As some of you may remember from last year, icebox cake is my wife’s favorite birthday cake. I decided to make it again this year, but instead of trying to find those wafers, and in an attempt to make it more special, I decided to make the wafers myself.
On smitten kitchen, I found a recipe for icebox cupcakes that had a chocolate wafer recipe in it. I used that recipe to make the wafers and then used those wafers in the traditional Nabisco recipe. I bought brand new cocoa, sugar, and baking powder for this recipe because I was out. I also used skim milk instead of whole milk.
It was very easy to make the dough. From start to finish (including some cleaning), maybe 40 minutes. About 5 – 10 minutes of that was rolling, measuring, rerolling, and remeasuring the dough to get it to the right size. (It was supposed to be 1 3/4 inch. Mine was closer to 2 inches, but it was close enough.)
It went mostly pretty smoothly, with just a couple of small blips. When using the food processor, I hadn’t put in the piece to cover the hole, and some of the mixture went flying. (Whee!) And when I tried to carefully add the milk mixture, some of it dripped out. But blips aside, it was done pretty quick. I transferred it to a bowl to knead. It almost wasn’t big enough. (I know, my bowl rule.) But it didn’t really matter, because it wasn’t staying there long. I should have just used a cutting board though, cause I used one when I needed a space to roll it out anyway.
It took a few minutes to roll out, measure, reroll, remeasure, and reroll again. After getting it just right (or close enough, really), I wrapped it in aluminum foil. Then I stuck it in the fridge to chill. At that point, it was 11:15pm. I was able to do it then and still keep the surprise, as my wife was out at a concert (the night before her birthday).
I didn’t think I was going to finish it in time that night, because I didn’t want her to walk in while I was making it. I thought I would have to finish it the next day. Unless I was going to bake it while she was sleeping, which would have had its own difficulties. But, after it became clear she would still be out for a while, I decided to keep working on it. It was late. I had let it sit for about 2 hours.
I had rolled the log into what turned out to be not exactly a circle, so the cookies that I cut ended up looking more like Melba toast or fruit slices and less like circles. And as I cut, the dough got warmer, and stuck to the foil. (I was cutting it on the foil for simplicity’s sake.) The first few cuts were not good. I put those to the side and reused them later. Some ended up thicker, some thinner, but I eventually got the hang of it. I put my fingers up close to the end and cut as close as I could without it being too thin. Still a little bit got stuck on the bottom, so I kept moving the dough to a clean part of the foil. For the first round, I ended up with 30 cookies total on two baking sheets.
I had preheated the oven. I moved the oven racks and did the top/bottom and front/back rotation as directed. Since some cookies looked to be on the small side, I baked them on the lower end of the scale – 12 minutes – with the changeover at 6 minutes. After 12 minutes they looked done. Some of the smaller ones were possibly a little overcooked, but they were still good.
After the first batch, I moved both pieces of parchment paper with the cookies still on them onto the cooling rack. I put down new parchment paper, pulled the remains of the log out of the fridge and repeated. The second batch was better. It was 30 cookies again. I moved the first batch (which had cooled and crisped at this point) off the cooling rack and moved the second batch on.
I moved on to the third batch. I reused the parchment paper from the first batch. I ended up with 19 more for a total of 79 cookies. I didn’t have a chance to reform all the previously messed-up ones because it would have meant a whole nother batch. So I quickly reformed them into a ball, then a bit like a log, but it was smaller and smooshier (because it was warm). So I cut them a little bit thicker and just smooshed them which means they were less well-formed.
They smelled good. Not overpowering, but good. They looked really nice. I’m happy with how they turned out. I let them cool. I took lots of pictures. I put them away so my wife wouldn’t see them in the morning. (She normally gets up before I do.) She had actually come back home in the middle of me baking, but she didn’t want to spoil the surprise (even though I said it would be okay). So every time she walked by the kitchen, she would consciously shield her eyes so she wouldn’t see anything.
With the cookies done, I still had to make the whipped cream, assemble the cake, and let it chill. Last year I used two packages (a double recipe) which was 80 cookies. I got 79 out of this recipe, so that was pretty close. It was the middle of the night at this point, so I figured I would wait until the next day.
I didn’t want to take time away from her birthday that I would otherwise be spending with her. So I didn’t get to finish it till later. In fact the birthday celebrations ran late, and I didn’t have a chance to put the cake together till after that. To save time, coupled with the fact that we were going out-of-town soon after, I used just a single recipe: 2 cups of whipping cream and 40 cookies. (BTW, it doesn’t tell you how many are in the package, so I had to do a little reverse engineering to figure out how many I needed.) I followed the traditional instructions to make them. I beat the cream on high. It took about 10 minutes to make the whipped cream. Then I added in the vanilla.
I took out a plate and prepared them in stacks of 10 cookies at a time. I didn’t measure the whipped cream. I just shplurped some on. (That’s an industry term.) I did one stack of 10, set it aside, and did another stack of 10. Then I put them together. Then I repeated that with two more stacks of 10. Then I started frosting them. Because the cookies were irregular, some bits stuck out more than others and I had to smoosh them into shape and add more frosting. (“Smoosh” is another industry term.) I was in a rush, so it wasn’t my best work, but it was done. I let it sit about 2 hours till we ate it.
How did it go over? She was kinda blown away. She knew I was going to make her something, but since I often don’t repeat recipes, she wasn’t expecting this. She was really surprised. She’s a smart cookie (pun intended), so she figured out right away that I had baked the wafers. (She knew I was baking something the night before, and there’s nothing else I could have baked for this cake.) She was really moved that I had made the cake for her, and even more so that I had gone to the trouble of making the cookies by hand.
Besides the metaphorical sweetness, she thought the cake was amazing. She described the cookies as not too sweet, sturdier than the regular ones, with a good, but different texture. They had a nice chocolately taste. Not chocolate flavored like some store-bought cookies, actual chocolate.
Also, while the whipped cream itself was not sweet, it took on some of the sweetness from the cookies after a while. It got better and better each day. For instance, after the third day – there was a lot of restraint involved – it got even better.
While it was a little bit of work to make the cookies, it wasn’t really any more work than running around to try and find the store-bought ones. And it was totally worth it in taste and in smiles. Have you ever created a store-bought dessert from scratch? Have you ever made this or other versions of an icebox cake? Let me know in the comments below.