In the hot months of summer I tend to opt for any dessert that is cooler or lighter than your average dessert recipe. This means I put aside my recipes for cheesecake, cupcakes, and brownies, focusing instead on ice cream, shortcakes, and fruit cobblers and pies. I think however that the best summer dessert actually comes from my mom, whose go to dessert is quite possibly the best thing you will make all season: the seemingly humble but incredibly delicious icebox cake. If you’re not American you may not know what icebox cake is, so let me explain: the icebox cake is a cake that strangely enough requires no cooking or baking. You simply layer any kind of crisp cookie with whipped cream, and leave it in the refrigerator overnight (hence the “icebox” part). The genius of the icebox cake is that in the refrigerator, the cookies magically soften just enough to become tender, and mix with the cream, thus becoming what you would swear are slices of tender cake layers, filled with fluffy whipped cream. In other words, a perfect summer dessert for days when you don’t want to turn on the oven but still want to make something indulgent.
A few summers back my mom mentioned that my late grandmother used to make icebox cake for her family all the time in the 1960s, a decade in which icebox cake was all the rage. My grandmother made her icebox cake with sweetened whipped cream and chocolate wafer cookies, which is the most traditional version of this dessert. After making her recipe a few times my mom decided to take this dessert to a whole new level and change up the cookie/cream combination, making an icebox cake with chocolate chip cookies and a mascarpone chocolate whipped cream. The results were outstanding – after all, how can you go wrong with chocolate chip cookies and chocolate whipped cream?! This dessert is always a huge hit for everyone we make it for, and in addition to being ridiculously delicious, it can be made ahead, is extremely simple to make, and bake free – what more could you want in a dessert?!
Note that you can really use any combination of cookies and cream that you like for an icebox cake, and just follow the usual icebox cake method – cinnamon whipped cream, mocha whipped cream, plain whipped cream, chocolate mint cream, and any cookie that you think would pair well with those are just a few options – use your imagination and enjoy!
CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE ICEBOX CAKE
2 cups cold heavy cream
12 ounces Italian mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup coffee liqueur, such as Kahlua
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 (8-ounce) packages chocolate chip cookies (we used Chip’s Ahoy)
Shaved semisweet chocolate or chocolate chips, for garnish
Using an electric beater, combine the heavy cream, mascarpone, sugar, cocoa powder, coffee liquer, espresso powder, and vanilla. Mix the ingredients together first on low speed and then raise the speed of the beaters until the mixture forms firm peaks.
To assemble the cake, arrange chocolate chip cookies flat in an 8-inch springform pan, covering the bottom as much as possible – if necessary you can break some cookies to fill in the spaces. Spread a fifth of the whipped cream evenly over the cookies. Place another layer of cookies on top, lying flat and touching, followed by another fifth of the cream. Continue layering cookies and cream until there are 5 layers of each, ending with a layer of cream. Smooth the top, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
Run a small sharp knife around the outside of the cake and remove the sides of the pan. Sprinkle the top with the chocolate chips of chocolate shavings, cut in to wedges, and serve cold.
*Recipe adapted from the Barefoot Contessa