Before the days of Duncan Hines, the easiest way to make a cake involved layering wafers with whipped cream and then leaving the whole mess in the freezer for a few hours.
The cold transformed the cookies and cream into a rather elegant dessert.
Our fascination with this process still holds, at home and on the menus of some of our favorite restaurants, where pastry chefs have recast the humble cake in imaginative new ways.
Prior to California’s ban on foie gras, the chefs at Animal in Los Angeles used foie gras instead of whipped cream in their take on an icebox cake. Toppings of berry sorbet and hazelnuts helped steer it onto the dessert menu.
Kieren Baldwin, pastry chef at The Dutch in New York, specializes in pie. Her peanut-butter icebox pie, though, has all of the calling cards of the icebox cake genre. She makes her own chocolate wafers, and the pie is made doubly refreshing with a topping of chile-lime granita.
In Washington, D.C., Birch & Barley remains retro, with a minty icebox pie that calls for crème de menthe and tastes like a frozen thin mint—only bigger (see the recipe).