As this project has progressed, we’re finding ourselves increasingly in need of shortcuts as the show challenges get harder. Week 7 was Victorian Week, and offered the choice of tennis cake, game pies and charlotte russe. The technical challenge is not our friend, none of us felt like sourcing wild game for a savory pie, but charlotte russe seemed straightforward enough, even if it did include ladyfinger cookies (worst pastry name ever). However, we realized that this creation is basically an icebox cake, a retro, summer-y dessert that’s basically layering cookies (store-bought) with whipped cream. It’s hardly baking at all, but it seemed appropriate given our talent level.
The bake: Create a layered “cake” using cookies and layers of some kind.
As I normally live my life, I started with a Google search. I also perused my favorite food bloggers to see if any had an icebox cake that would work for my purposes. Most of them seemed to be heavy on presentation, which is fine, but I had a lack of party guests to serve a fancy dessert to. I stumbled upon this tiramisu-inspired cake on Onion Rings & Things. I loved that it only had four ingredients and it seemed like the 10-minute prep time would likely be an exaggeration. I made this as my husband was cooking up grilled cheeses for dinner and it took the exact same amount of time. And since it only requires graham crackers, heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk and instant coffee, it’s something you could even grab the ingredients for on the way home if you ever have surprise dinner guests.
Simply whip the cream, add the chilled condensed milk (I didn’t chill it and it all worked out), dissolve 1 tbsp of instant coffee in 1 tbsp warm water to make a quick intense coffee potion and combine. Layer graham cracker sheets in a pan with dollops of the cream mixture, and refrigerate overnight. Again, so stupidly easy that I felt like I was cheating. That’s the hallmark of an icebox cake though.
You’re supposed to sift cocoa powder on top when serving to give the cake slices that tiramisu look, but I somehow didn’t have any, but I did have a random Hershey bar in the pantry, so I used a veggie peeler to make little chocolate curls. That made it look way fancier than it had any right to, but the results were outstanding. The crackers soften and take on the cream really well, giving them a cake-like texture, and the cream mixture is rich and smooth, if a tad too sweet. I would maybe skip the sweetened condensed milk and opt for maybe some cream cheese or ricotta to thicken up the mixture next time. The amount of coffee flavor packed into 1 measly tablespoon is surprisingly intense. Would definitely make again, probably in summer, and certainly for a crowd. We’re going to keep it in the freezer, so it should be a nice way to extend our sweet tooths out for a couple weeks.
Brooke & Kelsey
We decided to go with a favor we discovered in Britain for Charlotte Russe week — bananaoffee. That’s a together-word for banana and toffee, so yeah. We were on the path to deliciousness. Now, though we already were doing Charlotte Russe lite with the whole Icebox Cake approach, we selected a recipe that eschewed even layering just because we wanted this flavor.
We melted butter and food-processed digestives (that’s biscuits covered in chocolate on one side) to make the crust. This was pressed into a pan, chilled for a bit, and then called into action to hold the innards. The next bit was a layer of caramel sauce. The sauce we used was thick, but as we would learn, not quite so thick to serve as the base for everything else. On top of the caramel went a layer of sliced bananas and a top layer of whipped cream. We decided to chop up some chocolate and add it atop the whipped cream for extra texture and flavor. This was a good choice.
However, we quickly learned that an icebox style treat such as this wasn’t made for room temperature, or even light coolness. The effort to cut a piece became as much an effort in scooping out a liquid as it was cutting the crust. The instant some bits were removed, more would ooze over. Still, we ate it as was and it was exceptionally tasty. Into the freezer the remnants went, and out they came, a proper, formed dessert. Voila.
I made my game day decision standing in the cookie aisle, consulting Pinterest as I usually do for these weekly challenges. The Pumpkin Gingersnap Icebox Cake seemed simple enough and it continued the fall flavors train, so I decided to give it a go. The only downside to making a snap decision when you’re starving in a grocery store is that you may not read the ingredients list carefully.
The recipe did involve breaking out the mixer. First, it was used to whip up some whipped cream or as my roommate walked in and called it, “making whipped cream from scratch.” I then had to beat the cream cheese, which I neglected to leave out for room temperature. It only resulted in it not being as smooth as it could’ve been. While adding in all the spices, I discovered that the recipe called for ginger, which I had failed to obtain, so it had to be left out.
As I began layering, I realized her note on the bottom about 72 gingersnap cookies and guesstimated that my box had only about 50. Deciding less surface area to cover with cookies would work best, I went with a 9in cake pan and had just enough for 3 layers of cookies and filling each. It resulted with a little extra filling left over, so i just ate it separately. The end results were a nice combination of creamy pumpkin mousse between cake-like texture of gingersnaps. I’m undecided if the missing ginger would have given it an extra zing or been overpowering as the snaps still brought that ginger edge to the classic pumpkin flavor.