My husband, Dylan, is maybe the smartest, or at least the most knowledgable, person I know. He is intrepidly curious, someone who is always trying to not only learn, but master, new skills. While I cringe when I hear the word “hobby”, Dylan has no shortage of pastimes, from scuba diving to marathon running to knitting to acting. On the eve of a camping trip, he decided that it would be the perfect time to learn how to throw knives (luckily a hobby that he quickly lost interest in). But above all, he’s known in our circles as a chef. His creations are creative and ambitious and nearly always executed on a large scale. Whereas I prefer to cook cozy weeknight dinners for the two of us, Dylan likes nothing more than to cook a five-course meal for a crowd.
Along with this ambition, though, is an aversion to anything pre-made. He loathes cake mixes and detests semi-homemade cooking of the Sandra Lee variety. Which is the only reason I can think of for why he actively prevented me from making this chocolate whipped cream icebox cake from Smitten Kitchen for over a year. Every time a holiday or birthday approached, I’d propose this cake, mentioning how very delightful it looked, how easy, how delicious, how Oprah herself was a huge fan. And without fail he pooh-poohed the idea of making it, refusing to call it a cake and saying that it would inevitably disappoint the birthday girl or boy.
Last weekend, though, we celebrated Dylan’s very own birthday and found ourselves in the predicament of hosting a party without knowing how many people would show. Naturally, there would be a main birthday cake, made from scratch with love. But wasn’t this the perfect time to make a quick and easy “back-up” cake, say one that doesn’t even require baking, but just an overnight chilling in the fridge? I made an executive decision and when I found the rare and coveted Nabisco famous chocolate wafers that comprise the “cake” at our local grocery store, it seemed it was meant to be.
People, I love my Dylan, but I can only blame him for keeping me from this cake for so long. Even he was forced to eat his words as he spooned soft, decadent layers of homemade whipped cream and cookies, softened to perfection, into his mouth. Dare I say it, I think he may have preferred this cake to the homemade one (which was quite delicious, itself). Learn from my lesson and ignore the nay-sayers who tell you that it’s not a real cake, who say that spending a mere 20-30 minutes on a birthday cake is embarrassing. Your friends will ask you for the recipe, will scrape their plates, will sing the praises of this cake and its’ gifted chef. It’s just that good.
3 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 (9-ounce) packages chocolate wafer cookies
Unsweetened cocoa (or chocolate shavings)
1. In a large bowl, beat cream, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form.
2. On a flat serving plate, arrange 7 cookies side by side in a circle, keeping 1 cookie in the center.
3. Spread with 1/2 cup whipped cream, making a 7-inch circle. Repeat with remaining cookies and cream, making 11 layers of cookies and ending with a layer of cream (there may be a few cookies left over). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
4. To serve, dust top lightly with cocoa powder or chocolate shavings.