You know how much I love to cook, but even I have to admit: there is such a thing as cooking too much. Every person’s threshold is different, although I suspect the holidays often have something do do with it. It seems my breaking point is cooking about 10 different dishes for Thanksgiving, and then, less than a week later, baking 200+ cookies for a cookie swap. Somewhere around the 2nd batch of cookies, I was asking myself why I had committed myself to the damn cookie swap in the first place. By the 4th batch of cookies, I had vowed to never look at another stick of butter again. When the final tray of cookies finally came out of the oven, I collapsed on the couch and asked my husband not to speak to me for the next few hours.
That, my friends, was my threshold. My Will to Cook threw her flour-covered hands in the air, chucked her apron to the floor, and went on strike.
And yet, one week later, I had invited 30 of my nearest and dearest to my apartment to celebrate the holidays and my husband’s birthday with us. And I was faced with a dilemma: how to feed 30 people, when I couldn’t even fathom boiling water!
Enter the Icebox Cake. This dish was in the arsenal of every 1950’s housewife, the perfect make-ahead dessert that tasted scrumptious but with no baking and miraculously little work. I had been meaning to make one for a while, and, with my Will To Cook sitting in a huff in the corner, this seemed the ideal time. The dish was such a success, I think I’ll keep making it, even when I do feel like cooking again!
Chocolate Peppermint Icebox Cake
Adapted from this Smitten Kitchen confection
Time: 30 minutes, plus 8-24 hours chilling time
- 3 cups heavy whipping cream
- 3 T granulated sugar
- 1 T peppermint extract
- 2 boxes of chocolate wafers (3 boxes if you are picky about using whole cookies. Personally, I think it’s fine to use the broken halves.)
- 1/2 cup crushed peppermint candies or candy canes
Pour the whipping cream into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add in the sugar and extract, and beat with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.
Once the cream is thoroughly whipped, get started on assembling the cake. Each layer will have 7 wafers, so you should aim for 10-12 layers. Spread a bit of whipped cream on the serving plate before putting down the first payer of cookies; this helps them stay put. Arrange wafers in a “flower” pattern, and spread another layer of whipped cream on top. Continue alternating until you run out of either whipped cream of wafers. You can alternate the placement of the wafers so the sides look scalloped. You can also choose to sprinkle some crushed peppermints in between each layer, or around the edge.
To finish the cake, sprinkle liberally with the crushed peppermints* (Or, you can do this right before serving if you prefer).
*Pro-tip #1: smashing peppermints is an excellent stress-reliever, and went a long way towards coaxing my Will To Cook out of the corner.
*Pro-tip #2: Before smashing peppermints, put them in a ziplock bag. Even when in their plastic wrappings, peppermint dust and bits will escape when smashed, and coat your counter and floor in a fine, crunchy, sticky mess.
Cover as best you can with plastic wrap or an appropriately sized bowl, and put in the fridge for 8-24 hours, until ready to serve. By the time you serve it up, the cookies will have softened deliciously.
This recipe is super adaptable – instead of peppermint, experiment with different extracts and toppings, fresh fruit, nuts, chocolate shavings, etc. As long as you’ve got wafers and whipped cream, you can’t go wrong!