Icebox Cake (homemade chocolate wafers with caramel cream)

icebox cake with homemade chocolate wafers and caramel cream | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

Icebox cake, is really not a cake at all; it’s layers of chocolate wafer cookies and whip cream. So, what’s up with the name? Once the cookies and the cream have a chance to sit together, in their little rows, the cookies soften and in a blind taste test you’d never know you weren’t eating cake. I am sure the version I ate as a child was made with Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers, which are still available (and still satisfy), plus Cool Whip. I loved it as a kid, but now my taste buds crave more flavor and a LOT less sweet. I added burnt sugar to the fresh whipping cream and baked my own bittersweet chocolate wafers. The homemade chocolate wafers make a big difference. They are intensely chocolate and less sweet, which gives the icebox cake so much more personality. Something old is new again and much tastier.

When you slice into the icebox cake you reveal the beautiful stripes of caramel and chocolate. You can simply spread the top with the caramel whip cream, but for Easter or other holidays you might want to use a pastry bag and pipe a fancier design. As you can see I went a little Downton Abbey with my decorating, but either way this is one of the easiest and tastiest desserts I have ever made.

icebox cake with homemade chocolate wafers and caramel cream | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

Chocolate Caramel Icebox Cake

Homemade Chocolate Wafer Cookies (If you buy the premade cookies, buy two boxes, since there are always some that break)

½ cup (113g) unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup (160g) sugar

½ cup (125g) dark brown sugar, well packed

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup (130g) all-purpose flour

¾ cup (68g) cocoa powder (Dutch processed) – use a very dark cocoa or your cookies will not come out the classic color. You can even do a portion of black cocoa, but only a couple of tablespoons in place of the regular, or it is too bitter. 

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup milk 

Caramel Whipped Cream

1 cup (160g) sugar

¼ cup water

1 1/2 teaspoons corn syrup – prevents crystalizing

4 cups heavy whipping cream

Coffee Whipped Cream

In my icebox cake instagram video I added a bit of coffee to the mix and did the outer layer of cream with coffee beans:

1/2 cup coffee beans, broken slightly in a mortar and pestle

2 tablespoons sugar (more if you want it sweeter, but I like the contrast of the bitter with the sweet)

2 cups heavy whipping cream

Heat the cream to simmer, add the broken coffee beans, allow to steep for 15-30 minutes (depending on how strong you like it), strain and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Whip when ready to decorate the icebox cake.

To make the icebox cake:

To make the caramel whipped cream:

watch me make the caramel in my instagram video

In a large saucepan put the sugar in a mound in the center of the pan, be sure it doesn’t hit the sides. Gently add the water and corn syrup, making sure the sugar doesn’t splash up on the sides of the pan.

If any of the sugar is not dissolved, very gently stir, but make sure none of the sugar hits the sides of the pan. (All of this care to keep the sugar off the side of the pan will prevent your sugar from crystallizing while it cooks.)

Cook over high heat, without stirring.

When the sugar starts to color on the edges, gently stir the sugar.

Until it is quite dark, it will smoke a bit. I like my caramel very dark, with an almost bitter edge.

Once the caramel is dark in color, reduce the heat and add half the cream. The caramel will sputter and seize up, which is normal. Gently whisk the caramel until the caramelized sugar dissolves. Add the remaining cream and stir.

Strain the caramel cream into a shallow container. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours (the cream needs to be thoroughly chilled and thick before whipping. You can throw it into the freezer for 15 minutes before refrigerating to speed this up a bit, but make sure it is chilled throughout). Can be made the day ahead.

To make the chocolate wafer cookies:

Cream together the butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla until light, about 2 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix just to combine. Add the milk and mix just to combined. The dough may be softer than what you see in my video, depending on the weather and flour you use. 

Form the dough into two 2-inch-thick logs. Wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

To bake: Preheat oven to 350°F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment.

Slice the log of cookie dough into 1/8-inch-thick coins.

Arrange on the cookie sheets with about 1½ inches between the cookies. Bake for 8 minutes and then rotate the trays back to front and switch from top to bottom racks. Bake for another 2 minutes or until they are dry looking and firm. Because the cookies are so dark, you can’t go by color on these. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Line an 8×4-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, set aside. In the instagram video I used a small pullman pan because it has straighter sides.

