Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Chocolate Icebox Cake

I'd heard about icebox cakes as a child, but the idea of cookies that turned into cake seemed silly. Reading about Icebox Cakes at Cook's Country legitimized them somewhat for me. Then I realized the point--making a cake without turning the oven on in the summer heat. Genius!

Since I've never even had an Icebox Cake, I wanted make a classic version before getting creative with the recipe.

I found two recipes I considered classic: the recipe on the box of Nabisco's Famous Chocolate Wafers, and the version at Smitten Kitchen.

The Nabisco recipe uses unsweetened whipped cream. Mmm, no. I like the mildly sweet cream from Cook's Illustrated, which uses one tablespoon of sugar per cup of heavy cream.

Further, the Nabisco recipe is supposed to feed 14. Are you kidding me? A cookie bar cut into 14 slices would be attractive, but the portion size would be the approximate equivalent of 2 very thin cookies and a tablespoon of whipped cream. In other words, one Oreo. Which might be an appropriate serving size for a dieter showing admirable self-control, but not for a normal (American) person desiring cake. Silly, silly, silly.

The recipe at Smitten Kitchen doesn't list a serving size, but cutting Deb's beautiful cake into 28 slices seems VERY unlikely. I'm going to assume that Deb is a more reasonable person than whoever wrote (or edited) the recipe at Nabisco. Deb also uses a wholly appropriate one tablespoon of sugar and one teaspoon of vanilla extract per cup of heavy cream.

But for me, the recipe at Smitten Kitchen seems a little too . . . approachable. By which I mean that I KNOW I could make Deb's cake, even on a bad day with fussy kids. I started this blog to stretch myself, and I felt I could make the Icebox Cake a little dressier, a little prettied up. Shockingly, I couldn't (easily) find anyone on the net who'd done what I was thinking of. Could I possibly be striking out into new territory? Could I actually be original here?

Let's not get carried away, and go back to the cake.

As mentioned elsewhere, it wasn't easy to find Nabisco's Famous Chocolate Wafers. Wegman's claimed to have them in stock, but could not produce them when pressed. Giant supermarket, the second priciest market in town, had some in their fancy cookie section, but they were just under $5 a box. Really? $10 of cookies for one casual, though yummy dessert? Going into this, I'm not anticipating Icebox Cake being a frequent dessert at my house. I'm not made of money, you know.

I planned to serve the cake to our Ward's Elders (20 year old boys, desperate for good food and able to afford the calories) on Wednesday. Tuesday night I whipped 2 cups of cream to soft peaks with sugar and vanilla and started assembling the cake.

I spread the cream on each cookie, which wasn't as fiddly as I had feared. I started to form a tiled circular shape on a 10" cake round. The cake round was very important in keeping the dessert circular. You can see that I tried to use my Icer tip to prop up the leaning cookies, but that didn't work, and turned out to be unnecessary.

You can see the completed circle here. I used the cake round as a guide to press the cookies into place.

I filled in the middle of the circle with overlapping, tiled cookies. I made sure to tuck cookies under the inside circumference of the ring where there was some space.

I liked the look of the spiral, so I piped a bunch of whipped cream into the less attractive middle and smoothed it over as best I could. I covered the cake and refrigerated it until the next day. I also had a TON of whipped cream left over, but better safe than sorry!

I was concerned about putting whipped cream through a small decorating tip, so I got some bigger ones. Which turned out to be really, really difficult. As in 2-hour shopping trip with a tired baby difficult.

My local restaurant supply store had some really big Ateco tips, but only star and round. Michael's had a Wilton large leaf tip. That's all I could find locally.

Abou 30 minutes before my guests were due, I whipped two more cups of cream to medium peaks with sugar and vanilla. I used Confectioners' Sugar this time in hopes that the small amount of cornstarch would help stabilize the whipped cream. Two cup of cream ended up being WAY too much.

I tinted the cream with very small amounts of Wilton Aster Mauve and Wilton Leaf Green. I used the star tip to make a rosette, and made leaves to surround the rosette. It was pointed out to me (Hi Mom!) that the flower was off center, so I tried to make it look intentional with some trailing leaves.

It was much harder to pipe the whipped cream than I anticipated. It was as stiff as I dared without risking butter. It might have helped to use gelatin or melted marshmallows to stabilize the cream. As it was, the leaves were blobby, but charmingly homemade! Or at least everyone was enjoying the cake too much to care about the leaves.

The cake tasted very good--probably the original cookies and cream. I can't wait to experiment with other flavors.

Chocolate Icebox Cake

Serves 8

  • 1 package Nabisco's Famous Chocolate Wafers
  • 3 cups heavy whipping cream, divided and chilled
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract, divided
  • 3 tbsp sugar, divided
Whip half of the cream, sugar, and vanilla to medium peaks. Spread a teaspoon of whipped cream on one cookie. Continue topping cookies with cream and start to place the cookies in an overlapping circle at the periphery of a 10" cardboard cake circle. If you don't have a cake circle, do the best you can on the serving dish. Use the edge of the cake circle as a guide. After the circle is done, tile the cookies in the center, making sure to tuck cookies under the inside circumference, or under the inside edge of the circle of cookies. This is a good time to use any broken cookies. Pipe or spoon whipped cream over the middle of the cake and smooth with icing spatula or equivalent. Refrigerate covered with cake done or an upside-down mixing bowl overnight.

Shortly before serving, whip the other half of the whipped cream, sugar, and vanilla. Tint with icing colors as desired and pipe decorations on smooth middle.


  1. I've never had a cake like that, but it looks and sounds really yummy. My favorite line in this whole blog...."A cookie bar cut into 14 slices would be attractive, but the portion size would be the approximate equivalent of 2 very thin cookies and a tablespoon of whipped cream. In other words, one Oreo. Which might be an appropriate serving size for a dieter showing admirable self-control, but not for a normal (American) person desiring cake. Silly, silly, silly. "..... made me giggle. You limits a service size to one oreo??? not even my toddler did that the first time he had one.

    1. My mother is the kind of person who eats one Hershey's Kiss per day for YEARS! So these people do exist, they're just very weird and skinny. Thanks so much for the comment!

  2. Nice job on the pastel icing/whipped cream! I remember so many times ending up with darker icing than I intended because the colors "strengthen" with time.

    1. Icing colors are tricky. I don't have toothpicks (which is what we used for class for coloring) so I use the tip of a steak knife.
      Thanks for the complement, which I know comes from experience :-)