Growing up, we had a favorite family dessert--like, it was a favorite, for all of us. We didn't get to have it often as the cookies (Nabisco Chocolate Wafers) were hard to find. Whenever Mom did find them, she bought them. And we made this obscenely rich dessert. And we ate it until we were sick. That's pretty much how it still is.
[Tangential story alert]: One time, my mother made it in a plastic bowl she'd used for some sort of onion-containing salad. The cookies and cream ended up tasting like onions. It was tragic. We were all broken-hearted. There were tears. In fact, I still remember my mom looking at it like she herself was going to cry. And Mom wasn't much of a crier. I was so little, but I still remember it. It's one of those things that haunts you. At least if you grew up in a 1st world country with parents who loved you and you had clearly not enough other problems to haunt you.
Anyway, I remember that whenever people asked me what my favorite dessert/food was, I'd tell them "Cookies and Cream." They'd assume I was talking about ice cream and I'd tell them no, it was this really awesome dessert my mom made with, ahem, cookies and cream. No one had ever heard of it. Nabisco Chocolate Wafers were never sitting there by the Oreos year round (as well they certainly should be; what's wrong with us as a country) and cream was something that people just didn't discuss in the '90s. No one I talked to as a child or young adult had ever heard of, much less tasted, the concoction we called Cookies and Cream. I assumed it was a deep, dark family secret--a quirky family addiction, like some sort of collective family alcholism, only much sweeter and much better and with that cookie hooch that was hard to find, so that we were spared from constant obsessive dependence (I guess I should thank Nabisco, but I won't).
And then one day a couple years ago, I saw this pop up on one of my favorite food blogs. I was not alone. There were others in this world making and eating my dessert. But they called it by another name. A perfectly logical name and one that people would not constantly be mistaking for some kind of cheap ice cream. They called it Icebox Cake. I felt like a kid discovering that Aslan wasn't really just a lion. Whoa.
Icebox Cake is an apt name and icebox cake is a perfect summer dessert because this dessert requires no cooking at all. You layer the cookies with whipped cream. You throw it in the refrigerator overnight. And then you have the best dessert you've ever had in your life.
I made this on Mother's Day. I almost didn't. Why? Not because I don't love it. Not because I didn't want it. Not because it doesn't remind me of my own mother (it totally does or did you miss the tangential story above). But because I love it so very much, I knew that I would eat myself into sickness over this dessert and I didn't want to. I usually have good portion control. I usually stop when I'm full. But this cake--I don't know--I just can't stop. And it really is a cake that is intensely rich and therefore begs for a little stopping at some point. In fact, on Mother's Day my husband brought home a bunch of store bought cookies that were leftover from his work and offered to feed them to the kids for dessert. "No way," I told him. "Why not," he asked, "don't you want more of your favorite dessert." "Heck no," I said, "I need some other mouths to contribute to the consumption of that dessert so I don't make myself sick." And those other mouths did. I still ate more than I should have and felt a wee bit blah that night, but not, you know, completely sugar/cream hungover or anything. And here I'm going to have to apologize for this post because it's clear reading it that I really do have a problem. Two problems really, because I don't want help for my first problem. So ha.
Now on to the practical matters:
This recipe requires Nabisco chocolate wafers. No, you can't use Oreos (not even with the middles painstakingly scraped out and, yes, we've tried). No, you can't use chocolate graham crackers. (And yes, I've tried that too.) I mean, you can and it will still be an icebox cake and all, but it won't be transcendent. I could pass it at your party and not even take a lick (no offense, okay, I'm just being honest here). For this you need Nabisco chocolate wafers. Maybe you're lucky and they carry them at your store right in the perfectly logical cookie aisle. If not, here are some tips for finding them.
-Check the ice cream aisle. Sometimes they're stocked with the hot fudge sauce and other ice cream toppings. (And truly, they would be lovely in your ice cream, but not as lovely as in this dessert. In fact, these cookies taste really really really good on their own and I'm always surprised they're not more available and popular.)
-Look around Christmas time. I don't know why, but these have a seasonal air to them. Apparently people like icebox cakes in their Christmas festivities. I prefer them in summer when I don't want to bake (who am I kidding, I prefer them whenever, but Christmas-explosion-of-sugar-month is not my first choice), but don't worry; the cookies freeze great, so you can buy when you find them and freeze them whenever.
-You'll find them sometimes in the darndest places. I found a bunch at Big Lots once.
-When all else fails, you can order them from Amazon (bless you Amazon). They tend to be pricier than if you find them at a local store (I usually find them between $3 and $5/box), but sometimes--like when you're staring your own dessert co-dependence in the face and wondering how it ever got to this point and considering, but not really, a 12-step program of some sort--you just shell out the extra three bucks.
I noticed that Smitten Kitchen's is way pretty. She stacks her cookies up nice and neat and that's really lovely. I do as my mother did and make this in a salad bowl (although not one that has ever contained onions). It's just a bit easier that way. It takes literally 3 minutes to layer them and then it's really easy to put it in the fridge without worrying it will fall over or that little hands will find their way into all it's layered goodness while you're not looking.
To serve, you just scoop it out.
It's not Hollywood glamour or anything, but it works and makes for easy serving and easy putting away.
Also, Smitten Kitchen's recipe has less sugar than mine. You can do that if you want, but I like mine better. I just do. I only eat this every 3 years or so, so I add the extra few tablespoons of sugar and I enjoy every.single.one.of.them.
Cookies and Cream (An Icebox Cake)
Serves: Um, my family of 6 (but it should serve more; it really should; we have issues)
Prep time: 15 minutes
Fridge time: 24 hours
Cost: $5.12 (Okay, I know I've been highlighting some sort of pricey desserts lately, but May is my holiday month, okay. Besides, this is way cheaper than you'd get even one teeny from-a-box-of-some-sort dessert at a chain restaurant.)
(cookies: $3, cream: $2, sugar: .12)
1 box Nabisco Chocolate Wafers
1 pint cream
3/4 C sugar
2 tsp vanilla
Beginning by whipping your cream. Pour it in a bowl and blend it until soft peaks form. When they do, add the sugar and vanilla. Whip or beat until firmer peaks form.
Put a blob of it on the bottom of a salad bowl and spread that around. Make one layer of cookies, breaking some if you need to so they don't overlap. Add more whipped cream and spread. Add another layer of cookies. Repeat until you top it off with a thin layer of whipped cream.
Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours or until the cookies are perfectly soft.
Linked to Sweets for a Saturday