Red Velvet Icebox Cake
Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafersare those thin, crispy, extra-dark, chocolaty wafer-like cookies that make a famous icebox cake. The wafers are layered with whipped cream and upon refrigeration the cookies soften and become cake-like. My Mom introduced me to this cake as a child and I always found it fascinating. She made her own version using thin ginger wafers. I don’t know how she came up with that and I thought she was brilliant. Come to think of it, maybe that is the first time I witnessed a dessert recipe being “invented”. Icebox cakes themselves have always enchanted me. The sum ends up being so much more than a sum of its parts. Textures change, flavors meld. This Red Velvet Icebox Cake begins with homemade red velvet wafers – a lovely and tasty recipe in itself. Note that the dough does need to be chilled prior to baking, so plan accordingly. The wafers can be made ahead and frozen. When you read a recipe through (you always do that, don’t you?) see where you can pause with d0-ahead steps. Make things as easy as possible for yourself! Once the wafers are made, this icebox cake comes together very quickly, but then needs a sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Great recipe to do-ahead for parties. No last minute fussing! This cake, as well as the Black and White Malted Icebox Cakeare from Icebox Cakesby Jean Sagendorph and Jessie Sheehan.
Icebox Cakesby Jean Sagendorph and Jessie Sheehan (Chronicle Books, 2015). Photos by Tara Donne.
Red velvet cake is always a winner at birthday parties and other celebrations. Our icebox version is extra chocolatey and includes a surprising cinnamon–cream cheese whipped cream. (You’ll have extra wafers left over after assembling your cake—lucky you! Store them in a resealable plastic bag in the freezer and enjoy them for up to 1 month.)
One 9-by-5-by-3-in/23-by-12-by-7.5-cm loaf pan
One 10-in/25-cm oval or rectangular serving platter
- 2 cups minus 2 Tbsp/250 g all-purpose flour
- 2 Tbsp Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 1∕2 tsp salt
- 1 1∕4 cups/250 g granulated sugar
- 3∕4 cup/170 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 Tbsp whole milk
- 1 Tbsp light corn syrup
- 1 Tbsp red food coloring
- 1 1∕2 cups/340 g cream cheese, at room temperature
- 3 cups/720 ml heavy cream
- 1 cup/130 g confectioners’ sugar
- 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 1∕2 tsp ground cinnamon
- Ground cinnamon for decorating
- MAKE WAFERS: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the granulated sugar, butter, and vanilla on medium-low speed until slightly fluffy, about 2 minutes. Be careful not to overbeat. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
- In a small bowl, whisk the milk, corn syrup, and food coloring to combine. Add the milk mixture to the butter-sugar mixture with the mixer on medium-low speed; beat until just combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl with the rubber spatula.
- Add the flour mixture all at once to the mixer bowl. With the mixer on low speed, beat until the dough just begins to pull away from the bottom of the bowl and forms a cohesive mass. Scrape the sides of the bowl to fully incorporate all the ingredients.
- Divide the dough in half and place each half on a sheet of plastic wrap. Loosely wrap the dough and form each half into a log about 2 in/5 cm wide. Roll the logs along the counter, still wrapped in plastic wrap, in order to shape into perfect cylinders. Tighten the plastic wrap around the logs and freeze them for at least 2 hours, or overnight. If you have trouble forming the soft dough into logs, form the dough into a disk (or loose log shape), wrap it in plastic wrap, and place in the freezer for about 20 minutes, just until it is cold enough to shape into the necessary log. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Once frozen, unwrap one of the logs and use a sharp paring or chef’s knife to cut it into thin slices about 1∕8 in/3 mm thick; rotate the log as you slice, or the side sitting on the cutting surface will flatten. Arrange the slices about 1 in/2.5 cm apart on one of the prepared baking sheets and place in the freezer for at least 10 minutes. Repeat with the second dough log and prepared baking sheet. If you need more room to fit all your dough slices, simply arrange them on additional sheets of parchment paper, layer the dough-covered papers one on top of the other on the second baking sheet in the freezer, and switch them out as you bake off each batch. (You can also wrap the baking sheets in plastic wrap and freeze the rounds for up to 1 week.)
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350˚F/180˚C.
- Place one baking sheet of the frozen dough rounds in the oven and bake until they appear dry, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through the baking time. Using a stiff metal or plastic spatula, immediately press down lightly on each cookie to flatten it. Let the wafers cool on the baking sheet for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. The wafers should be very crispy when cooled. If they are not, place them back in the 350˚F/180˚C oven for 1 to 2 minutes more. Repeat to bake the additional sheets of dough rounds.
- Store the wafers in an airtight container as soon as they have cooled. They will remain crispy at room temperature, tightly sealed, for about 24 hours. Freezing the baked wafers in a resealable plastic bag also works well, for up to 1 month. There is no need to defrost the wafers before assembling your cake.
- MAKE WHIPPED CREAM: Refrigerate the bowl of a stand mixer and the whisk attachment (or a medium metal bowl and beaters from a hand mixer) until quite cold, about 15 minutes.
- Once chilled, remove the bowl and whisk from the refrigerator, add the cream cheese, and whip it on medium speed until smooth. Add the cream and continue to whip on medium speed until the cream is incorporated.
- Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon and, on medium-high speed, whip the cream mixture until it holds stiff peaks that stand upright when the whisk is raised (the stiffer the cream, the more support it will provide the wafers in your cake). Use it immediately.
- Line the loaf pan with plastic wrap that hangs slightly over the pan sides. Using a small offset spatula or the back of a spoon, spread a generous layer of the whipped cream on the bottom of the lined pan.
- Cover as much of the cream as possible with a layer of the wafers, filling any gaps with broken wafers. The pieces should touch. The goal is a solid layer of wafers.
- Continue layering whipped cream and wafers until you run out or reach the top of the pan, ending with whipped cream. Gently cover the cake with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
- Peel the plastic wrap from the cake, place the serving platter over the cake, and invert the cake onto the platter. Carefully remove the pan and plastic-wrap lining and lightly dust the cake with ground cinnamon. Using a knife, cut it into slices and serve.