Author Notes: I love that 60s recipe for Icebox Cake, one of those I-hate-to-cook desserts that my kids call "Zebra Cake" because it's striped black and white. Made from chocolate wafer cookies sandwiched together with whipped cream and refrigerated until the cookies softened, it was the best no-fuss dessert ever developed. I make all kinds of other stack cakes, too, from Appalachian Apple Stacks, made with either a fresh or dried applesauce (labor intensive, but worth it), to Chocolate Eclair Cake made with graham crackers, instant vanilla pudding and a jar of hot fudge sauce (yes, I know better, but we love it). When my local grocery stores stopped carrying Nabisco's chocolate wafers, I made some changes to my recipe for vanilla wafers, borrowed a technique from my recipe for gingerbread houses, performed some experiments with whipped cream and came up with this version of an icebox cake. Unfortunately, it's not no-fuss, but the cookie dough can be made ahead of time and frozen, reducing some of the work. On the plus side, though, the flavoring options are nearly limitless: This is my pink Valentine's Day version, but for St. Patrick's Day, I substitute creme de menthe and a dab of green paste food coloring for the cherry juice; you might want to try a coffee whipped cream, one flavored with cinnamon or hazelnut syrup, Kahlua, Bailey's, Grand Marnier with orange zest, or one of the unlimited flavors of Schnapps. - betteirene
Serves 8 or more
Chocolate Cookies for the "Cake"
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup baking cocoa
- 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon table salt
Mascarpone Whipped Cream for Filling and Frosting
- 1 jar of maraschino cherries with stems attached
- 2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese at room temperature
- Beat together butter, sugar, egg and vanilla in a large mixing bowl until very well blended.
- In a medium bowl, stir together or sift flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. By hand or with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture until a soft dough forms and the dry ingredients are fully incorporated. Divide dough in half, shape each half into a disc, wrap in plastic and chill for at least one hour. (Or, put the plastic-wrapped discs in zip-close bags and store in the freezer.
- When dough is thoroughly chilled, heat oven to 375 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment. Between two sheets of plastic wrap, roll out one disc of dough to a thickness of 1/8". Use a pizza wheel to cut the dough into squares a little larger than a 3" or 4" heart-shaped cookie cutter. Transfer the squares onto the cookie sheets, spacing them 1/2" apart. (Alternatively, pat the dough into greased heart-shaped pans or round cake pans.)
- Bake for about 8 minutes; cookies should be very slightly puffed and not glossy in the middle. Remove from oven and immediately use a cookie cutter to cut a heart shape from the center of each square. Allow cookies to cool on the cookie sheet until firm enough to handle, then transfer the hearts onto a rack to cool completely. Slide the scraps from the parchment into a small bowl and set aside. Repeat with remaining dough.
- About 4 hours before serving, measure 4 tablespoons of juice from the bottle of maraschino cherries into a small saucepan. Add the gelatin and stir over low heat until the gelatin is dissolved. Allow to cool to room temperature.
- Place whipping cream in a chilled mixing bowl. Using the whisk attachment or a balloon whip, begin beating the cream. As soon as soft mounds form and with mixer running on medium speed, pour in the gelatin in a slow stream. Add the powdered sugar and the mascarpone, beating until fluffy and spreadable, but not too stiff.
- To assemble cakes, place one cookie on a dessert plate. Spread with about a tablespoon of whipped cream and repeat until there are 4, 5, or 6 symmetrical layers. Frost top and sides of stacked hearts with additional whipped cream, dipping knife into a glass of warm water to smooth sides, if necessary. Refrigerate, covered, for 4 hours or until cookies soften.
- Just prior to serving, crush cookie scraps and sprinkle some crumbs on plate around the cake. Top each with a maraschino cherry or two and garnish with a small sprig of mint.