I love revamped versions of old-fashioned desserts, and here’s one of my favorites, a no-bake cake that was inspired by the classic ice box cake that was printed on the back of the package of Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers. My version, however, features a sophisticated White Chocolate and Espresso Mousse taking the place of the whipped cream that normally sandwiches the dark wafers. Because the cake needs to be frozen for several hours before serving, it really is the perfect make-ahead dessert for small dinner parties or gatherings. If you’re feeling indulgent (read: totally wreckless), serve each slice in a pool of warm bittersweet chocolate sauce.
Makes 8 servings
- White Chocolate Espresso Mousse:
- 1/4 cup (59 grams) water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
- 2 1/4 cups (522 grams) heavy cream, divided
- 1/3 cup (26 grams) whole espresso beans
- 9 ounces (255 grams) high-quality white chocolate, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract
- 1 tablespoon (15 grams) Kahlua or Frangelico liqueur (optional)
- 27 (167 grams) Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers (about 2/3 package)
- Line an 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, letting it extend a few inches at each short end.
Make the mousse:
- Pour the water into a small, heatproof cup. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let it soften for 10 minutes.
- In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 cup of the heavy cream with the espresso beans. Place the pan over medium-high heat and bring the cream to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat, cover it, and let the mixture infuse for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, put the cup with the gelatin in it in a small skillet or saucepan. Pour in enough water so that it reaches halfway up the side of the cup. Heat the water while stirring the gelatin until the gelatin granulates have completely dissolved. Turn off the heat, but leave the cup of gelatin in the hot water.
- Place the white chocolate in a medium bowl. Strain the cream into a glass measuring cup (discard the espresso beans); measure the cream – if necessary, add more cream so that you have ½ cup (116 grams). Return the cream to the saucepan and heat until it just begins to bubble around the edges. Pour the hot gelatin into the cream, then pour the cream mixture over the white chocolate in the bowl. Let the mixture stand for about 30 seconds to melt the chocolate. Whisk the chocolate until it is completely melted and smooth. Whisk in the vanilla extract and liqueur, if using. Set the mixture aside at room temperature to cool to tepid, about 15 minutes.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat the remaining 1 3/4 cups (406 grams) heavy cream to soft peaks. Gently whisk about one-third of the cream into the cooled white chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the remaining whipped cream into the white chocolate mixture in two additions.
Assemble the cake:
- Scrape about 1 1/2 cups of the mousse into the lined pan and smooth it into an even layer. Using a small metal spatula, spread one of the chocolate wafers with about 1 tablespoon of the mousse. Starting at one end of the pan, stand the wafer upright in the mousse about 1/4 inch from a short end of the pan and with the coated side of the wafer pressing lightly against the long side of the pan. Spread another wafer with the same amount of mousse and position it so that it forms a sandwich with the first wafer, with the mousse on the second wafer pressing lightly against the first wafer. Repeat this spreading and layering with 7 more wafers, so that a total of 9 wafers form a row filling the width of the pan. Fill the gap between the last chocolate wafer and the side of the pan with mousse.
- Create two more layers of sandwiched wafers to cover the length of the pan. Scrape the remaining mousse on top of the rows of wafers, letting it fill all the gaps between the wafers and the sides of the pan. Spread the mousse into an even layer with a metal spatula and cover it with a piece of plastic wrap, pressing it gently against the mousse. Freeze the cake for at least 8 hours, or overnight, until firm (or up to 2 weeks).
Unmold and serve the cake:
- Shortly before serving, peel off the plastic wrap from the top of the cake and invert it onto a cake plate or platter. Peel off the other piece of plastic wrap. Trim off any uneven edges from the base of the cake.
- To serve, use a sharp knife to cut the cake into 3/4-inch slices. Let the slices stand at room temperature for 10 minutes to thaw before serving.