A few years ago my friend Haley requested an "icebox cake" as his birthday dessert of choice. He (yes, he) described a towering black and white confection of stacks upon stacks of chocolate layers nestled between blankets of snowy-white whipped cream. I was excited at the very thought of mastering this mysteriously named "icebox cake." And then I Googled it...
"Seriously, dude? You want me to make a cake using only two ingredients, one of which is store bought cookies!?" You have got to be kidding me.
But what kind of person turns down someone's birthday cake request because it's too easy? Not this girl. And come on, it was the cake his mom always made him, and he hadn't tasted one in years. So I set out in search of those "hard-to-find" Famous Chocolate Wafers (which weren't in fact, that hard-to-find), whipped up some cream, and assembled his masterpiece. And then I waited.
But lo-and-behold, something truly magical had happened: what had gone into the refrigerator was definitely not what came out! It was as if the chocolate wafers and whipped cream made sweet, sweet lovin' and the result was this oh-so-tasty love baby. So yeah, about that icebox cake. Who freakin' knew??!!
I must admit that I've made countless icebox cakes since then. Pulling one out of the fridge never ceases to wow a crowd. Seriously, I could have spent countless hours on a "real" cake, and it still wouldn't get as much love as its retro cousin.
Of course I've had the urge to tamper, and yet I always come back to the original. It's just one of those recipes that's perfect exactly the way it is. Just ask Haley.
Famous Chocolate Icebox Cake
Makes 15 mini cakes
cold heavy cream, plus additional for thinning
1 heaping tablespoon
malt powder (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons
vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
(9-ounce) packages Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers (see Recipe Notes)
To garnish: cherries, chocolate covered espresso beans, chocolate shavings, chopped pistachios, or leftover ground wafers
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the heavy cream until it just starts to thicken. Add the sugar, malt powder, and vanilla and continue whisking until soft to medium peaks form; the cream should be floppy and light. (Note: You can start the whipping process in a stand mixer or with a handheld mixer, but finish whipping the cream by hand to prevent over-beating the cream.)
Place a chocolate wafer on a sheet pan. Drop a rounded teaspoon of whipped cream (I used a small spring-form ice cream scoop) onto the center of the wafer. Use the back of the spoon or your finger to pat the mound of whipped cream into a flattened disk, leaving about 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch space around the edge of the cookie. Gently press another wafer on top of the whipped cream until the frosting is flush with the edges. Continue until you have stacked 6 cookies to make one "mini" cake, finishing off with a coat of whipped cream. (For a more polished look, you can pipe the whipped cream over the tops of the cakes after you have assembled them.)
Repeat the process with the remaining chocolate wafers. If the whipped cream starts to firm up while you are assembling the cakes (you want it to be fairly loose), stir in a tablespoon or two of heavy cream as needed to keep it malleable. The "stiffer" the cream, the less smooth and professional the edges will look.
Transfer the sheet pan to the refrigerator and chill for a minimum of 6 hours, but preferably overnight. Garnish cakes with a cherry, chocolate covered espresso beans, chocolate shavings, chopped pistachios, or leftover ground wafers before serving.
Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers can be found in many national grocery stores and specialty shops. They are also available through Amazon.
Cookie Variations: chocolate chip cookies, Graham Crackers, Nilla Wafers, or Biscoff cookies
Whipped Cream Variations: mocha (with espresso powder), chocolate, mint, Nutella, or peanut butter
(Images: Nealey Dozier)