Those of us who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s remember, with fondness, the ubiquitous Icebox Cakes. From what little information I’ve been able to find, Icebox cakes became popular in this country in the 20’s and 30’s (about the time that actual iceboxes were gradually being replaced with refrigerators), after initially being introduced to the U.S. – via recipes such as trifles and charlottes – during World War I.
Whatever their background, though, it always amazes me how good and simple these cakes are. I remember my mother making one with layers of angel food cake, chopped-up Heath toffee bars, and whipped cream that was awfully good, but my favorite, by far, was the two-ingredient wonder of a cake made with Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers
I’d kind of forgotten about this cake until this past Christmas season when I saw these wafers in the store. I’d actually thought that they were “antiques” and no longer produced, so I was pleasantly surprised to see them. Introduced by Nabisco (National Biscuit Company) in 1924, these wafers serve as the foundation for the icebox cake recipe which first appeared on the back of the tin in which they were packaged, in 1929. So this little cake has a long and proud history. (And if you should happen to find one of these tins – especially with a recipe on it – in an antique store or at an estate sale, it might be wise to purchase it.)
The recipe couldn’t be simpler. It’s two ingredients – the wafers and whipped cream. Be sure and get real whipping cream, and then whip two cups of it into medium-stiff peaks (don’t whip too long, or you’ll get butter).
Get a long serving platter or plate, and spread a little cream down the center. Then spread cream between about eight (or nine) wafers – make a little stack – and turn them on their sides. The wafers are very delicate and break easily, but unless they shatter into pieces, you can just stick the broken ones back together with the cream. Use up all the wafers like this. “Ice” this long “log” of wafers with the remaining cream. That’s it!
Refrigerate a few hours or overnight. This allows the cream to soften the wafers, so that they’re cut-able. Then cut the cake on a slight diagonal, so that the pattern of the wafers shows through:
Since I made this over Christmas and since I love peppermint, I broke up some candy canes and sprinkled that on top, so this one was really made with three ingredients, not two.
Now that I’ve re-discovered this simple dessert, I plan to make it more. It’s great in the winter, but I can see it as a refreshing treat in the summer, too. As a lover of words, one of my favorite is synergy – where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts – and I think it’s true with this icebox cake. It tastes way better than its (two) individual parts.
If you want to go for a few more ingredients and a little more adventure, try this recipe for a chocolate chile icebox cake, or this one for a tiramisu cake. And this one looks kind of intriguing, too, in that it’s an individual icebox cake, and enhanced with raspberries.
Barbara, can you purchase Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers in Mexico? And is there any kind of similar cake in your area? I’ve always loved tres leches cakes. Are those regional or national?
Happy cake-making (and eating).