You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Wed, Apr 18, 2012 : 11:23 a.m.

Mocha icebox cake saves the day

By Jessica Webster


Icebox cakes date back to the turn of the last century, but their heritage goes back to Renaissance-era trifles. They're extremely rich and should be served in small portions.

Jessica Webster |

If the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, then I have serious concerns about the long-term future of my soul. I am the queen of making promises I fully intend to keep. And then I forget.

This is how I found myself scrambling, at the last minute, to host a family dinner on a day when I had absolutely no time to cook. All of my preparations had to be done the day before so that I could glide into the house 20 minutes before my guests and throw it all together.

Since this isn't the first time I've made such a gaffe, I've gotten pretty good at this. Dessert was my one sticking point for this meal. I wanted to make something special for my mother, but I had almost no time to dedicate to it.

This recipe from Food Network star Ina Garten fit the bill perfectly. Once the ingredients are assembled, prep time is only 20 minutes. And for something so easy, this cake is ridiculously tasty.

An icebox cake is traditionally made by layering cookies or wafers with whipped cream, then setting it in the refrigerator (or “icebox”) overnight. The cookies absorb moisture from the whipped cream, and by the time you’re ready to serve, they’ve taken on the texture of something resembling a layer of cake.

Icebox cakes have made a bit of a comeback in recent years, thanks to their popularity at the iconic Magnolia Bakery in New York. But where Magnolia Bakery’s icebox cake uses chocolate wafers, this one calls for crispy chocolate chip cookies. You could bake your own, if you’ve got time. I took Ina Garten's suggestion and went with Tate’s Bake Shop cookies.

I chose to make a mocha- flavored recipe because of my mother’s long-standing love of mocha cakes, but don't be turned off if you’re not a coffee fan. Even with the espresso powder and Kahlua, the mocha flavor is very subtle.

The downside to this cake is that once you’ve made it, you’ll start to crave it. Constantly. Luckily, there’s a built-in safeguard — the prospect of a 12-hour delay while the cake sets in the fridge makes instant gratification impossible. Save this cake for a special occasion. Your waistline will thank you.

Mocha Chocolate Icebox Cake recipe by Ina Garten


  • 2 cups cold heavy cream

  • 12 ounces Italian mascarpone cheese

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1/4 cup coffee liqueur, such as Kahlua

  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 3 (8-ounce) packages chocolate chip cookies, such as Tate's Bake Shop

  • Shaved semisweet chocolate, for garnish

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, 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.
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.
Run a small sharp knife around the outside of the cake and remove the sides of the pan. Sprinkle the top with the chocolate, cut in wedges, and serve cold.

Jessica Webster leads the Food & Grocery section for You can reach her at



Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 2:55 a.m.

My apologies to Ms. Webster and the readership for the nutritional figures. They are incorrect since I made an error related to the serving size of the chocolate chip cookies. The correct figures (at least as I have recalculated) per serving size of one slice are as follows (again, based on 8 slices per cake): 1) Calories = 920 2) Total fat = 65 grams (37 grams saturated fat) 3) Total carbohydrates = 79 grams 4) Protein = 7 grams 5) Cholesterol = 211 milligrams 6) Sodium = 497 milligrams

Jessica Webster

Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 4:22 p.m.

We got way more than 8 slices out of this cake! Definitely closer to 16, or even more.


Wed, Apr 18, 2012 : 7:34 p.m.

"They're extremely rich and should be served in small portions." [From the picture's caption] Yes, indeed! Based on my calculations, one serving (based on Ina Garten's recommendation of 8 servings for this recipe) consists of 504 calories, 44 grams of total fat (26 saturated), 28 grams of carbohydrates, and 3 grams of protein. It would be a real service if the recipes on included nutritional information, such as the above. Would that be possible?

Jessica Webster

Wed, Apr 18, 2012 : 3:53 p.m.

Coco Vance: I get them at The Produce Station on State Street.

Coco Vance

Wed, Apr 18, 2012 : 11:50 a.m.

Where can I buy Tate's Bake Shop cookies? I'm unfamiliar with that brand.