Sometimes my inspiration for a blog topic comes from ingredients already on hand; today it was fresh strawberries and a plump vanilla bean. We all know how hot it has been so turning on the oven to bake something sweet just wasn’t going to happen. I came across a recipe for a mocha chocolate icebox cake from Barefoot Contessa that requires no cooking, which I used for inspiration. I know, I can hear you exclaiming: “How can you possibly pass up something chocolate in favor of something vanilla?” It was the strawberries that stretched my culinary creativity and the silly fact that I do not like chocolate and fruit together – gasp! If we’re talking chocolate fondue then I’m all over it but for some reason my taste buds revolt when the two are combined otherwise. Originating from Nabisco, the traditional icebox cake is made with layers of chocolate wafers and whipped cream. I borrowed two things from Barefoot Contessa’s recipe: adding mascarpone cheese to the whipped cream and using a springform pan, which makes for an easy assembly and snazzy presentation. Here’s how I made my Strawberry Vanilla Icebox cake for our 4th of July celebration.
Whole Vanilla Bean (for the filling):
Whole vanilla beans have a beautifully fragrant paste inside that adds tiny little specs of flavor to your dish, a visual cue that you are about to enjoy pure vanilla. To remove the paste, make a slice down the middle of one side of the bean and scrape out with a paring knife. I like to cut the bean in half for easier removal. If you don’t have a vanilla bean, use a good quality pure vanilla extract.
Four ingredients make up the filling: heavy whipping cream, mascarpone cheese, sugar and vanilla – Yum! Whip until firm, stiff peaks form and the mixture has some body.
Using either an 8 inch or 9 inch (what I used) springform pan, line the bottom with vanilla wafers and fill in any big holes with pieces of broken cookie. Add one quarter of the filling on top of the cookies, spread out and repeat the process. You’ll end up with four layers of each, finishing with the whipped cream mixture. Smooth out the top, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or for at least 12 hours. It’s that easy!
The vanilla wafers soften from the whipped cream and soak up the flavors for a light and sweet dessert that is hard to pass up. The strawberry vanilla icebox cake is perfect for a dinner party and transports well. Thankfully the cake stays fresh in the refrigerator for several days, so any leftovers are a great way to indulge your sweet tooth. There are many ways to make an icebox cake and I have some ideas for future tasty combinations. This was the first time I tasted this treat – did you have one as a kid? What was your favorite?
Best wishes for a sweet-filled summer!
Eat well and share the love!
Strawberry Vanilla Icebox Cake (print recipe)
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Prep Time: 20 minutes; Refrigerate: 12 hours or more
1 ½ cups chopped fresh strawberries, about 16 strawberries
2 cups cold heavy whipping cream
8 oz. mascarpone cheese
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar (reserve 1 tablespoon for chopped strawberries)
1 vanilla bean – paste removed from pod, or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
One 12 oz. package of Vanilla Wafers
Filling: Add the chopped strawberries to a medium bowl and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar; mix and set aside.
To the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the whipping cream, mascarpone cheese, ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar and vanilla (if you don’t have an electric mixer, use a large glass bowl and hand mixer). Mix on low speed until the ingredients are combined and increase speed to medium (speed #4); mix until stiff peaks form.
Remove bowl from mixer, scrape off whipped cream from whisk attachment, and gently fold in the chopped strawberries.
Assemble: Arrange the vanilla wafers in a single layer in the bottom of an 8 inch or 9 inch springform pan, covering as much of the bottom as possible; if needed break some cookies to fill in the larger spaces.
Add ¼ of the mixture (a very generous cup) on top of the cookies and spread out evenly, making sure the edges are well covered.
Repeat with remaining layers (4 of each) and finish with the whipped cream mixture. Smooth the top, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.
To serve, release the clasp on the ring of the pan and gently run a knife along the edge of cake. Remove the ring, slice and serve cold.
Murphy, on the lookout for anything amiss!