Why hello there! It’s so nice to see you again!
First, I want to say that I hope you all had a perfectly wonderful (and delicious) Thanksgiving day. I know I did!
Second, I want to let you know that the pressure and the stress of making and testing and photographing and posting eight Thanksgiving recipes and making two actual Thanksgiving dinners (not to mention working at a kitchenware store leading up to the biggest food holiday in the US of A) was just too much for me. I promise that it was all worth it, but it actually killed me. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I’ve passed away.
Despite my untimely demise, there’s no rest for the weary, and here I am again posting from the great unknown.
The holidays are fast approaching so I know that I need to get my blogging butt in gear and get baking! Being that I’m recently deceased though, I wanted to try to do something sort of easy(ish). Easy doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t also be really fun and impressive and totally delicious though!
I don’t really do “easy”.
A while back I saw Martha (yes, THE Martha) on TV promoting her new entertaining cookbook and she made an icebox cake with thin, crisp homemade chocolate chip cookies. I’d never had an icebox cake, but her version sounded amazing and actually pretty simple (especially for Martha).
A traditional icebox cake is make with thin, store bought crisp wafer cookies sandwiched and stacked together with whipped cream. You do a layer of cookies, a layer of cream, a layer of cookies, a layer of cream, and so on and so forth until you suddenly have a round, cake shaped stack.
It doesn’t seem like this should work, but it does. You’d think that the cream would separate and wilt and the cookies would turn to mush and the whole thing would just fall apart and be weird and gross. But that’s not what happens. Magic happens.
The crisp cookies soften as they absorb some of the liquid from the cream and so, rather than separating and wilting, the whipped cream actually thickens even more as the cookies soften up. When left for several hours (or overnight) the whole thing sort of takes on one perfect smooth, sliceable texture, just like a rich silky cake.
Like I said.
I decided that if it was good enough for Martha, it was good enough for me.
Rather than Martha’s chocolate chips, or the traditional chocolate wafer cookies, I wanted to do something a little more “holiday-y”. To me, growing up with German grandparents, the holidays were always filled with molasses and spice. Gingerbread and gingersnaps and the like. You know.
So I thought that a gingersnap icebox cake was just the ticket to kick off the holiday baking season. Like I said before though, I don’t really do “easy”. I know I set out to do an easy dessert, but once I got inspired and excited I decided that it would be more fun to make my own gingersnaps rather than using store bought. This is totally unnecessary, but I’m a weirdo so I totally enjoyed the process. If you do want to make your own though, I’d suggest using a little extra ginger in the cookies. The spice is mellowed out a bit by the cream so a little extra will kick it back up to where you’d expect a gingersnap to be.
To add a little extra depth and richness to the standard whipped cream I added mascarpone and a touch of maple syrup. A splash of bourbon was a nice touch too but could easily be left out if you’re serving this to the under 21 crowd.
The ginger and molasses in the gingersnaps pairs perfectly with the sweet mascarpone maple whipped cream. The combination is like a rich velvety gingerbread flavored mousse. A sprinkle of chopped crystalized ginger adds a nice touch of extra spice and lets your guests know that rather than simple chocolate, this cake is made with sugar and spice and everything nice.
This cake is seriously amazing. Like, totally unbelievable. Russell has been raving about it ever since the last bite disappeared and keeps saying how he wasn’t expecting something so simple to taste so delicious. But, again, this cake is made of magic. You might even say that it’s special powers were strong enough to bring me back to life!
Gingersnap Icebox Cake with Maple Mascarpone Cream
2 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup real maple syrup
2 tablespoons bourbon or rum (optional)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
8 oz mascarpone at room temperature
pinch of salt
At least 63 gingersnaps, for nine layers of seven cookies each
(I made my own using a double batch of smitten kitchen‘s recipe)
A tablespoon or two of finely chopped crystalized ginger, optional
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream until it begins to thicken and form soft peaks. In a separate bowl, stir together the mascarpone, sugar, maple syrup, bourbon, vanilla, & salt until smooth and well combined. Transfer mascarpone mixture to bowl with thickened cream and beat on low speed until almost smooth, 30 to 60 seconds. Scrape down the sides and fold to incorporate. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until the mixture is thick and holds firm peaks, another 30 to 60 seconds. Do NOT overbeat or the icing will become grainy.
On an 8″ cake board, cake stand, or serving plate, arrange a layer of cookies into tight a circle. You’ll want one cookie in the center with a ring of cookies surrounding it with as little space between them as possible. With the size of the cookies I used I could fit 7 cookies per layer. Place about 3/4 to a cup of icing over the first layer of cookies and smooth it out with a small offset icing spatula. Spread the icing almost to the outer edge of the cookies, leaving just a small edge of cookies showing. Arrange another layer of cookies, alternating the layers so they appear staggered above one another. Repeat another layer of icing and then another layer of cookies, again and again until you have as many layers as you desire or until you run out of icing or cookies. Finish the top of the cake with a final layer of icing. My cake was 9 layers tall.
If you have a cookie or two left over, crumble it over the top and sprinkle with crystalized ginger if desired.
Transfer cake to refrigerator for a minimum of 6 hours (or overnight) before serving.