Icebox Cake

When my husband and I moved to Bangalore a few years back, we were helped to ‘settle in’ by my sister in law’s family.

Side note: “Settling in,” to me, is reminiscent of my Caesar playing days. Those not familiar with this video game – it involves building cities and settling it with people, infrastructure, means of agriculture, trading, culture and the likes. Whenever someone asks me if I have settled in, I imagine that I am a governor building Roman aqueducts around an Indian village’s banyan tree.

For mama bear
For mama bear

It is a lonely and physically exhausting effort to move home to a new city or neighborhood. A friendly face, who introduces you to the many tricks of living somewhere new, is the difference between remorse and joy at the moving decision. Yes, we shamelessly made the most of sis in law’s hospitality. So when she, her husband, and our niece moved back into town after being away for a couple of years, it felt natural that Goldilocks should repay the debt to the Bear family. I did make three cakes – the ones for mama and baby bear (a small cupcake) were duly carried as housewarming goodies, the papa bear cake went into sundry tummies around the neighborhood and at work.

The one for baby bear
The one for baby bear

This cake is super-fun to make – everything from slicing the chocolate wafers to piping on the whipped cream; I was like a child building a sandcastle. A big thank you is owed to Smitten Kitchen for the detailed recipe and instructions. 

RECIPE

Ingredients for the chocolate wafers
1 ½ cups all-purpose (refined) flour
¾ cup cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
200 grams of butter (at room temperature, or softened)
3 tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence (I used the seeds from three fourth of a vanilla pod)

For the whipped cream and putting together the cake
2 cups whipping cream
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla essence (I used the seeds from half a vanilla pod)
Cocoa powder or sugar sprinkles to finish

Making the chocolate wafers

  • Pulse together the flour, cocoa, sugar, salt and baking soda in a food processor until mixed through
  • Cut the butter into chunks and add to the dry ingredients. Pulse together several times.
  • Combine the milk and vanilla together in a small bowl and add to your mix with your processor running. My processor does not allow me to do, so I simply added the milk + vanilla in small amounts between pulses.
  • Roll out the mix on to a (clean) cutting board and knead a few times to evenly combine. Fashion into a log about 14 inches in length
  • Cover with parchment paper and refrigerate. I refrigerated it overnight, but an hour should do the trick
  • When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 180 c
  • Peel off the parchment paper and using a sharp knife, slice off thin (as thin as you can make them) circles of the log. Mine were extremely oddly shaped circles so don’t worry about them being perfect. I got about 60 odd wafers.
  • Lay out wafers in baking trays lined with parchment paper. Space them out a bit – about one inch. They spread some while baking but not much.
  • Bake wafers (in batches, if your oven is as tiny as mine). Baking time would depend on the thickness of your wafers and the numbers you bake. My first batch burnt on the edges about 12 minutes into baking – so I stuck between 8-10 minutes for subsequent batches.  Since they are so thin, there are in higher danger of being overdone than under, so keep an eagle eye on them especially on the ones which are in the ‘hot spots’ of your oven. Slightly soft, when fresh out of the oven, they crisp up quite soon

To assemble, first prepare the whipped cream

  • Whip together the cream, the sugar and the vanilla essence – using an electric mixer or the whipping attachment of the stand mixer – to stiff peaks. Check for sweetness midway through whipping.

You can either make cakes or cupcakes while assembling

Assembling into a cake

  • Arrange wafers as a flower, one in the center and five around as petals. Smitten Kitchen recommends 1 + 7 wafers, I used 1+ 5 since I made two cakes
  • Spread a layer of whipped cream either using a spatula or piping it on (with the biggest star nozzle you have)
  • Repeat to make several layers, depending on the number of wafers you have.  I managed five layers (for the mama bear cake) and seven layers (for the papa bear cake). End with a layer of cream
  • Sift some cocoa powder onto the top layer
  • Refrigerate overnight for wafers to soften into cake-like texture

Assembling into cupcakes

  • Begin with one wafer placed into a cupcake liner
  • Build the cupcake with alternate layers of whipped cream and wafers ending with a layer of cream. I stopped at four layers due to toppling fears, feel free to go higher
  • Finish with some sugar sprinkles. Or chocolate sprinkles or cocoa powder – whatever you have at hand.

Modification suggestions:

  • Use chocolate cream with this recipe from Joy of Baking
  • You don’t have to wait for those wafers to soften into cake. Simply sandwich cream between two wafers for homemade Oreos.

I traveled across the city with the mama bear and baby bear cake (in the blazing afternoon heat) soon after assembling them. Some layers of foil and fervent prayers protected them through the journey. May you find it easier to transport or better still, serve it at home.

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