homemade pistachio wafers form the buliding blocks of
this icebox cake. More pistachios go into the
chocolate whipped cream layered between the cookies.
icebox cake is totally old school. And totally perfect for
Because when you were a kid, maybe Mom or Grandma helped you
arrange vanilla wafers, banana slices and pudding in a pan,
slathering it with whipped cream before chilling it. Then
you devoured every last sweet bit.
because it’s a dessert enjoying a renaissance, judging by
the uptick in cookbooks on the subject in the past few
years, including the latest: "Icebox Cakes: Recipes for
the Coolest Cakes in Town" (Chronicle Books, $18.95).
Sheehan co-wrote the book with Jean Sagendorph and suggests
the dessert’s popularity is linked to our appetite for
homey, comfort foods: "It’s in the same school as the
cupcake phase and the whoopie pie phase."
course, an icebox cake doesn’t use cake. Instead pudding
and whipped cream soften crisp cookies to a cakelike
texture. And while the "icebox" became a
refrigerator a long time ago, the name has stuck to this
dessert with a sweet pedigree; its ancestors include French
chef Marie-Antoine Careme’s custard-and-ladyfinger
charlotte and England’s trifle.
its creation to a culinary convergence early in the 20th
century: refrigerators became common household appliances,
foodmakers began packaging cookies (i.e. Nabisco’s Famous
Chocolate Wafer) often with recipes on the package, it was
simple to make and newspaper food columnists were developing
recipes using what they called "boughten" cookies.
As one 1932 story noted, those cookies on their own are
"really not half so exciting as serving them as shivery
1950s, write Sheehan and Sagendorph, the icebox cake
"was the darling of the dessert table."
book goes beyond boughten cookies with recipes for
made-from-scratch wafers, graham crackers and ladyfingers
layered with puddings, whipped cream or both. And it takes
the cake into the 21st century with 25 intriguing recipes,
including red velvet, Mexican chocolate spice, chai-ginger,
black pepper-rum and lavender-blueberry.
you do (an icebox cake) all homemade, it has more
texture," says Sheehan, a baker and recipe developer.
"They’re so flavorful because the whipped cream is
flavorful and the cookie component is flavorful.
I totally get it that people don’t have time," she
adds. So the authors suggest choosing a store-bought cookie
or ladyfinger with some features of the homemade ones:
should be thin, dry and crispy (i.e. Nabisco Famous
Chocolate Wafers, vanilla wafers, graham crackers, Anna’s
Thins). Shortbread and fruit bars are too thick.
spongey, not crispy, ladyfingers.
with store-bought cookies will be ready to eat after 5-to-8
hours of chilling; homemade cookies need a 24-hour chill.
the fun part? Creating this sweet treat with the kids for
you’re cooking the pudding, don’t get distracted."
You could easily scorch it.
automatically assume that because some extract is good a lot
is better." Taste as you go.
whipping or heavy cream until it holds stiff peaks upright.
"You want it to be firm, not chunky," says
Sheehan. "Go a little bit past what you might think
would look beautiful in a dollop on a piece of cake. It
needs to be firm to hold the cookies together."
fresh soft fruits (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries,
bananas). Avoid pears, apples, citrus, etc. "That might
be yummy, but you’re eating it with a fork and
knife." Avoid frozen fruit; it will have too much
9 to 12 servings
from "Icebox Cakes," which includes a recipe for
ladyfingers. We used store-bought ladyfingers.
cups whole milk
cup whipping cream
cup fresh lemon juice and 3 tablespoons finely grated lemon
zest (from about 3 lemons)
tablespoon unsalted butter
teaspoon lemon extract
ladyfingers, or more as needed
fresh strawberries, hulled, thinly sliced
whipped cream, see recipe
the pudding, combine granulated sugar, cornstarch and salt
in a medium saucepan. Whisk in milk, cream, lemon juice and
zest until combined. Add egg; whisk again. Place saucepan
over medium-high heat. Cook, whisking constantly. When the
mixture begins to thicken and bubbles begin popping on the
surface, turn heat to medium and whisk vigorously, 45
seconds. Remove pan from heat.
Strain pudding through a medium-mesh wire sieve into a
heatproof bowl. Add butter and lemon extract; whisk until
they are incorporated. You should have about 5 cups. Let the
pudding cool slightly; it should still be warm and
relatively pourable when you layer it with the ladyfingers.
Prepare lemon whipped cream.
assemble cake, spread a generous layer of pudding on the
bottom of an 8-by-8-by-2-inch baking pan. Cover as much of
the pudding as possible with a layer of ladyfingers, filling
any gaps with broken ladyfingers. The pieces should touch.
The goal is a solid layer of ladyfingers.
aside about 1/4 cup sliced strawberries for garnish. Layer
some remaining strawberries over the ladyfingers. Continue
layering in this order (pudding, ladyfingers, strawberries)
until you run out or reach the top of the pan, no matter
what layer you end on. Spread the top of the cake with
whipped cream. Gently cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate
24 hours. Remove plastic wrap from cake; scatter reserved
strawberries on top. Serve directly from pan.
information per serving (for 12 servings): 295 calories, 14
g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 99 mg cholesterol, 38 g
carbohydrates, 5 g protein, 212 mg sodium, 1 g fiber
The dessert also can be made in 8-by-4-inch loaf pans; you
will have enough pudding and strawberries for two. If you
want to remove the cake from the pan for serving, line it
with plastic wrap before building the layers.
