Keys, anyone?

I-didn’t-know-it-was-this-kind-of-party Icebox Cake

About the only time I wouldn’t rather be baking a big fluffy cake is when I’ve got my hands full with a complicated dinner menu or cocktail party spread. On the other hand, nothing conveys “by dessert I’ll be too drunk to care” like following a home-cooked tour de force with pie-in-a-box. My mother introduced me to Famous Chocolate Wafers and the classic icebox cake, a simple dessert hearkening back to the ’50’s that must be prepared well in advance, hindering any possible procrastination that would result in a frazzled host. Predominantly a summertime dessert, you may also serve it between Thanksgiving and New Year’s without obtaining prior authorization from the Emily Post Institute. The flagrant log presentation, the brazen spectacle of cream, and the artful placement of a single maraschino cherry imply that everything’s going to be all right if you’re white and in plastics. The addition of a little something facilitates the often awkward transition from the dinner table to the cocktail lounge, guests already having feet in various bags.

1 9-oz pkg chocolate wafers
1 pint whipping cream
1 tbsp sugar (my addition)
1 tsp vanilla
1 shot Grand Marnier (also my suggestion, obviously it becomes not so much for the kids)
1 maraschino cherry

Get out your stand mixer and click in the whisk attachment. Beat the cream on high until soft peaks form, then pour in the vanilla and sugar and keep whipping. Once the cream forms stiff peaks, slowly pour in the liquor and keep whipping until it’s firm but not meringue-ish.

Separate out any broken wafers, dip them in the whipped cream and eat them. Lay a wafer right side up on a protected work surface. Use a spatula to dollop 2 tsp of cream onto the wafer, then place another wafer on top of the cream (same orientation, please), and press down gently to squeeze the cream out to the edges. Repeat, forming 4 small stacks of wafers and cream. Assemble the log directly on the serving dish; place the stacks on their sides in a row with all wafers facing the same direction and push them together. Use the remaining whipped cream to frost the whole cake, and make sure you get the corners and tuck in under the bottom curve. Use a clean cloth or paper towel to wipe the excess cream off the dish.

Cherry placement is entirely up to you. I go for dead center, but 2″ from the middle can say a lot about a person. Tent aluminum foil over the log and dish and chill for at least 4 hours. When serving, slice on the diagonal for a striped effect. If you went for the Grand Marnier and are hoping to fortify your guests’ table wine, shoot for a three-slices-per-log portion size.

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