Icebox cakes really are as easy as pie.
Also called refrigerator cakes, they require little or no baking and are easy to assemble.
Icebox cakes, according to www.foodtimeline.com, likely date to the early 1900s and became popular in the 1920s, thanks, in part, to Nabisco's Famous Chocolate Refrigerator Roll recipe.
Included on the label of Nabisco's Famous Chocolate Wafer cookies, the refrigerator roll was chocolate wafer cookies slathered with whipped cream, sandwiched together and covered with more whipped cream. It's chilled until the cookies become soft and you can easily slice it.
You can strategically place the cookies on their side or in different ways so when you slice the cake, it's a work of art.
Here are a few variations for the basic icebox cake recipe (see accompanying box) adapted from "The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook" by the editors of America's Test Kitchen (America's Test Kitchen, Cookies and Cream, $34.95):
Toasted almond: Replace half of the vanilla extract with 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract. Crumble 3 to 4 chocolate wafer cookies and mix with 1 cup sliced toasted almonds.
Sprinkle this mixture over the cake.
For the whipped-cream mixture, use 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and mix in 1 tablespoon instant espresso or instant coffee granules. Mix until the granules are completely dissolved before adding to the whipping cream and the sugar. If desired, dust the cake with sifted cocoa powder or decorate with chocolate shavings.
Use ice cream for part of the whipped-cream layers and freeze the cake.
Use pound cake, angel food cake and soft-style lady fingers in place of the wafer cookies.
Chocolate-Mint Icebox Cake
1 3/4 cups well-chilled heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon mint extract
1 package (9 ounces) chocolate wafers
1 1/4 cups miniature chocolate chips
Mint leaves for garnish
Note: It's best to allow this cake to set overnight.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the heavy cream, sugar and mint extract until stiff peaks form.
To assemble the cake: Spread each wafer with about 1 tablespoon of mint cream, forming about four stacks of six to eight cookies. Lay the stacks side by side on a sheet of wax paper, pressing gently to form a log. With small spatula or knife, cover log with remaining mint cream. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or up to 2 days.
To serve, gently remove wax paper from underneath cake (holding cake in place with a metal spatula, if necessary), and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Slice cake diagonally with a serrated knife into 1-inch-thick slices.
Per serving: 360 calories (57 percent from fat ), 23g fat (13g saturated fat ), 36g carbohydrates, 3g protein, 162mg sodium, 58mg cholesterol, 2g fiber.
Adapted from www.marthastewart.com.
Icebox Blueberry Cheesecake
Serves: 12 (generously)
1 1/3 cups regular or chocolate graham cracker crumbs
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
3 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold water
1 envelope ( 1/4-ounce) unflavored gelatin
12 ounces (1 1/2 eight-ounce package) reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 3/4 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
For sauce (optional):
2 pints fresh raspberries or blueberries
1/2 cup sugar or to taste
To make the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl mix together all the crust ingredients.
Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake for 8 minutes or until crisp. Remove from oven and cool.
To make the filling: Place the cold water in a heatproof bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Let soften, 2 minutes.
In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the cream cheese, heavy cream, blueberries, sugar and lemon juice; process until smooth.
Bring 2 inches of water to a simmer. Place the bowl of gelatin over the pan with the water and heat, whisking constantly until it just melts; about 1 minute.
With the food processor running, pour the gelatin through the feed tube into the cheese mixture and process until smooth.
Scrape into the prepared crust. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until completely set, for about 6 hours or overnight.
To make the sauce: In a medium bowl combine the berries and sugar and stir, mashing about half of the berries with the back of a spoon and leaving the remaining berries intact. Let stand, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. You can refrigerate this for up to 6 hours. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Release the cake from the pan. Slice and serve the cake with the sauce on the side.
Per serving: 323 calories (50 percent from fat ), 18g fat (10g saturated fat ), 38g carbohydrates, 5g protein, 207mg sodium, 55mg cholesterol, 1g fiber.
Adapted from "Icebox Desserts" by Lauren Chattman (Harvard Common Press, $17.95).
Basic Chocolate Icebox Cake
Whip 2 cups well-chilled heavy whipping cream with 1/4 cup granulated or confectioners' sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Have ready 24 chocolate wafer cookies (look for them on grocery shelves near ice-cream cones and toppings).
Spread 1 tablespoon of the cream on each wafer and stack them in four stacks with six wafers each. Line up the cookie stacks to make a log.
You can make a wider cake by placing stacks of six wafers side-by-side. Spread with the remaining whipped cream and refrigerate at least 6 hours but preferably overnight. It will keep up to two days in the refrigerator.