scoop out blobs of ice cream and drop them onto the sauce layer. Many small blobs are better than a few large ones. If you try to move the blobs of ice cream it’s likely you will disturb your crumb and sauce layers. As you work, the ice cream will continue to soften, and that’s fine. Continue placing scoops of ice cream into the pan until you have it as evenly distributed as possible, pressing the scoops together where you can, and filling gaps and holes as you go. Eventually it will flatten out.
If you like the lumpy look, or intend to cover it with more drizzle or garnish, don’t worry too much about how flat it is. If you prefer a smoother look you can use a butter knife, back of a spoon, or pastry knife dipped in hot water to smooth and sculpt the top layer of the ice cream. Or simply let it sit out on the counter for a few more minutes while you tidy up or prep any additional toppings.
If you’re happy with the look you can either pop it back in the freezer and decorate it later, or you can add more drizzle or toppings now. Either way works – do what is convenient, and based on what your toppings are. If you’re planning to serve fresh fruit on top you would want to do that just prior to serving. If you let it soften a lot be prepared to refreeze it for several hours. You want it to be firm when you serve it so it’s easy to cut. Plan at least two hours to refreeze.
You can decorate with swirly drizzle, with a cross-hatch pattern, an artistic splatter, or whatever you want. For the mud pie shown here my turning-nine-year old asked her sister to put a cat on hers. Using two bottles of ice cream syrup and pre-drawing their design with a toothpick, my kids whipped this up quickly and easily.
Mud Pie Ice Cream Cake Flavour Variations
At other times we’ve been inspired by cheesecake, with graham crumbs, berry purée (frozen mixed berries semi-defrosted and then pureed with an immersion blender), vanilla ice cream, with a few slices of fresh fruit on top. A mint leaf from the garden always looks nice.
Use any combination of flavours that appeal. My kids tend toward more complex combinations, such as chocolate everything, but I prefer vanilla ice cream and flavour it up with the toppings and sauce. Oreo crumbs with chocolate drizzle and a mocha ice cream is delicious. Experiment and see what works for you! I can assure you that tiger tail ice cream with butterscotch sauce and strawberry sauce is not one I recommend, but the kids insisted it was good.
To serve the mud pie ice cream cake, simply remove from the freezer, cut as you would a pie, and lift the slices out onto a plate. Since you remembered to grease the pie plate before you started this should be quite easy. Birthday candles should be no problem. If the ice cream is very frozen you might need to use a small paring knife to mark slits into the ice cream before placing the candles, but I’ve never had a hard time.
Leftovers must go back into the freezer. I’ve done this for a day or two without covering it, but longer than that and you’d want to put it into an airtight container. That is, if there are any leftovers at all! Enjoy!