Chocolate Wafer Icebox Cake has got to be the easiest cake to make in the entire history of the world. It’s got only four ingredients, you don’t have to bake it, and the end result is sublime and beautiful. The only challenging aspect to this creation is waiting a day before eating it.
Over the weekend Regina and I were hanging out with Mitch and Stef, great friends of ours who have a lovely little place in Venice. It was one of those breezy, early-summer days with gorgeous sunshine and the warm air hinting of the sea not a block away. It was mostly a day for doing nothing much at all — eating a bit, drinking a bit, talking a lot. We talked about food, of course. Most of our friends are as nearly food-centric as we are. Stef mentioned their upcoming trip back east and how she always looked forward to her uncle’s Icebox Cake. Of course this intrigued me; I’m always interested not just in the food, but why people are excited about a particular dish. Nearly always there’s a deep emotional connection to a specific food, some sort of sense-memory that holds a dish dear to our heart and palate. Often there’s a place involved, and a very particular moment in time, and it’s these stories I love.
I knew I wanted to make this cake that Stef has such fond memories of. I knew it would be easy to make, as she described this as the sole dish her uncle can put together. Of course I didn’t quite realize how ridiculously easy it is.
I’m pretty sure this recipe was created by Nabisco back in the heady, extra-creamy days of yore when people took recipes on boxes seriously and three cups of heavy whipping cream in a recipe didn’t give pause. It certainly does now, but hey, it’s not like you’re eating the whole thing yourself, right? Right?
It might be challenging to find these Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers; perhaps they were ubiquitous and more “famous” once-upon-a-time, but I can only find them on the shelf at Gelson’s, my favorite all-purpose, higher-end market. You might have to check online or make a couple of calls to source them. But they’re excellent boxed cookies with lots of applications other than super-easy, cheater-cake. I use them for ice cream sandwiches and crumble them for the crust of ice cream pie. And they’re yummy just dunked in whole milk. They taste just like the chocolate cookie in an OREO, which is no surprise since that’s also a Nabisco product. In fact, this cake sort of tastes like a giant Oreo cookie. And that’s not a bad thing.
You will need:
- 3 cups of heavy whipping cream, preferably organic
- 4 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 9-ounce boxes of Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers
- shaved chocolate, chocolate sprinkles, cocoa powder, or tiny chocolate chips as a garnish
Now do this:
With a hand mixer or a stand-up mixer whip the cream, sugar, and vanilla to soft-to-medium peaks.
On a plate arrange seven cookies in a circular pattern, with one cookie in the middle. Carefully spread about a half-cup of the whipped cream over the cookies. The first layer is a bit challenging as the cookies aren’t adhered to anything yet, but as you create layers and the cake takes shape, it becomes quicker and easier. You’ll find that boxes of these fragile cookies will contain quite a few broken ones, so I place those in the middle, leaving the nicer cookies for the edge. As I add each new layer I stagger the cookies so that the cake edges show a nice alternating pattern. Keep layering (seven cookies, half-cup cream) until you have used all the cookies and the whipped cream, or until one of the two runs out. I created twelve layers and still had some whipped cream left, although all the wafers were utilized.
Now cover the cake with plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge. Allow it to cool overnight. It’s very important to leave it overnight, at least; as it sits refrigerated the cookies soften and become very “cake-like”. As a garnish, sprinkle some little chocolatey things on top. I used sprinkles.
The end result was delicious. A cold glass of milk washed down a big slice of this excellent, old-fashioned cake perfectly.
When I looked up this recipe, I realized that it’s virtually the same from site to site. Smitten Kitchen shows the same recipe as Oprah.com. Apparently this is one of those recipes that has entered the American consciousness and remained intact. Well, mostly intact, since I reduced the sugar a tiny bit for this recipe.