1/2 cups whipping cream into a chilled metal bowl; beat on
medium with electric beater or in a stand mixer until
thickened. Add 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar; 1 1/2
tablespoons each fresh lemon juice, finely grated lemon zest
and limoncello (an Italian lemon liqueur, optional); and 1/2
teaspoon lemon extract, or to taste. On medium-high, whip
cream until it holds stiff peaks that stand upright when the
whisk is raised. Makes: about 3 cups
12 to 15 servings
three elements in this recipe adapted from "Icebox
Cakes," make the pistachio paste and wafers first. Then
24 hours before serving, whip the cream and assemble the
cake. If you want to sub a store-bought cookie, author
Jessie Sheehan suggests a thin, crisp cookie such as Jules
Destrooper Almond Thins.
cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
teaspoon almond extract, or to taste
tablespoons whole milk
tablespoon light corn syrup
pistachio paste, see recipe
cup coarsely chopped toasted pistachios
whipped cream, see recipe
the wafers, whisk together flour and salt in a medium bowl.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle
attachment, cream sugar, butter and vanilla and almond
extracts on medium-low speed until slightly fluffy, about 2
minutes. Do not overbeat. (You can also mix with electric
beater or by hand.) Scrape sides of the bowl with a rubber
a small bowl, whisk milk and corn syrup to combine. Add milk
mixture to the butter-sugar mixture with mixer on medium-low
speed; beat until just combined. Scrape sides of the bowl
with a rubber spatula. Add pistachio paste; beat just until
incorporated. Add flour mixture all at once. On low speed,
beat until dough just begins to pull away from the bottom of
the bowl and forms a cohesive mass. Scrape sides of the bowl
to fully incorporate all ingredients.
Divide dough in half; place each half on a sheet of plastic
wrap. Loosely wrap dough, forming each half into a log about
2 inches wide. Roll logs along the counter, still wrapped in
plastic wrap, to shape into cylinders. Tighten plastic wrap
around logs; freeze at least 2 hours or overnight. If dough
is too soft to shape into logs, form into a disk (or loose
log shape), wrap in plastic wrap, then freeze about 20
minutes or just until cold enough to shape into logs.
bake, unwrap one log; cut into thin (about 1/8-inch) slices,
rotating log as you cut to keep it from flattening. Place
slices about 1-inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet;
freeze at least 10 minutes. Repeat with second log. If you
need more room for slices, arrange on additional sheets of
parchment paper, then layer dough-covered papers on top of
each other on a baking sheet in the freezer, switching them
out as you bake each batch.
Position a rack in the center of the oven; heat to 350
degrees. Bake one baking sheet of frozen rounds until edges
begin to brown, 10-12 minutes, rotating sheet halfway
through baking. Using a stiff metal or plastic spatula,
immediately press down lightly on each cookie to flatten it.
Let wafers cool on the baking sheet, 2-3 minutes. Transfer
to a wire rack to cool completely. Wafers should be very
crispy when cooled. If not, return to the 350 degree oven 1
to 2 minutes longer. Repeat baking additional sheets of
While wafers cool, toast 1/2 cup shelled pistachios on a
baking sheet in a 350 degree oven until they begin to brown
and become fragrant, 10-15 minutes. Stir nuts midway through
baking to ensure even toasting.
Store cooled wafers immediately in an airtight container.
They will remain crispy at room temperature, tightly sealed,
for about 24 hours. Freeze baked wafers in a resealable
plastic bag up to 1 month; you need not defrost wafers
before assembling cake. Makes about 60 wafers.
assemble cake, line a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan with plastic
wrap hanging slightly over sides. Spread a generous layer of
pistachio-chocolate whipped cream on the bottom of the lined
pan. Cover as much of the cream as possible with a layer of
wafers; fill gaps with broken wafers. The goal is a solid
layer of wafers. Continue layering whipped cream and wafers
until you run out or reach the top of the pan, ending with
whipped cream. Gently cover cake with plastic wrap.
Refrigerate, 24 hours.
Peel plastic wrap from top of cake. Place a serving platter
over the cake and invert cake onto the platter. Carefully
remove pan and plastic-wrap; sprinkle cake with coarsely
chopped toasted pistachios. Slice and serve.
information per serving (for 15 servings): 440 calories, 34
g fat, 16 g saturated fat, 82 mg cholesterol, 32 g
carbohydrates, 7 g protein, 79 mg sodium, 3 g fiber
About 6 cups
cup pistachio paste, see recipe
cup each: confectioners’ sugar, Dutch-process cocoa powder
teaspoon almond extract, or to taste
cream into a chilled metal bowl; whip on medium speed until
just thickened. Add pistachio paste, confectioners’ sugar,
cocoa powder, almond extract and salt; whip on medium-high
speed until cream holds stiff peaks that stand upright when
whisk is raised; the stiffer the cream, the more support it
will give wafers in your cake. Use immediately.
2 cups shelled unsalted pistachios and 1/2 cup granulated
sugar in a food processor; pulse until nuts are finely
chopped, about 90 seconds. Do not overprocess, or nuts will
get too buttery. Transfer processed pistachios to bowl of a
stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add 1/4 cup water
and 2 tablespoons room-temperature butter; beat on medium
speed just until a thick paste forms. (Alternatively, beat
with electric beaters.) Paste will keep tightly covered in
the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Makes: about 1 1/2 cups