Taking the Cake


I’m a good cook, but not a great baker.  Is that normal?  I want to be a better baker.  I should be.  After all, I’m a world-class consumer and eater of all baked items.  I consider anything that combines chocolate, eggs, flour and cream to be its own food group on the USDA pyramid.  Shouldn’t that help my cause?

But the truth is that I’m just better on the eating end of the spatula than the baking end.  Case in point:  Some of you may recall Project Stegosaurus Birthday Cake, aka Why My Kid Thought His Cake Was a Chihuahua.  We don’t need to re-hash that.  It’s clear that I’m not the Cake Boss.  Or even the Unpaid Cake Intern.

But all homemade heavenly dessert hope is not lost.  Because anyone can ace the retro delicious item that I made last night.  And why would I go back to cake-making so soon after the stegosaurus incident?  Because it’s for my good friend who just brought home her gorgeous new twin babies, as she celebrates her own birthday as well.  With double the endless feedings and sleep deprivation joy, I’m guessing she might not have celebratory cake top of mind.  I feel the need to fix that, no matter how inept I am.  Plus, I found myself in the mood to eat whipped cream straight from the bowl. 

I’m bringing her the Ice Box Cake that my mom has been making for me since I was a kid.  For my birthdays.  For birthing her grandchildren.  And sometimes just because.  I have many memories of seeing this cake chilling overnight in our fridge.  Well, more specifically, looking over my shoulder to see if I could score a stealth piece before the acceptable wait time was over. 

The key ingredient in this cake is a box of Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers, which I’m pretty sure is still in the original packaging that one might see in an episode of Laverne & Shirley, or in an elementary school time capsule.  I can spot that 1970s gold box from halfway down aisle four.  You know the one, with the font that has surely been discontinued.  And if you’ve never seen this box until now, you’re welcome.  Your life is about to change.

So.  Even a non-baker like me, who makes a stegosaurus cake look like a rabid chihuahua, can do this.  You can follow the easy peasy directions on the Nabisco box.

Or, you can get a fancier version from someplace awesome like Smitten Kitchen or Magnolia Bakery.  You can even make a low(er) cal version, which is almost as good.  There are other variations all over the Internet, but I like the old school Nabisco version from my childhood.

However you prepare it, the bottom line is this:  Something fucking magical happens when those chocolate wafers absorb any form of whipped cream overnight.  I almost failed high school chemistry, but I bet there is some scientific term to describe this process.  The same term they use to describe what happens in a meth lab.  So don’t eat or serve the cake until you let that magic finish, no matter how tempted you may be.  That means overnight for ultimate goodness.  Trust me on this — it’s so worth it. 

Plus, if you make it through the night, it makes for an excellent breakfast cake. 

What?  You don’t believe in breakfast cake for special occasions?  Like the day before the Friday of Memorial Day weekend?  Oh, OK.  But, if you did, you could get all of your dairy intake for the day by sneaking in a serving or two of Ice Box Cake behind your kids’ backs while they consume some healthy mainstream breakfast foods.  You just have to perfect your angle so they don’t see you.  And turn on the TV to distract them so you can go back for more.  Suckers.

One word of caution:  In your pre-caffeine breakfast cake haste, it’s easy to forget that you put a bunch of toothpicks in this thing the night before to keep it from clinging to the Saran Wrap.  Watch out for those — get them all out before you eat the cake.  {You’ll make that mistake just once.}

But back to the prep.  

Overall, it’s super easy, as long as you can locate/operate the hand mixer and remember how to stack things.  However.  The sad truth is that there will be some broken wafers in the box, which simply won’t hold up well in making this cake.  That means you can either 1) crush and sprinkle them over the finished product or 2) eat them.  Be sure to also flag any wafers that are structurally unsound and on the verge of breaking.  Just eat those too — pre-emptively — as an act of mercy killing.  It’s for the best.

And when you’ve done the good deed of eating all of the defective wafers and finishing up the Nabisco instructions, you’ll have this deliciousness ready to be toothpicked and chilled.


OK, I can see that my top coat of whipped cream is a little uneven.  And I realize that little bald spot on the side may or may not look like a thumb swipe.  But it’s not — really.  I’ll fix it before delivery. You get the idea. 

In my defense, I was distracted not only by wafer mercy killings, but also by this.  

A Brand Seal with cut-out dotted lines?  Why do I need this?  Maybe it has to do with extreme couponing.  But if it’s for proof of purchase purposes, I feel I could just as easily accomplish that by providing Nabisco with a photo of the weight on my scale.  Clearly I have purchased the damn wafers.  Many times.

So there you go.  Homemade dessert tips from the gal who has no business giving them to you.  But I think you’ll love this.  Just don’t tell the birthday girl that the cake is on its way to her place this morning. Or that I may or may not have licked the bowl.

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  1. Julie says:

    Oooh. It’s like an inside out Hostess cupcake. Nom. I had fun reading this. You have great rhythm in your writing.

  2. I am also a good cook, but a horrible baker. Especially cookies – mine always turn out to be one flat, burnt, mess. Also, cake for breakfast is totally legit, but breakfast pie – now that is heaven.

  3. That looks delicious.

    I eat cake for breakfast all the time.

    • fordeville says:

      Yay, fellow breakfast cake eater!
      My husband was horrified to discover I had not doubled the recipe in order to keep one cake here for us. It’s a big hit in this house.

  4. I have to admit, midway through this post I was thinking “crunchy cookies topped with whipped cream, how is that a cake?” But then I read about the overnight magic that happens and I will take your word for it. Cake Alchemy. Yay!

    By the way, I watched Annie Hall last week, finally, and loafed it.

  5. Erica says:

    Lol I am the exact opposite! I am a great baker but not a very good cook at all!! And I love, love, love making whipped cream! This is a cake I have GOT to try!! =]

    • fordeville says:

      You and I could combine forces to throw a great party. I’ll cook, you bake. And we get to split the leftover whipped cream. Deal?

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