Last summer, while in the midst of packing up my Ohio life for our pending move to Colorado, I was also menu planning a dinner for almost 20 people at a remote, 9700′ mountain lodge with gas refrigerators, gas ovens, and limited electricity. For dessert, I wanted something that was easy but impressive, required neither baking nor freezing, was cheap to make but wasn’t boring, could feed a crowd, and overall, was heartbreakingly delicious.
A unicorn, I thought.
BUT THEN. Icebox cake. To the freakin’ rescue.
Why, in the name of all that is good and delicious in this world, did I only start making this last summer? I mean, who knew such a perfect summer dessert could exist?
Did you guys know?
WELL. If you, like me, were in the shadows, let me show you the light.
Icebox cake is so called because it’s a recipe old enough that the people who developed it did so in the days before modern refrigeration. The concept is pretty simple: chocolate wafer cookies are spread out in a layer, topped with whipped cream, and then repeated for several layers. After a night of refrigeration, the moisture of the whipped cream seeps into the formerly crisp cookies, transforming the once disparate layers into a cohesive cake of dramatic black and white stripes.
Let’s talk for a minute about these chocolate wafers, shall we?
Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers are a little tricky to find. I’ve found them in some, but not all, major grocery stores tucked away in one little row on the top shelf of the cookies aisle (an aisle I tend to avoid because temptation). They are extremely brittle, so I tend to buy an extra box when I make this cake since they break so easily. Whatever you do, don’t drop your grocery bag that contains them. I definitely don’t speak from experience…
After multiple layers of cookies and cream, this cake needs AT LEAST an overnight sit in the fridge. I actually prefer about 24 hours, so I now make this the night before serving. Don’t get me wrong, the crisp cookies are still wonderfully good covered with whipped cream, but the cake-y-ness of the cake won’t really come through until it’s had a chance to sit.
Once it has, though, just add a little sprinkle of chocolate shavings for show (I use a cheese grater and a chocolate bar because I am classy) and get ready to serve!
If you’re imagining this is going to taste like all the best parts of cookies and cream ice cream, or perhaps a giant squashy Oreo, you are absolutely correct.
Excuse me while I go buy stock in Nabisco.
Icebox Sheet Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
A Note on Shape: you can also make this recipe as a round, tall cake that is a little more showy. For a crowd, though, I prefer the sheet cake layout. I also once made this as a groom’s cake with mountainous, uneven layers and Star Wars figurines marching around in the creamy scenery. You really can’t go wrong.
5 c heavy whipping cream
1/4 c granulated sugar
1 T vanilla extract
3 (9 oz) packages of chocolate wafers
Combine cream, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl or standing mixer and beat just until stiff peaks form.
Line the bottom of a 13″x9″ baking dish with chocolate wafers, breaking them in half if needed at the edges. Spread a 1/4″-thick layer of whipped cream over the wafers. Add another layer of wafers and another layer of whipped cream, repeating until you have about 1 cup of whipped cream left. On the second-to-top layer, leave about 1/2″ of the wafers exposed. Then, inset your top layer of cookies two inches from the sides of the dish and spread with the last of the whipped cream, leaving a bit of the cookie exposed.
Refrigerate at least overnight, preferably for about 24 hours. Then, sprinkle with chocolate shavings (I use a cheese grater and a chocolate bar) before serving.