Every year for Jason’s birthday I make him a tiramisu cake. Every. Single. Year. Don’t get me wrong, I love that cake—I made it a couple of different ways before finally settling on my favorite version. And back when I was cooking/baking new things on a regular basis, I had no problem making a tried and true favorite on an annual basis—especially since it was always what was requested. But now that my culinary adventures are fewer and farther between (and my free time is limited), I tend to want to try new and different things when it comes to special occasion treats. So this year, I convinced Jason to let me try something different for his birthday. Enter Ina Garten’s Mocha Chocolate Icebox Cake. This is a recipe that I’ve been eyeing since receiving her cookbook How Easy Is that? as a gift way back in 2010 (what took me so long?!). It seemed like a good “replacement” for Jason’s usual tiramisu cake since it has a lot of the same flavors—chocolate and coffee—and the same type of decadent mascarpone/whipped cream/espresso frosting. And true to the cookbook’s name, it was incredibly easy to make (only 30 minutes of actual prep time). Basically you layer chocolate chip cookies with the aforementioned mascarpone/whipped cream/espresso concoction and then let it sit overnight. The whipped cream mixture soaks into the cookies making them soft and cake like. It is an incredibly rich, creamy and delicious treat. And although it wasn’t THE tiramisu cake, I am pretty sure Jason enjoyed it this year.
Mocha Chocolate Icebox Cake
Adapted ever so slightly from Ina Garten
Note: I’m including the recipe below pretty much verbatim as the only change I made was to use semi-sweet chocolate chips as a garnish instead of chocolate shavings. And I did that only because I could not find a chocolate bar sizable enough for decent shavings at either of the two grocery stores I went to.
2 cups cold heavy cream
12 oz mascarpone cheese
½ cup sugar
¼ coffee liqueur
2 TBL unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Approximately 3 dozen thin and crisp chocolate chip cookies (Ina’s recipe suggests Tate’s Bake Shop cookies which can be ordered online—I was going to use a chocolate chip cookie I had seen at whole foods when I happened to see the actual Tate’s cookies at The Fresh Market the weekend before Jason’s birthday—so I did actually use the brand she recommended but any thin and crisp cookie should work).
Semi-sweet chocolate—in bar (from which to make shavings) or chip form
1. Combine the heavy cream, mascarpone, sugar, coffee liqueur, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and vanilla. Mix on low speed to combine and then slowly raise the speed, until it forms firm peaks.
2. To assemble the cake, arrange chocolate chip cookies flat in an 8-inch springform pan*, covering the bottom as much as possible. (Break some cookies to fill in the spaces.) Spread a fifth of the mocha whipped cream evenly over the cookies. Place another layer of cookies on top, lying flat and touching, followed by another fifth of the cream. Continue layering cookies and cream until there are 5 layers of each, ending with a layer of cream. Smooth the top, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. (*My springform pan is 9 inches—I got 4 layers instead of 5 out of the cookies with a little of the cream mixture left over.)
Run a small sharp knife around the outside of the cake and remove the sides of the pan. Sprinkle the top with the chocolate chips or shavings, cut in wedges, and serve cold.