Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge fan of dessert. In fact, if given the choice, I’ll eat it first. While baking something is my typical modus operandi, when the temperature and humidity start edging toward thermonuclear meltdown, I lean less toward cooking and more toward how cold I can make the sweet for the end of my meal.
I suggest we all head straight to the quaintly named ice-box cake. For those of us not born before the 1930s, an ice-box was the storage unit that was the precursor to the refrigerator where big blocks of ice were delivered to the home to place in the “ice box” to keep food cold.
Ice-box cake is a slight misnomer. It’s usually a dessert-like recipe that contains custard or curd or whipped cream layered between cake, graham crackers, cookies or graham cracker or cookie crumbs. These layers “rest” or “set up” in the refrigerator (as opposed to the freezer) for several hours or overnight so that all the ingredients evolve into a single, luscious, creamy, cake-like dessert that will remind you of an éclair, cake, cookie and the best thing you’ve ever eaten, all rolled into mouthful after mouthful of delicious.
The easy part is putting together your ice-box treat. For expediency sake, most people usually opt for store bought cookies or cakes for the key ingredient because, like me, they don’t want to cook when it’s too hot. Sometimes, though, you do have to make the cake or cookie, as it’s a key ingredient of the recipe. That said, I typically make my own whipped cream, custard, curd or pudding because I’m not a big fan of their “imitation” flavours. I also usually avoid recipes that require gelatin – I’m not a big fan of the texture it creates.
Most of the following recipes are quite flexible and forgiving when it comes to the ingredients. You have the luxury – dare I say freedom – to interchange most of the ingredients and individualize your creations according to your (or your guests’) preferences. Hate strawberries? Use raspberries or blackberries. Don’t like chocolate cookies? Use vanilla or pecan. Lactose intolerant? Get the non-dairy whipped topping. Just remember, no matter what you put together, cold in very hot weather is always delicious. I am, however, making no comment on the number of calories you will consume when you decide that leftovers are just not an option.
CHOCOLATE AND CREAM CHEESE ICE-BOX CAKE
1 package (18-1/4 oz.) chocolate cake mix
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 carton (12 oz.) frozen whipped topping, thawed, divided
3 cups cold milk
2 packages (3.4 oz. each) instant vanilla pudding mix
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. rum extract
2 tbsp. chopped pecans, toasted
Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9×13-in. baking pan. In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, egg, butter and pecans until they form a crumb mixture. Press the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Cool completely.
In the bowl of an electric mixer or food processor combine the cream cheese and sugar and beat or process for about 2 minutes or until combined. By hand, fold in 1 cup of the whipped topping. Spread the mixture over the top of the cooled crust. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.
In another large bowl, whisk milk and pudding mix for 2 minutes. Let stand for 2 minutes or until soft set. Stir in nutmeg and extract. Spread over cream cheese layer. Top with remaining whipped topping. Sprinkle with pecans. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serves 16.
Submitted by Irene Koslowski, Chicago.
CLASSIC CHOCOLATE COOKIE ICE-BOX CAKE
3 cups heavy cream
3 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 (9-oz.) packages chocolate wafer cookies
unsweetened cocoa (or chocolate shavings)
In a large bowl, beat cream, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form.
On a flat serving plate, arrange 7 cookies side by side in a circle, keeping 1 cookie in the centre. Spread with 1/2 cup whipped cream, making a 7-inch circle. Repeat with remaining cookies and cream, making 11 layers of cookies and ending with a layer of cream (there will be a few cookies left over). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. To serve, dust top lightly with cocoa powder or chocolate shavings.
Adapted from The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook
STRAWBERRY ICE-BOX CAKE WITH FUDGE DRIZZLE
2 lb. fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced thin (save 5 or 6 whole ones for garnish)
3-1/4 cups whipping cream, divided (3 cups + 1/4 cup)
2/3 cup powdered sugar, divided (1/3 + 1/3)
1 tsp. vanilla
24 to 28 whole graham crackers (package of about 19 oz.)
2 oz. dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 tbsp. butter
In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip 3 cups of cream until they form medium peaks. Add 1/3 cup powdered sugar and vanilla and whip to stiff peaks.
