The muddy definitions of the pastry world. When is a pie a pie and not a tart, tartlette, pastry and is it like how a square is a rectangle, but not all rectangles are squares? Like how some people call a TV remote some variation on clicker, clacker, controller. Every summer, blogs, magazines, restaurants, and everyday folk seem to switch up their vocabulary to suite the season. And not just by interjecting a few choice summery words – such as flip-flop, snow cone, or rosé – but by really laying it on thick with the y’alls and the random twang and the type of jargon that really comes from yesteryear rather than another geographic region of the US. One of these words is “icebox.” An old timers word for refrigerator from back when refrigerators were really just well-insulated boxes that tried to keep things cool by using giant blocks of ice that the iceman would deliver to your back door several times a week. And here I am, piling on to the problem, that’s not really a problem, because all it means is more types of desserts for us to eat all summer.
Most ice box cakes call for whipped cream, but yogurt adds a richer feel to the cake while simultaneously making it seem a bit better for you. Add to that in-season cherries and strawberries and a hearty dose of smokey molasses and this cake is something your old timey relatives and new-fangled friends will all enjoy.
Pairs well with American whiskey and/or iced tea.
berry + molasses ice box cake
recipe adapted from this recipe in bon appetit’s July 2016 issue
serves 6 to 8
about 2 cups cherries, pitted
1/4 cup molasses
8 ounces plain Greek yogurt, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 1/2 cups chilled heavy cream
16 graham crackers
1 1/2 cups strawberry jam (here’s my homemadechia seed jam or try BA’s version)
fresh berries for garnish
Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap or parchment paper, letting the wrap hang over the sides.
Transfer cherries to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until mostly smooth. Pour into a small sauce pan and add the molasses. Simmer on medium-low until the mixture is fully combined and slightly reduced. Set aside to cool completely.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the yogurt and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed and add the cream. Continue to beat until the mixture thickens and medium peaks form. Transfer about two-thirds of the yogurt mixture to another bowl and fold in about a 1/2 cup of the cherry-molasses sauce. Cover remaining yogurt mixture and chill until ready to cover cake.
In the bottom of the lined loaf pan, place a single layer of graham crackers, breaking the pieces as needed to fit. Using an offset spatula, spread a generous even layer of the cherry-molasses cream over the crackers. Next, add a layer of the strawberry jam. Add a drizzle of cherry-molasses sauce and then top with another layer of the cherry-molasses spiked cream, smoothing to create an even layer. Finally top with another layer of graham crackers. Repeat all the layers once more, ending with a final layer of graham crackers. Fold the edges of the plastic wrap or parchment paper over the crackers and freeze for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Cover and chill remaining jam and cherry-molasses sauce until ready to serve.
To assemble: uncover cake and carefully invert the pan onto a serving platter. Pull of the wrapping. Spread the leftover yogurt cream over the entire cake and return to the freezer for at least another 15 minutes. Remove from freezer, top a few spoonfuls of reserved jam, sauce, and fresh berries, and slice to serve.
– if the leftover cherry-molasses spiked cream is too loose or separates before assembling the final cake, give it a quick rewhip in the stand mixer before using.
– take time to smooth each layer to create nice, even lines when the cake is sliced.