Sunday, June 29, 2014

No-Bake Strawberries 'N Cream Icebox Cake

It's getting to be that time of year.  All the windows stay permanently open, every fan is blowing, and there's always iced tea in the fridge.  It's summer in L.A. 

I grew up in Texas, so I have a pretty high tolerance for heat, but even I think twice these days about turning on the oven to cook something.  If it's a particularly cool evening, maybe I'll risk it.  But mostly, I spend my time these days trying to figure out how to feed myself without making my apartment any hotter than it already is.

Enter the ice box cake.

Technically, I suppose the ice box cake would be any cake that sets up in the fridge/freezer.  But, to my mind, you should be able to make it entirely without turning on the oven.  The most common variety involves layering cookies with some sort of cream filling.  The cookies soften between the cream and the cream layers firm up in the freezer, giving you a fairly uniform texture.

My friends and I went to an ice cream shop in our area last weekend - Quenelle - where I got a scoop of strawberry shortcake, a scoop of vanilla mascarpone, and some graham cracker streusel.  I've been craving another serving ever since, so I guess it's no surprise that I used those same flavors in my cake this week. 

If you're in the L.A. area, stop by Quenelle, you will not be disappointed.  If you're not, make this cake.  It's pretty darn tasty.

Strawberries 'N Cream Icebox Cake

8 oz. fresh or frozen strawberries, plus more for decorating
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 8 oz. package cream cheese at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
36 graham crackers

First, make a strawberry puree by blending fresh or thawed strawberries with the sugar and lemon juice.  You can blend until completely smooth, or leave a few small chunks of strawberry.

Use a stand or hand mixer with a whisk attachment to beat your heavy cream into whipped cream - until soft peaks form.  Set aside.

With a mixer, blend the room temperature cream cheese with the sugar and vanilla.  Fold cream cheese mixture into the whipped cream until well combined.  Divide the mixture in half.  To one half, add the strawberry puree and fold together.

In a 9"x9" pan, spread a thin layer of the vanilla cream mixture.  Top with a layer of graham crackers.  Spread half of the strawberry mixture.  Top with another even layer of graham crackers.  Continue to layer the vanilla, graham cracker, strawberry, graham cracker, and top with a layer of the vanilla cream. 

Wrap your pan in plastic wrap, and transfer to the freezer.  Chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight.  When ready to serve, leave on the counter to defrost for at least 10 minutes.  Top with fresh strawberries.

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