Monday, July 19, 2010

Chocolate wafer icebox cake

(My apologies if there is a delay in answering questions or comments this week, since I will be in California sans a computer.  But, don't fret -- I haven't forgotten about you!  I've planned some posts ahead to keep you entertained until I return... freckled and at least five pounds heavier.  Enjoy!)


This morning around 8:45, in mid-air somewhere over the continental United States, I crested the hump between twenty and thirty by turning the big 2-6!  Happy birthday to me!  :)  I know, you're probably thinking that thanking my lucky stars for being blessed with short legs (only after noticing how cramped my fellow passengers are) isn't exactly the way most people would choose to celebrate their personal holidays and the beginning of a week-long vacation.   Don't worry, dear friends, because I made sure to celebrate early not once, but twice.  First, with my family on Saturday with a Dairy Queen ice cream cake. 

And then again on Sunday, by making a cake whose recipe has been begging and pleading for me to pay it some attention because that recipe binder of mine might as well be known as the black hole of my apartment.  There were many contenders, but all were tossed to the wind because of one common element -- heat.  Yes yes, even the crepe cake... especially the crepe cake because, much to my annoyance, it required a smidgen of a very odd and expensive flavored liquor.  No way was I going to spend upwards of $30 for something I'd never use again.  After all, this was MY birthday cake and, for once, I could pick something other than yellow or chocolate cake and not worry about what anyone else wanted.  Sure, I took a risk that no one else would like it, but that would only promise more cake for myself.  Sounds like a good birthday to me.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the eighth wonder of the world summer dessert menu: the icebox cake.  Some of you may be unfamiliar with the concept of an icebox cake.  If you look at the picture of the chocolate wafer package above, that's the original form of an icebox cake log, same ingredients.  I was told by my grandma that it's been around for decades, only to have a resurgence in popularity by a certain uber trendy NYC cupcake shop.  Rather than copy and paste, here is a great piece on the history of the icebox cake.  The idea is that, by layering the thin crispy cookies with fresh whipped cream and allowing them to sit overnight, the cookies will absorb some of the moisture and soften, yielding an eye-popping, jaw-droppingly simple creamy layered cake.

This cake took record time to throw together -- about 30 minutes flat.  I did it Saturday morning after my run and before we headed to my parents' house for the day... all before 9 o'clock.  Another selling point of this recipe was the ingredient count: FOUR!  Heavy cream, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and chocolate wafers.  That's it.  Elegance in simplicity.  I'm sensing a theme here.  The cake was utterly devoured (and, I think, enjoyed by all who were present), save for a very tiny smidgen of a piece that my gardener will have no problem enjoying later this week.  The cookies soften so much that you think you're eating a version of cookies and cream pudding... mmmmm.

Chocolate Wafer Icebox Cake
(adapted from The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook)

A few notes: Chilling the bowl in which you're going to whip the cream isn't necessary, but it does speed up the process just a bit, especially in warmer weather.  Also, if you'd like to stack the cookies differently and achieve more of a log shape or something else of your choosing, be bold and go for it, it'll taste just as delicious.  Regarding the star ingredient, you may have to go on a bit of a quest to find the chocolate wafers.  (Attention Pittsburghers -- I found them in the Market District Giant Eagle in Shadyside on a top shelf in the cookie aisle.)  I did a quick search online and it seems some people had luck with Oreo cookies sans the filling.  Let me know if you try this.

3 cups heavy whipping cream
3 Tablespoons powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 (9-ounce packages) chocolate wafer cookies
Cocoa powder or chocolate shavings, for topping (optional)

In a large chilled bowl of an electric mixer, whip cream, sugar, and vanilla on high speed until soft peaks (when you turn off and lift one of the beaters, the peaks are just beginning to develop but will melt back into themselves in a second or two) form.

On a flat serving plate (make sure you'll have room for this in the refrigerator), arrange seven cookies in a circle, touching, with one in the center.  Spread 1/2 cup of whipped cream out evenly over the layer of cookies.  Repeat with a layer of cookies (try alternating their positions for a brick effect) and cream, until you achieve 11 layers, ending with cream.  You will probably have a few cookies remaining, unless you were cursed with some broken bits in the packages.

Cover carefully with plastic wrap (or a cake container) and refrigerate overnight.  In fact, this "cake" only gets better as it sits, so I suggest making it and leaving your current zip code for a while in order to make abstaining easier.

Just before serving, dust with cocoa or chocolate shavings.  For cutting and serving, use a sharp knife warmed by hot water and dried (think of how you'd cut a cheesecake).  And, even if it's not your birthday, sing a little song to yourself, just substituting "Happy (whatever day it is) to me" because, my goodness, a happy day it will be :)


  1. Happy, happy, happy birthday!!! Both of those cakes look amazing -- very good choices :) Have a great trip!

  2. Happy Birthday! Have fun on the West Coast! You will be missed in Pittsburgh.

  3. My childhood memories fondly include my Mom making the whip-cream/choc wafer 'log' cake and watching her cut it at an angle. Delicious cake, delicious memory!

  4. Sue -- The log version of this cake looks so fancy, but I was a little intimidated that mine wouldn't turn out quite as pretty, so I opted for the flat version :) I love how this cake has lasted through the generations!