Baking For Others: Watermelon Cake


This green semi-sphere is not something Shrek shed on my mom’s counter.

It’s a watermelon cake. And I’m posting about it to celebrate my sisters’ birthdays–Jill’s was yesterday and Kate’s is tomorrow. Happy Birthday Jill and Kate!!

I’ve got an autumn birthday myself so I don’t know the pain firsthand, but from what I remember of elementary school, summer birthday kids got a little short-shrifted when it came to celebration. Those of us with birthdays from September to June got our own day, our own batch of cupcakes, and our own rendition of “Happy Birthday to You,” and it wasn’t hard to plan weekend birthday parties, since no one’s on vacation in October.

But before everyone dispersed for family vacations or camp, I remember the summer birthday kids would share one batch of cupcakes, on one afternoon, to the tune of one “Happy Birthday to You [plural].” My sympathy was not even lessened by the thought that they were guaranteed good weather or by the fact that we always had fun celebrating my sisters’ birthdays.

As we’ve mentioned before, we don’t love turning on the oven in the heat. In August, birthday cakes are therefore often less involved than their winter and springtime counterparts. Kate and Jill sometimes got the famous chocolate cake for dessert, but they sometimes requested something cooler. Such as this watermelon cake.
My mom first made this dessert at some time during my childhood. It was as awesome then as it is now, and it inspired a lifelong affection for raspberry sorbet topped with chocolate chips aka watermelon seeds. It’s simple in that it only requires four ingredients, but it is a little complicated in terms of technique–you’re working with melty ice cream in the heat, and that can turn thing sticky. Crazily enough, Phoebe and I made this in the makeshift condo kitchen on our spring break trip to Costa Rica a few years ago, somehow serving it to twenty friends before it melted.
I think it’s become harder to find green ice cream or sherbet recently. We used to buy a cheap, unbranded gallon of pastel green lime sherbet from the supermarket, but apparently health consciousness has done away with the availability of that. My mom’s friend Renee suggested using green tea ice cream, which she found at Walbaum’s. After spending a while at the freezer case, I wound up buying three cartons of Edy’s Spumani ice cream and fishing out the green pistachio from the strawberry and chocolate that shared the gallon. The pistachio tasted delicious, so it was all for the best. Worst case scenario, you can use vanilla–just dye it green with food coloring before using. And don’t criticize me for using fake green ice cream. This cake is worth it. Just imagine the delight of your sisters or guests when you slice into this big round green thing to find it looks just like a watermelon, and tastes even sweeter.
From my kitchen, wishing my sisters the happiest of birthdays, to yours,


Watermelon Ice Cream Cake
Makes about 20 servings

You can modify this recipe according to what you have. If your bowl is smaller, reduce the quantities; if larger, increase them. Just be sure to clear a space in the freezer for the bowl you choose, and make sure that space also fits whatever platter you serve the cake on. On the off chance that there are leftovers.

3 cups green ice cream or sherbet
2-3 cups lemon sorbet
5 cups raspberry sorbet or sherbet
1 cup mini chocolate chips
Clear a space in your freezer that will fit the bowl you’re using. I like to turn down the freezer temperature a notch or two.
Leave the green ice cream out on the counter until it reaches an icing-like consistency. You want it to be easy to spread, but not at all liquidy.
Meanwhile, cover a 10-12 cup bowl with overlapping sheets of tin foil.
Spread the softened green ice cream evenly across the bowl. If it starts to slide down from the top edges, freeze it for 30 minutes or so, then press it into place. Freeze the bowl for about 2 hours, until the ice cream is quite hard.

While the green layer is chilling, soften the lemon sorbet. Spread a thin layer across the surface of the green ice cream, smoothing to cover it completely. Freeze again, until the lemon sorbet is hard.

Soften the raspberry sorbet and place it into a large bowl. Sprinkle in the chocolate chips and stir to distribute them evenly.

Remove the green and white watermelon cake from the freezer. Spoon the raspberry sorbet into the cavity and smooth the top. Cover with plastic wrap, then a tight layer of tin foil.

Freeze overnight.

When you’re ready to serve, invert the cake on a flat serving platter. Lift off the bowl, then carefully peel off the foil. Smooth the cake with a plastic spatula dipped in warm water before. Serve immediately–quick! before it melts.

To store the cake, flip it back into the bowl in which you made it. Cover with plastic wrap and foil and freeze.

The damage: a sorbet and ice cream-soaked paper towel, with candles

Posted in: Baking For Others
  • Alex

    That’s so awesome!

  • Keisenpress

    Thanks, Cara, I wish you were here to celebrate tomorrow! And, as for making the cake–I think it may be introduced to Lake Village, Arkansas next weekend, when sure enough, all the summer birthdays are being celebrated on ONE day because no one was around during the summer. I guess the life of the teacher is not too different than the student… Uh oh, the bell is ringing, I better start teaching. Thanks for the birthday post.

  • Slederman

    i love this cake – it made my day.

  • caroine

    Wow that looks heavenly!!!

  • angie

    Wow that looks so cool!

  • Shayma

    ooh, i *do* love it. beautiful. x shayma

  • Ericajackson84

    This is summertime perfection. How did she even come up with that?

    • BGSK

      I think it’s some kind of retro favorite. I bet it first appeared somewhere like Women’s Day or something. I also just heard it used to be on the menu at Friendly’s!

  • Ellen

    This is absolutely adorable! And just in time for Labor Day – thanks so much for sharing…this just might end up on the menu!

    • BGSK

      I’m glad you like it! If you make it, do let us know how it turns out.

  • Wendy @ Obesebaby

    haha that is so clever ! I love watermelon, but can’t imagine infact none of the layer are watermelon flavour hehe

  • Nicole V Jayne

    As an autumn birthday girl myself, I was always jealous of the summer birthday pool parties. And now I will be jealous of watermelon cakes!

  • Apberm

    Love the step by step details. It looks so refreshing and delicious! Have you posted the pictures on Fiddme yet?

  • Fork Fingers Chopsticks

    What a clever idea. My niece and sister like to make ice cream cakes – so I’ll forward this to them. Thanks.

  • Sara Angel

    What an adorable idea!

  • Joudie’s Mood Food

    So this is an impressive cake. WOW. How did you think of this idea? Its just perfect.

  • Stephanie

    Wow, I can’t believe you made that, my mom used to just always get the premade watermelon cakes from friendly’s when I was a kid but this is mroe impressive.

  • Snsalzman

    I have always wanted to make one of these! This looks delicious. And what a perfect way to say good bye to summer!

  • Prsheppard

    just made this for my housewarming party and it was a huge hit! thanks for the idea ladies!

  • Debbie Phillips

    So inspiring! I’m going to attempt to make it for company this weekend. Thank you for your fabulous blog!

    • BGSK

      Thanks debbie!!

  • George Cathcart

    this is amazing. Totally awesome!

  • Blah

    looks nasty

  • Rpagliuco

    This was my birthday cake every summer, bought from Friendly’s!!! A piece of heaven……

  • Cocinaconvistas

    seguro que lo hago, se ve fantastico

  • guesty

    You could add cuke skins for dark green stripes on the “melon”.

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