The Icebox Cake, Reinvented
This is a “cake” I adored as a little girl in the ’70s, but hadn’t really thought about again until I was asked for my take on icebox cake. It really isn’t a cake at all -- it’s layers of chocolate wafer cookies and whipped cream. I’m sure the version I ate as a child was made with Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers, which are still available, and Cool Whip. Although that was satisfying when I was a kid, my taste buds now crave more flavor and a touch less sweet. I added burnt sugar to the fresh whipped cream and baked my own bittersweet chocolate wafers.
When you slice into the cake you reveal the beautiful stripes of caramel and chocolate. You can simply spread the top with the caramel whipped cream, but for Easter or other holidays you might want to use a pastry bag and pipe a fancier design. Either way, this retro treat is one of the easiest and tastiest desserts I have ever made.
- Line an 8 by 4-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, set aside.
- In a medium-large saucepan put the sugar in a mound in the center of the pan, be sure it doesn't hit the sides. Gently add the water and corn syrup, making sure the sugar doesn't splash up on the sides of the pan.
- If any of the sugar does not dissolve, very gently stir, but make sure none of the sugar hits the sides of the pan. (All of this care to keep the sugar off the sides of the pan will prevent your sugar from crystallizing while it cooks.)
- Cook over high heat, without stirring.
- When the sugar starts to color on the edges, gently whisk the sugar.
- Until it is quite dark, it will smoke a bit.
- Once the caramel is dark in color, reduce the heat and add half the cream. The caramel will sputter and seize up, which is normal. Gently whisk the caramel until the sugar dissolves. Add the remaining cream and stir.
- Strain the caramel cream into a shallow container. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled.
- Using a whisk or stand mixer whip 2/3 of the chilled caramel cream until soft peaks form. Reserve the remaining 1/3 of the cream for topping the cake.
- Coat the bottom of the prepared pan with about a 1/4-inch-thick layer of the cream. Line the outside of the pan with the cookies.
- Spread a layer of the cream on each cookie and layer them together in the pan.
- You should end up with about 3 rows of cookies and cream.
- Cover the top with more of the cream so the cookies are completely covered. Refrigerate the cake for at least 3 hours or overnight.
- Invert the cake onto a serving platter.
- Whip the remaining 1/3 of the cream and decorate the cake as you wish.