Monday, October 18, 2010

The Icebox Cake

For housewives of the 1950s, the icebox cake (and its cousin, the icebox wafer roll) was a treasured standby. The ingredients and the recipe could not be simpler, but the final product—despite the lack of effort involved—can be stunning. This cake wows. It tastes like a slice of Oreos: Oreos that are creamy, fluffy and light. If cookies n’ cream are not to your liking, variations on the theme abound. Strawberry-graham cracker, mint-chocolate, lemon, pineapple or orange—each one promises an easy route to a delicious treat. Every time I make an icebox cake, it’s a given that it will be gone in minutes. People are always curious about the recipe, and they often assume that they’ve just eaten a painstakingly constructed dessert, one labored over for hours. It’s great for birthday parties and bake-sales, for any occasion when cake is called for but you don’t have the time to bake. More than that though, it is fun to make, the process being something akin to building a brick-and-mortar sculpture out of wafers and cream. The chocolate icebox cake is my favorite, but because the recipe is so straightforward, substitute vanilla wafers, chocolate cream, or fruit for one of the layers to indulge your culinary creativity.

Chocolate Icebox Cake

3 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 (9-oz) packages chocolate wafer cookies (Nabisco’s Famous)
Fruit or candy for decoration

First make sure you have the right kind of cookies or graham crackers. They need to be thin enough to soften completely, so that you can cut into the cake after it has cooled in the fridge. In a large bowl, combine cream, sugar and vanilla extract. Beat with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Next, arrange seven cookies on a plate, with one in the center and six around it, like petals on a flower. Spoon the cream mixture onto the cookies and spread. Place the next layer of cookies on the cream, and repeat until there are eleven layers. You can also make the icebox cake in a rectangular shape or in a roll. Alternating Nilla wafers with chocolate cookies makes for an interesting twist on the look and flavor. Use the remaining cream to ice the outside of the cake and decorate as you wish. Refrigerate the cake for at least four hours (or overnight), and enjoy!

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