If there is any dessert worthy of the description “hot mess,” it’s the icebox cake. It is really difficult to go wrong with this cake. If you can pile whipped cream on top of cookie wafers until you’ve made a mountain of crazy, then stick the whole thing in the fridge, go to bed, and wake up the next day, then you can make an icebox cake. You leave all the work to time and your fridge, where crispy wafers become cream-softened cakey layers while you sleep. Having said that, there are a couple of ways things can go wrong, especially if you’re me, and you decide to take the easiest thing in the world and complicate it. Allow me to explain……
One morning a couple weeks back, as I was lying in bed trying to muster the courage to fling off the covers and sprint downstairs to the warmth of the wood stove, I started thinking about Valentine’s Day posts. Last year, there were savory things. So this year, I wanted to do something sweet. And simple. No candy making or chocolate tempering or anything fussy. Just some chocolate. And something pink. Then my mind wandered to ombre things. (Is the ombre craze over? I feel like I might be a little late to the party on this one, but I love it and I don’t care!) And then I had a vision of a towering pink ombre icebox cake. Which then quickly morphed into lots of tiny little pink ombre icebox cupcakes. And then it changed again, just slightly, to larger cupcakes. Mini cakes. Whoopie-pie sized. YES. I was psyched.
Since I wanted very specific sized chocolate wafers, I decided to make my own. The dough took a matter of minutes to whip up, and then I shaped it, rolled it up, and stuck it in the fridge and went to bed. And then I woke up the next morning, and things started to go wrong.
My first mistake occurred when I decided the dough wasn’t quite the right shape the next day. So I let it sit out for a little bit, and then I smushed it into a thinner, longer shape. As I did it, I thought to myself, “hmmm, I hope this doesn’t compromise the structural integrity.” Alas, it did. I started slicing the cookies later, and they just crumbled to bits. I had a moment of panic, but then I calmed down and realized I could make them the less-easy way, by rolling them out on parchment paper and cutting them with a circular cookie cutter. The wafers came out great and everything seemed back on track, until I realized that I didn’t really have all that many wafers — not enough to make lots of little mini cakes, anyway. I counted and recounted wafers, and calculated how many little cakes I could make with X number of layers of cream, but the answer always came out the same: not enough. (Stupid math.) At this point, I stood there in the middle of my kitchen — which was looking like a complete disaster — and just glared at everything. “FINE,” I said to the wafers. “You win. I’ll make you into one big cake.”
Despite how frustrated I was that my idea didn’t quite work out the way I had originally intended, I am now very happy with the result. I wanted cute little cakes. And they would have been cute, and they would have been tasty. But visually, they would have been no match for this cake, which is a glorious pile of chocolate and various shades of raspberry-tinted cream. It is, indeed, a hot mess. Which is exactly what it should be.
- 2 cups of heavy cream
- 2 tbsp powdered sugar
- splash of vanilla extract
- 1 8–10 oz bag of frozen raspberries, softened to room temp (fresh raspberries would also be great — I just wasn’t prepared to pay $8 for a pint of them!)
- 2 packages of chocolate wafer cookies (or make your own, recipe follows)
- 1 1/2 cups (6.75 ounces) of all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup (2.4 ounces) of unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 14 tbsp (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and slightly softened
- 3 tbsp whole milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Combine flour, cocoa, sugar, salt, and baking soda in the bowl of your food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter to the bowl, and pulse several times until crumbly. Combine the milk and the vanilla together in a measuring cup. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the milk/vanilla. Let run until the mixture begins to clump together.
Shape the dough into a log about 14 inches long and 1 3/4 inches in diameter. Wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least one hour, or until needed. (Overnight, ideally.)
Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the log of dough into slices a little less than 1/4-inch thick (you can try to go thinner if you’re confident in your slicing skills) and place them one inch apart on the lined sheets (the cookies will spread). Bake for 12–15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. The cookies will puff up and deflate — they’re done about 1 1/2 minutes after they deflate.
Cool the cookies on the baking sheets on racks. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks or be frozen for up to two months.
Purée raspberries with a blender or food processor and set aside.
Combine heavy cream and vanilla in a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat mixture on medium speed. When the cream starts to get a bit of body to it, sift in powdered sugar. Continue beating until stiff peaks form.
Make the ombre whipped cream by mixing raspberry purée and whipped cream to form varying shades. (I did four different shades, two layers, of each, and a topped layer of plain whipped cream.) For darker shades, start with mostly raspberry purée and mix in cream. For lighter shades, start with mostly whipped cream and mix in the purée.
Arrange a layer of wafers on a serving plate, then spread a healthy layer of your darkest whipped cream over top. Repeat with another layer of wafers and the same color cream. Repeat with more wafers and the next shade of whipped cream, until the wafers or the cream are gone, or you’re satisfied with the height of the cake. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.