Freestylin’ Jeni’s Recipes


The Freestyled Coconut Cream Cake, using mixed and matched recipes from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts.

Ever look through really old cookbooks? Most of the recipes read more like casual driving directions than the hyper-specific, do-this-or-you’ll-fail steps of most contemporary cookbooks.

I love those old recipes. They make me feel competent. When you figure out how to do something using a recipe drawn up that way, it kind of feels like unlocking a level or breaking new ground. It’s a revelation. That kind of recipe approach requires me to think, visualize, and strategize rather than to just plug and play. When you are given minimal, but solid direction and lots of inspiration, big cool stuff happens. You buck trends. You become YOU. You inspire others. You unlock new doors.

While the recipes in my new book definitely are clear and concise, the recipes have been designed for you to think, visualize, and strategize—to interchange things so you can build something all your own. It’s what I call Freestylin’, baby, and that’s the most fun of all!

Of course, you have to be comfortable thinking, visualizing, and strategizing, which may be half the battle. No one believes in anyone! Believe in yourself!

When you make something from those old recipes, you no doubt will make something different than what someone else will make. That’s fine. That’s your STYLE, and you’ll never develop it if you always follow the recipe to a T!

Think of a Bolognese sauce. Everyone has a totally unique version. But the driving directions are always the same. They all started in the roughly the same place. You know: saute super-duper, finely chopped beef, veal, and pork, add onion, celery, carrots, and a small amount of tomatoes, and keep cooking for a long time. Then, add a good amount of milk and continue cooking until the mixture begins to look dry. Serve with loads of Parmesan. It’s Bolognese sauce, everyone’s is different, and it’s all good.

It’s the same with baking. All you need to be able to bake are a few good recipes that you can rely on that all work together and are interchangeable. I wrote Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts (and my first book) to be full of recipes that can serve as foundations in your kitchen. And once you nail them, you can take off in your own direction and do your thing.

Which brings me to another important point: naming whatever you make. Whether you make something classic like Coconut Cream Pie, or riff on a classic like Coconut Cream Cake, or create something brand new in the world (like Baby Legs). When you name it, it becomes more than the sum of its parts. Now, it’s a %$#!’n dish!

All of this sounds more fun that just cooking from a book of straight, step-by-step recipes, doesn’t it? So, let’s cook between the pages, let’s Freestyle!

Freestylin’ recipes are, admittedly, simplified. Just like driving directions, it’s important to read through the whole recipe to build your mental map before starting the journey. Here’s how to Freestyle a Coconut Cream Cake using recipes from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts:

Coconut Cream Cake

Make two Lady Cakes (page 100) and two batches of marshmallow filling made with a few drops of coconut extract (page 191). Slice the cooled cakes in half diametrically. Spread roughly equal amounts of filling and a dusting of sweetened coconut between each layer. Slightly more filling should go on the top of the cake than between the layers, and as much coconut as will stick to the top, and then some more.

Accessorize  with Fresh Ginger Yogurt (page 76) and you’ve got a dish worthy of the finest corner bakery and then some!

In this way, you can Freestyle: Coconut Cream Tarts (haven’t done that one yet); Twix Tarts (haven’t done that one either, just came up with it); pork empanadas (will teach that one in a video shortly); Strawberry Cream Cake; German Chocolate Cake; frozen Boston Cream Pies; and so many more. The list goes on and on.

Then, you can add ice cream to the equation and accessorize! Who doesn’t love a Coconut Cream Cake with Fresh Ginger Frozen Yogurt?

I’m going to keep adding to the list all summer, and I hope you’ll send me your ideas. So, get to Freestylin’ and keep the ideas coming! You don’t even have to make what you create—just send me the driving directions. I might just post them here!

But most of all, I hope you’ll make something wonderful, share it with someone you like, and keep moving forward.

To more pleasures,