There seems to be hardly any improvement needed on icebox cakes. They are the epitome of summertime—or no-time, or lazy-time—sweets, and you can make them quickly, with little effort, and almost always with good results. And when there is little more to a creamy, chocolatey dessert's assembly than the motion of pushing sand together at the beach, you've got our attention.
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But when we're feeling a little spunky, we like to experiment, tinker; add a bit of this and a dash of that to liven up the tried and true. So we asked Jean Sagendorph and Jessie Sheehan, authors of Icebox Cakes: Recipes for the Coolest Cakes in Town, to give us the run-down on icebox cakes made better—here are their five ways to riff off the classic:
1. Stir in a little liquor.
It should go without saying that booze is an excellent addition to any icebox cake. The whipped cream and/or pudding in your cake will happily meld with most liquors: Think a little Grand Marnier in chocolate pudding, or one (or two) jiggers of rum in whipped cream. Add as much or as little as you’d like—we won’t judge.
2. Scoop in some malt powder. Malt powder is a versatile ingredient—its sweet nuttiness is a welcome addition to both your cake's whipped cream or pudding and wafer cookies. Combined with layers of chocolate in whatever form you choose (ganache? chips? crushed malted milk balls?), it's quite possibly the tastiest icebox cake flavor we know.
3. Add a pinch of spice.
We’re not just talking cinnamon. Try adding cayenne to your chocolate cookies and your whipped cream. And black pepper wafers with strawberry whipped cream? Do not fear: It is delicious.
Get your fruit fix by adding a layer of macerated strawberries or blackberries to your cake, or cook down some blueberries and add layers of compote. Zest a Key lime, a lemon, or an orange peel right into the whipped cream.
5. Bring on the ganache (or caramel).
If you've ever made an icebox cake and haven't layered in dark chocolate ganache, well—it's time. Ganache adds rich flavor and texture to creamy pudding or fluffy whipped cream—and if you want to go a little further, try flavoring it with a bit of peppermint, orange, or coconut extract. And if (for some reason) you’re just not feeling chocolate, fold in a few dollops of salty caramel. It's as easy as cake.
Third photo by A Brown Table, last by Teresa Floyd, all others by James Ransom
What are you putting in your icebox cakes? Tell us in the comments below!