The icebox cake is an ideal dessert for the hotter parts of the year. At its simplest, all you need are cookies, whipped cream, a little assembly and some time in the refrigerator (a.k.a. icebox) to create this cool confection. Here, I’ve transformed the classic Black Forest cake into a no-bake dessert that is perfectly suited for summer — or any time of the year.
Black Forest cake is a delightful combination of chocolate cake, whipped cream, cherries and kirsch or kirschwasser, a clear cherry brandy. Instead of chocolate cake, this recipe uses store-bought cookies (though you could certainly bake your own from scratch) that soften as they sit between layers of cream and take on a light and fluffy texture. Thin and crispy cookies, such as the icebox classic Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers, are best in this kind of cake. (In my recipe testing, the 365 by Whole Foods Market Brownie Cookie Thins were easier to source, and one box was just enough for this recipe.)
Instead of a plain whipped cream, I used cream cheese for a tart, more stable cake. It is sweetened with cherry preserves and spiked with kirsch for extra cherry flavor. Kirsch is traditional in this dessert, but you could omit it to make the recipe alcohol-free or if you don’t want to buy an entire bottle of the alcohol just for this recipe. (Though I’ve learned that it makes an excellent adult cherry cola when mixed with Coke or Pepsi.) You could also add a splash of almond extract in its place to complement the cherry flavor.
Fresh cherries are a great option when in season, but thawed, previously frozen fruit will work just fine during other parts of the year.
Aside from whipping cream and pitting cherries (if you’re using fresh fruit), the only other work required is assembling this chocolate and cherry icebox cake. Just add layers of cream, cookies and cherries to a pan and then chill it in the fridge for a few hours. A springform pan is your best bet if you want to attempt clean slices of cake — popping it in the freezer to firm up a bit also helps — otherwise, a large casserole dish, such as a 9-by-13-inch pan, works for scooping out more rustic portions. Wait to sprinkle the top with the crushed leftover cookies until just before serving to add a little bit of crunch to smooth cream, softened cookies and firm fruit.
Make Ahead: The unsliced cake will keep, loosely covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or frozen, after it has set up in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and aluminum foil, for up to 1 month. Defrost the cake in the refrigerator overnight before you plan to serve it.
Storage Notes: Leftovers can be wrapped in plastic wrap or placed in an airtight container and refrigerated, and are best within 1 day.
Black Forest Icebox Cake
- Nonstick cooking spray for the pan
- 12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 3/4 cup cherry preserves
- 2 tablespoons kirsch
- 50 thin chocolate wafer cookies
- 2 cups stemmed, pitted and halved sweet cherries, plus optional stem-on cherries for decorating
- Grease the sides of a round 9-inch springform pan that is 3 inches deep with cooking spray. Line the sides with a strip of parchment.
- Add the cream cheese to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.
- Turn off the mixer, add the heavy cream, cherry preserves and kirsch and whisk on low until incorporated. Gradually increase the speed to medium-high and whisk the mixture until it holds stiff peaks, 1 to 2 minutes, making sure to scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula so that it is fully incorporated.
- Spread a layer of whipped cream mixture on the bottom of the pan and cover with a layer of cookies, filling any gaps with broken cookies (breaking them, if necessary). You want a reasonably solid layer where the pieces touch or overlap a little bit, but it doesn’t need to be completely solid. Scatter 2/3 cup cherries on top of the cookies. Continue layering with the whipped cream, cookies and cherries two more times, ending with a final layer of cream.
- Cover the top of the cake and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Crumble any remaining cookies and store in an airtight container at room temperature.
- To serve, remove the sides of the pan and peel away the parchment strip. Place the cake on a serving plate, sprinkle the top with the reserved crumbled cookies, garnish with whole cherries and slice as you would a layer cake.
NOTE: If you want to cut the cake into thin pieces to get 16 slices, it is best to freeze it for about 30 minutes first.
Nutrition per serving based on 16: Calories 336; Total Fat 26 g; Saturated Fat 15 g; Cholesterol 85 mg; Sodium 171 mg; Carbohydrates 24 g; Dietary Fiber 1 g; Sugar: 17 g; Protein 3 g
This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.