See this? This is such an easy dessert. It looks a little fancy, doesn't it? Don't be put off. It only takes a few ingredients, and it doesn't even involve turning on the oven.
I am a huge fan of icebox cakes (I even wrote a book about them!). Icebox cakes are layered desserts that usually involve custard or whipped cream sandwiched between graham crackers or wafer cookies. As they sit in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight, these elements slowly merge into a moist, creamy cake texture that is reminiscent of an eclair or a much fancier meringue dacquoise.
Icebox cakes do usually call for some store-bought ingredients, but I like to tweak classic recipes to avoid boxed puddings and use simpler whipped cream or homemade custard. (I have never gone to length of making my own graham crackers for a cake like this; that would seem to defeat the purpose just a little! But if you want to, go for it! Here's a recipe.)
We recently gave you a basic formula for making a no-bake cake out of graham crackers, whipped cream, and any fruit. This recipe follows that formula pretty closely, but it has a few small twists.
This particular icebox cake is just as simple as it gets, inspired by the buckets of strawberries at the markets in late spring, and by my favorite dessert: strawberry shortcake. It has layers of graham crackers, barely-sweetened whipped cream, and sliced fresh strawberries. It's rich, but it's hardly sweet at all. I added a touch of rosewater to enhance the flavor of the berries, but I know that some people don't care for this flavoring, so I left it as optional here.
The whole cake is drizzled with a quick, simple chocolate ganache, and garnished with whole strawberries. It's quick, easy, a snap. It doesn't heat up your house at all, and it's done long before you even think about starting dinner. Your guests will love you. You'll hoard the leftovers. It is cool, creamy, and killer good. I promise.
2 pounds fresh strawberries, washed and patted dry
3 3/4 cups heavy cream, divided
1/3 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon rosewater, optional
4 sleeves (about 19 ounces, or 24 to 28 whole crackers) graham crackers
2 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
Take out a few of the best-looking strawberries and set them aside for the garnish. Hull the remainder of the strawberries and cut each berry into thin slices.
With a hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer, whip 3 1/2 cups of cream until it just holds stiff peaks. Add the confectioners sugar, vanilla, and rosewater (if using) and whip to combine.
Spread a small spoonful of whipped cream on the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking pan, or a similarly-sized platter. Lay down six graham crackers. Lightly cover the top of the graham crackers with more whipped cream, and then a single layer of strawberries. Repeat three times, until you have four layers of graham crackers. Spread the last of the whipped cream over the top and swirl it lightly with a spoon. Add a few more strawberries.
To make the ganache, heat the remaining 1/4 cup cream until bubbles form around the edges, then pour over the chopped chocolate. Let it stand for a few minutes, then whisk until the mixture is thick and glossy. Drizzle this over the layered dessert with a spoon, or transfer to a squeeze bottle and use that to drizzle.
Refrigerate for at least four hours, or until the crackers have softened completely. Garnish with additional berries.
Building the cake on a platter instead of in a pan: You can build this cake in a 9x13-inch pan as I mention above, or you can build it up on a platter as shown here. Either way works nicely. The 9x13 pan makes it easier to transport the cake, but if you're staying at home, the platter makes it look a little fancier. You don't need to do anything differently when building it on a platter. I do, though, like to smear a bit of cream on the bottom of each cracker as I add it to the stack to keep it steady and in place.
Updated from recipe originally published May 2010.