What’s not to love about icebox cakes?
They’re so easy: You just layer chocolate or other cookie wafers and flavorings between loads of whipped cream.
And they’re so good: Cookies soaked in whipped cream!
I used to make a fabulous chocolate-raspberry sort of icebox pie using Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers — the icebox-cake standard — and this great German raspberry sauce I used to be able to find.
But I hadn’t made one in years and hadn’t thought about it until I met the new cookbook: “Icebox Cakes: Recipes for the Coolest Cakes in Town.” And I was instantly hungry for one.
The book, by “icebox cake obsessive” Jean Sagendorph (a literary and licensing agent) and Jessie Sheehan (“a recipe developer with a sweet spot for whipped cream and pudding”), is very straightforward. After a single page on the dessert’s origins (starting with French charlottes and popularized starting in the 1920s by the recipe on the package of National Biscuit Co. Famous Chocolate Wafers) and a few words about tools and techniques, the book gets straight to recipes. Several sounded great to me (from an adaptation of the Nabisco original to Mexican Chocolate Spice), but, inspired by Thin Mints season, I decided to try the Peppermint-Chocolate — as an Easter dessert for my extended family. It was pretty and delicious and fed a crowd and I can’t wait to make it again.
I might try making my own wafers, but I took the easy route and used Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers. The authors helpfully give a few picks for their favorite store-bought cookies, but you could use any kind of thin, crispy cookie.
I needed two boxes to come up with 60 of the wafers and was delighted to have leftovers to snack on.
PEPPERMINT-CHOCOLATE ICEBOX CAKE
“This cake,” write Jean Sagendorph and Jessie Sheehan, “is an ode to York Peppermint Patties, Andes Mints (swiped from your grandmother’s candy bowl), and mint–chocolate chip ice cream.” I used store-bought cookies. I’ll include the authors’ recipe for the wafers at the bottom, but of course, if you’re making your own, you’d have to bake them first.
9-by-3-inch springform pan
About 60 Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers (recipe for homemade wafers follows)
Dark Chocolate-Peppermint Ganache
13 oz. dark chocolate (60 to 70 percent cacao), finely chopped
A generous 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon peppermint extract, or to taste
Place the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl and set aside. In a small saucepan, heat the cream over medium-high heat just until bubbles begin to form around the edges.
Pour the warm cream over the chocolate and let sit for 1 minute so it begins to melt. Gently whisk until fully incorporated and shiny. Add the peppermint extract and whisk again.
Let come to room temperature, stirring occasionally, until it thickens and is less like chocolate syrup and pours more like hot fudge.
(To make ahead, let cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate for up to 1 week. Reheat over medium-low heat until liquefied.)
Makes about 2 cups.
Peppermint Whipped Cream
1 quart heavy cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup crème de menthe
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
4 to 5 drops green food coloring (optional)
Refrigerate the bowl of a stand mixer and the whisk attachment (or a medium metal bowl and beaters from a hand mixer) until quite cold, about 15 minutes.
Once chilled, remove the bowl and whisk from the refrigerator, add the cream and whip it on medium speed until just thickened.
Add the confectioners’ sugar, creme de menthe, peppermint extract and food coloring (if using) and, on medium-high speed, whip the cream until it holds stiff peaks that stand upright when the whisk is raised (the stiffer the cream, the more support it will provide the wafers in your cake). Use it immediately.
Makes about 8 cups.
Chopped chocolate candies with creamy peppermint fillings for decorating (I used fresh mint leaves)
Lightly coat the sides of your springform pan with cooking spray and line the sides of the pan with a 3-by-29-inch strip of parchment paper. Using a small offset spatula or the back of a spoon, spread a generous layer of the whipped cream on the bottom of the pan.
Cover as much of the whipped cream as possible with a layer of the wafers, filling any gaps with broken wafers. The pieces should touch. The goal is a solid layer of wafers.
Generously spread a layer of the ganache over the wafers.
Continue layering in this order (whipped cream, wafers, ganache) until you run out or reach the top of the pan. Spread the top of the cake with a final layer of the whipped cream and gently cover it with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 24 hours. (I put mine in the freezer for a bit before serving to keep it nice and firm.)
Peel the plastic wrap from the cake and run a paring knife between the paper and the pan. Open the clamp, remove the pan sides, and gently peel back the parchment paper. Transfer the cake, still on the pan bottom, to a serving platter. Place the candies around the edge of the cake. Using a knife, slice into wedges and serve.
Yields 15 to 20 servings.
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 Tbsp. peppermint extract
2 Tbsp. whole milk
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the granulated sugar, butter, and peppermint extract on medium-low speed until slightly fluffy, about 2 minutes. Be careful not to overbeat. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
In a small bowl, whisk the milk and corn syrup to combine. Add the milk mixture to the butter-sugar mixture with the mixer on medium-low speed; beat until just combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl with the rubber spatula.
Add the flour mixture all at once to the mixer bowl. With the mixer on low speed, beat until the dough just begins to pull away from the bottom of the bowl and forms a cohesive mass. Scrape the sides of the bowl to fully incorporate all the ingredients.
Divide the dough in half and place each half on a sheet of plastic wrap. Loosely wrap the dough and form each half into a log about 2 inches wide. Roll the logs along the counter, still wrapped in plastic wrap, in order to shape into perfect cylinders. Tighten the plastic wrap around the logs and freeze them for at least 2 hours, or overnight. If you have trouble forming the soft dough into logs, form the dough into a disk (or loose log shape), wrap it in plastic wrap, and place in the freezer for about 20 minutes, just until it is cold enough to shape into the necessary log. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Once frozen, unwrap one of the logs and use a sharp paring or chef’s knife to cut it into thin slices about 1/8 inch thick; rotate the log as you slice, or the side sitting on the cutting surface will flatten. Arrange the slices about 1 inch cm apart on one of the prepared baking sheets and place in the freezer for at least 10 minutes. Repeat with the second dough log and prepared baking sheet. If you need more room to fit all your dough slices, simply arrange them on additional sheets of parchment paper, layer the dough-covered papers one on top of the other on the second baking sheet in the freezer and switch them out as you bake off each batch. (You can also wrap the baking sheets in plastic wrap and freeze the rounds for up to 1 week.)
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
Place one baking sheet of the frozen dough rounds in the oven and bake until they appear dry, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through the baking time. Using a stiff metal or plastic spatula, immediately press down lightly on each cookie to flatten it. Let the wafers cool on the baking sheet for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. The wafers should be very crispy when cooled. If they are not, place them back in the 350-degree oven for 1 to 2 minutes more. Repeat to bake the additional sheets of frozen dough rounds.
Store the wafers in an airtight container as soon as they have cooled. They will remain crispy at room temperature, tightly sealed, for about 24 hours. Freezing the baked wafers in a re-sealable plastic bag also works well, for up to 1 month. There is no need to defrost the wafers before assembling your cake.
Makes about 60 wafers.
—“Icebox Cakes: Recipes for the Coolest Cakes in Town” by Jean Sagendorph and Jessie Sheehan (Chronicle, May 2015, $18.95)
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