Saturday, May 21, 2011

Mocha Icebox Cake, or, The Cream That Wouldn't Whip.

This cake was a near Asphalt Kitchen disaster. It turned out fabulously in the end, but not without some dramatics and a bit of scrambling around Boston.

Chalk it up to my waiting until the eleventh hour to get started. And to my stubborn attempt to get through the recipe without the aid of modern kitchen appliances, such as a mixer...

I was recently gifted a used hand mixer, which I conveniently left at my friends' house because it was too bulky to ride home on my bike with. Lesson about laziness learned! After twenty minutes of furiously whipping cream by hand with a whisk, I threw the first runny (and not remotely whipped) batch out in frustration.

I have whipped cream by hand without difficulty. It's always taken a while, but never before has it seemed impossible. As far as I can tell, I did all things properly this time. I chilled the bowl and whisk. I used very cold heavy cream. I whipped like the dickens. And it never formed peaks. It just looked like this:

Boo! That cream is totally not whipped!

So I trekked across the river, got the hand mixer (with whisk attachment), and started again. And it took two minutes to make whipped cream. And it was really easy.

Moral of the story: just use a darn mixer, if you have access to one.

In all seriousness, this cake is the bomb. I am a big fan of icebox cakes in general. I think they remind me of kid desserts, like Dirt Cups or Ghosts in the Graveyard. This one has just the right amount of coffee taste. It is mousselike and delicious, perfect for a birthday cake!

Mocha Icebox Cake
Adapted from Tara at Seven Spoons

  3 1/2 cups heavy cream, divided (and very cold)
  3/4 cups confectioner's sugar, divided
  1 1/2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
  a pinch of salt
  1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  Large box graham crackers, broken into squares (you'll need 45 total squares)
  1/3 cup chocolate syrup
  1/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  A small handful of shaved chocolate (I used a dark chocolate bar and shaved it with a cheese grater)

  1. Line an 8X8 metal cake pan with cling wrap, crossed in both directions so that there is an overhang on all sides. Set aside.
  2. In a large, chilled bowl, begin to whip 2 cups of the cold heavy cream using a mixer with wire whisk attachment. Or do it by hand with a wire whisk, if you're better at whipping than I am! As soon as the cream begins to thicken, sift in 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar and add instant coffee granules and salt. Whip until the cream begins to hold soft peaks. Add in vanilla and whip until the cream just holds a stiff peak*
  3. Using a rubber or offset spatula, spread a small amount of the whipped cream on the bottom of the saran-wrap covered cake pan. Lay 9 crackers atop the cream side-by-side in a 3x3 grid. Spoon 1/2 cup whipped cream on top of the crackers and gently spread to cover the crackers entirely. Drizzle a few tablespoons of chocolate syrup over the cream.
  4. Top with another layer of 9 graham grackers, continuing the same layering pattern until you have 5 layers of crackers. Spread the last of the whipped cream onto the 5th layer of crackers, but leave off the chocolate.
  5. Cover the cake loosely with cling wrap, then draw the overhanging cling wrap up over the sides to cover all edges. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours and up to 2 days.
  6. At least an hour before serving, remove the cake from the refrigerator and peel back the cling wrap. Invert the cake onto a serving plate and carefully remove the remaining cling wrap. Smooth out the sides with your spatula, if needed. Place the cake in the freezer, uncovered, to chill for half an hour. 
  7. Meanwhile, prepare the cocoa cream. In the large, chilled bowl, begin to whip 1 1/2 cups of well-chilled heavy cream using a mixer with a wire whisk attachment. Or do it again by hand. As soon as it begins to thicken, sift in 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar and cocoa powder. Whip the cream until it just holds a firm peak*
  8. Take the cake out of the refrigerator and gently spread a layer of the cocoa cream to cover it as you would frosting. Decorate with shaved chocolate. Chill the finished cake in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, then serve.
*It's really easy to over-whip your cream and turn it right into whipped butter. Pay close attention to the cream and stop as soon as you like the consistency. 

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