Using a hand or stand mixer, whip the chilled caramel cream until very soft, slouchy, peaks. Be sure not to whip the cream in a plastic bowl or it may not whip properly. Reserve the remaining 1/3 of the cream for topping the cake. Whip cream on a lower speed for a longer time. If you whip the cream on medium speed, instead of high, you will have a smaller air bubble and the cream will have more stability. This will also prevent some over whipping. See my instagram video to watch me whip the cream properly.

 

icebox cake

Coat the bottom of the prepared pan with about a ¼-inch-thick layer of the cream. Line the outside of the pan with the cookies.

Spread a layer of the cream on each cookie and layer them together in the pan.

You should end up with about 3 rows of cookies and cream. This may vary slightly depending on how large your cookies are.

Cover the top with more of the cream, so the cookies are completely covered. Refrigerate the cake for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Invert the icebox cake onto a serving platter.

Whip the coffee cream and decorate the icebox cake as you wish.

icebox cake with homemade chocolate wafers and caramel cream | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

Icebox Cake
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
 
Ingredients
  • *Homemade Chocolate Wafer Cookies:
  • ½ cup (113g) unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup (160g) sugar
  • ½ cup (125g) dark brown sugar, well packed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup (130g) all-purpose flour
  • **3/4 cup (68g) cocoa powder (Dutch processed)
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • Caramel Whipped Cream:
  • 1 cup (160g) sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1½ teaspoons corn syrup
  • 4 cups heavy whipping cream
  • Coffee Whipped Cream:
  • ½ cup coffee beans, broken slightly in a mortar and pestle
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (more if you want it sweeter)
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
Instructions
  1. Make the caramel whipped cream: In a large saucepan put the sugar in a mound in the center of the pan, be sure it doesn’t hit the sides. Gently add the water and corn syrup, making sure the sugar doesn’t splash up on the sides of the pan.
  2. If any of the sugar is not dissolved, very gently stir, but make sure none of the sugar hits the sides of the pan. Cook over high heat, without stirring.
  3. When the sugar starts to color on the edges, gently stir the sugar. Until it is quite dark, it will smoke a bit. I like my caramel very dark, with an almost bitter edge. Once the caramel is dark in color, reduce the heat and add half the cream. The caramel will sputter and seize up, which is normal. Gently whisk the caramel until the caramelized sugar dissolves. Add the remaining cream and stir.
  4. Strain the caramel cream into a shallow container. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least an hour. Can be made a day ahead.
  5. Make the chocolate wafer cookies: Cream together the butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla until light, about 2 minutes.
  6. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.
  7. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix just to combine. Add the milk and mix just to combined.
  8. Form the dough into two 2-inch-thick logs. Wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  9. To bake: Preheat oven to 350°F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
  10. Slice the log of cookie dough into ⅛-inch-thick coins. Arrange on the cookie sheets with about 1½ inches between the cookies. Bake for 8 minutes and then rotate the trays back to front and switch from top to bottom racks. Bake for another 2 minutes or until they are dry looking and firm. Because the cookies are so dark, you can’t go by color on these. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
  11. Line an 8x4-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, set aside.
  12. Using a hand or stand mixer, whip the chilled caramel cream until very soft, slouchy, peaks. Be sure not to whip the cream in a plastic bowl or it may not whip properly. Reserve the remaining ⅓ of the cream for topping the cake. Whip cream on a lower speed for a longer time. If you whip the cream on medium speed, instead of high, you will have a smaller air bubble and the cream will have more stability. This will also prevent some over whipping.
  13. Coat the bottom of the prepared pan with about a ¼-inch-thick layer of the cream. Line the outside of the pan with the cookies.
  14. Spread a layer of the cream on each cookie and layer them together in the pan. You should end up with about 3 rows of cookies and cream. This may vary slightly depending on how large your cookies are.
  15. Cover the top with more of the cream, so the cookies are completely covered. Refrigerate the cake for at least 3 hours or overnight.
  16. Invert the icebox cake onto a serving platter.
  17. Make the coffee whipped cream: Heat the cream to simmer, add the broken coffee beans, allow to steep for 15-30 minutes (depending on how strong you like it), strain and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Whip when ready to decorate the icebox cake. Decorate the icebox cake as you wish.
Notes
*or skip this step and buy pre-made wafer cookies. Just be sure to buy 2 boxes since some are bound to be broken.
**use a very dark cocoa or your cookies will not come out the classic color. You can even do a portion of black cocoa, but only a couple of tablespoons in place of the regular, or it is too bitter.
***In my icebox cake instagram video I added a bit of coffee to the mix and did the outer layer of cream with coffee beans.