I did not grow up on icebox cakes. And I will be perfectly honest, my first experience with the concept was the Famous Wafers and canned whipped cream version, which I must have first encountered in college, but was known to make in my early apartment days. In fact, I thought that was officially Icebox Cake. It never occurred to me that there were versions. Then I was served a lovely ice box cake made from thin chocolate chip cookies and fresh whipped cream at a gathering (I think it’s a Barefoot Contessa recipe). It was delicious and pretty and simple, but I never got around to making it myself. In the past few years, I’ve come across recipes and articles about various forms of icebox cake – different cookies, flavored whipped cream, fruit jam – and I’ve made a few. It really is a good idea. This strange summer has left me with few people or events to cook for, and not a huge amount of motivation to cook elaborately for myself. But I do have a quarantine bubble – family and a few friends – who gather on my outdoor patio for drinks and the occasional meal. It has kept me sane. Sometimes we order out, sometimes we potluck in individual portions and sometimes I cook, being very mindful of serving in a social distant and clean manner. A lot of this cooking has been very simple dishes using the fresh produce I buy at the farmers market (masked up and six feet from everybody).
At the high heat of summer, I suddenly had the overwhelming urge to make a chilled dessert but was a feeling a little lazy. So I turned to the icebox cake. I happened to have some lemon curd and that seemed like a refreshing choice, but when I thought about the cookie component, I just couldn’t resist spicy speculoos cookies. And what a great combination it is. This version packs a lot of flavor into simple preparation, thanks to this complex cookies. And molding it all into a loaf pan makes a pretty presentation too. What I thought was kind of a pinch-hit cold treat got raves from my people, so I decided to turn it into an actual recipe. I am happy to use a jar of store-bought lemon curd in this recipe, but if you are feeling like it, homemade is a special treat. I use Biscoff brand cookies, but there are some other good options on shelves. I garnished with some candied lemon slices purchased at Trader Joe’s, but a fresh slice or two placed right before serving is attractive.
Lemon Speculoos Icebox Cake
2 cups heavy whipping cream
Pinch of salt
½ cup granulated sugar
8.8 ounce sleeve of specculos cookies (such as Biscoff)
10 ounce jar prepared lemon curd
- Line a 9-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving a good bit overhanging the edges to cover the top when you’ve built your cake. This can be a little fiddly, but press the plastic down to reach into the corners and edges and smooth it as much as possible.
- Place the cream and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat at medium high until it begins to thicken. Slowly drizzle in the sugar and beat until the cream holds very stiff peaks.
- Spread a layer of about ¼ of the whipped cream on the bottom of the plastic-lined loaf pan. The back of a spoon is a great tool for this. Spread a small dollop of lemon curd on the flat side of a cookie and place it curd side up on the cream. Repeat, placing each cookie close together, until you have covered that first layer of cream. Spoon over ¼ of the remaining cream and spread to cover the cookies, then another layer of cookies spread with lemon curd. Repeat. You’ve got to use your eyes and some judgement here to create 4 layers of cream and 3 layers of cookie. You may break some of the cookies in half lengthwise to fill the space. Gently press down on the cream to fill any gaps as you spread. End with a layer of cream. You will have a few tablespoons of lemon curd left. Cover the jar and refrigerate until ready to serve. Save any remaining cookies. Place the loaf pan in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to firm up, then cover the top with the overhanging ends of plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, but up to two days is fine.
- When ready serve, unwrap the top of the loaf and place a plate over the pan. Hold the loaf pan to the plate and flip it over. Remove the pan, then remove the plastic wrap. Lightly drizzle and spread the rest of the lemon curd it over the top of the cake. If needed, warm it in the microwave for a few seconds. You don’t want it warm or hot, just loose and spreadable. Crush any remaining cookies into crumbs in a ziptop bag and sprinkle over the top. To serve, run a long thin knife under hot water and slice.