Spread a dollop of the whipped cream on the bottom of a 9×13-in. baking pan. Place six graham crackers on top of the whipped cream. Gently spread more whipped cream on top of the graham crackers. Place a layer of sliced strawberries on top. Repeat this process to create three more layers (total four layers of graham crackers and 3 layers of strawberry slices). End with a layer of whipped cream.
To make the frosting: in a microwave bowl, combine the chocolate, butter and 1/4 cup cream. Heat just until the chocolate and butter melt. Whisk slightly and then add the remaining powdered sugar. Whisk vigorously to remove any lumps. If there are lumps, microwave for 10 seconds and whisk again. Drizzle the fudge frosting over the top. Refrigerate for at least four hours. Garnish with the whole berries. Serves 10 to 12.
EASY LEMON ICE-BOX PIE
1 small can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 graham cracker crust, readymade is fine
2 to 3 cups whipped topping or whipped cream
Mix everything together until smooth and pour into pie crust. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour.
STRAWBERRY PRETZEL ICE BOX PIE
I saw a version of this recipe in a magazine a few weeks ago and just had to make it. It was amazing!
2 cups finely crushed pretzel sticks
3/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
2 cups whipping cream, divided
1/3 cup granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 350. In a bowl combine the crushed pretzels, melted butter and brown sugar then firmly press mixture on bottom, up sides, and onto lip of a lightly greased 10-inch pie plate. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned then let cool completely.
In the bowl of a food processor, chop up the strawberries, brushing down the sides as needed until they are in smallish pieces but not puréed. Remove them from the bowl. Place the sweetened condensed milk and cream cheese in the bowl (you don’t have to clean it out) and process until smooth. By hand, fold in the strawberries.
In the bowl of an electric mixer beat 3/4 cup whipping cream until soft peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream into strawberry mixture. Spoon the strawberry filling into prepared crust. Cover and freeze 8 to 12 hours or until firm. Beat remaining 1-1/4 cups whipping cream at high speed until foamy and gradually add granulated sugar, beating until soft peaks form. Spread over pie. Freeze 1 hour or until whipped cream is firm. Serves 8.
Modified from a recipe in Southern Living, June 2012
CHOCOLATE CRUST LEMON RASPBERRY ICE-BOX PIE
1 (9-inch) chocolate cookie pie crust
2 (3-oz.) packages cream cheese, softened (do not use low or no fat)
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 pints fresh raspberries (more for garnish if you like)
1 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp. powdered sugar, sifted
In bowl of an electric mixer or food processor, combine the cream cheese and condensed milk. Beat or process until smooth and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the lemon juice and continue beating for 1 minute. Add the vanilla and then spoon the mixture into the prepared pie crust. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 to 4 hours or overnight.
When you’re ready to serve, sprinkle 1 pint of the berries over the top. Then, in the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the whipping cream until it has soft peaks. Add the powdered sugar and remaining raspberries and beat until the mixture has stiff peaks. Gently spread the raspberry whipped cream over the raspberries on the top of the pie. Slice and serve right away, garnishing each slice with additional raspberries.
AMBROSIA ICE-BOX CAKE
1/2 cup pineapple juice
3 eggs plus 2 yolks (room temperature)
2/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. unsalted butter (cold)
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 pinch fine salt
2 tbsp. orange juice
1 tbsp. sweet white wine
1 cup whipping cream
1 tbsp. powdered sugar
18 ladyfingers (soft)
12 cup shredded coconut (sweetened, lightly toasted)
In a saucepan, bring the pineapple juice to a simmer.
In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks, sugar and cornstarch. Slowly pour the hot pineapple juice into egg mixture, while whisking constantly. Return mixture to pan and cook, stirring constantly, until it boils and coats back of a spoon. Continue cooking about 1 more minute. Remove the mixture from the heat and then whisk in the butter, lemon juice and salt. Pour the mixture into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Zest 1 orange and place it in a bowl. Peel and section the orange, then cut the sections into pieces. Combine the pieces and the zest.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the whipping cream and sugar together until it form soft peaks. Fold in the orange and zest.
Combine the orange juice and white wine in a bowl. Lightly brush the ladyfingers with this liquid and then press into bottom and along sides of 6 ramekins. Evenly divide the pineapple curd among ramekins. Top each with the orange whipped cream and toasted coconut. Refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours or overnight. Release cakes from ramekins to serve. Serves 6.
Modified from Yummly.com.