Written by Elizabeth Bacharach
When we were kids, the word “summer” was synonymous with easy-breezy relaxation. As adults, we know too well that summer hits hard.
Come August, images of brilliant sunshine-filled days turn to dreaded humid heat waves as we run to the closest chill producer: an air conditioner, a fan, or a pool.
As a self-proclaimed heat hater, nothing cures me more of my sweaty angst then a chilled treat. But what nostalgic summer delicacy would do the trick?
Would I relive memories of a trickle of vanilla ice cream down a waffle cone, a frozen Fudgsicle cleverly stolen from the camp fridge, or that timeless favorite of a Chipwich?
All of these sweets stand tall and proud as summer staples, yet they seemed too banal, too overdone.
I went to bed repeating the words “frozen delight” ceaselessly in my head only to wake up with two more beyond brilliant words: icebox cupcakes. I would transfer this traditional favorite into a modern masterpiece.
I don’t listen to those who announce that “the cupcake craze … may be fading” because it is not, it never will, and even if it does happen, I’ll refuse to believe it.
Don’t the cupcake haters see that the confections are perfectly portioned? How can they resist something that provides such simple happiness?
Turning traditional icebox cake into icebox cupcakes would be my revenge against the cupcake haters and a novel twist on a chilled summer treat.
What makes these icebox cupcakes a step above the rest is their simplicity: all you need is a bowl of whipped cream, store-bought yet classic Nabisco chocolate wafers, and food coloring.
The recipe as a whole takes 30 minutes to make, and the most complicated step involves an electric mixer, so arm muscles aren’t even truly necessary—just a somewhat steady hand.
For best results when making whipped cream, pre-refrigerate both the mixing bowl and beaters for 20 minutes, so the cold metal will keep the cream chilled as it whips.
And be sure to keep your eyes on the prize while beating: if you beat too much, the mixture will clump as it moves on its way to butter.
If you beat too little, the mixture will be runny and won’t sit proudly on the cupcakes. The telltale sign of completed whipped cream is stiff peaks.
To make sure that you’re done, tap the base of your beaters. If the peaks still stand after a slight tap, then you’re ready to go!
Beyond making the traditional icebox cake into cupcakes, I wanted to rev it up a little more and fill the wafers with colored whipped cream.
There are no rules when creating colors, but if you’re worried about creating a brown sludge, refer to the back of the dye box or this handy food color chart.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s a pro tip for filling your icebox cupcakes without smearing whipped cream all over yourself and others like a six-year-old: make disposable piping bags with sandwich-size zip-top bags.
Keep the bag open by using it to line a small bowl (I use my 1-cup measuring cup when I’m working with small amounts) and fold the edges over the sides.
Spoon the whipped cream into the bag and twist it closed. Don’t seal the bag shut!
Cut a 1/4-inch tip off one corner of the bag. Using your dominant hand, hold and squeeze the bag, moving the whipped cream down through the snipped hole. Use your other hand to guide the tip of the bag.
Jen at My Kitchen Addiction has a full-scale tutorial on using a pastry bag, if you want more practice.
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Food coloring
- 1 box Nabisco chocolate wafers
- Place a stand mixer or other stainless steel bowl and a stand mixer whisk attachment or electric mixer beaters in the refrigerator to chill for 20 minutes.
- Beat the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract with a stand mixer or electric mixer on medium-high speed until the cream is thickened and pale, periodically turning the mixer off and lifting the beaters out of the cream until it forms stiff peaks.
- Separate the whipped cream into four bowls with about 1 cup cream in each.
- Add drops of food coloring in your preferred colors to each bowl and stir to combine.
- Transfer the colored whipped cream to 4 zip-top bags and snip a corner off each to make piping bags.
- Line a small baking sheet with waxed or parchment paper and place 10 cookie rounds on the sheet.
- Pipe 1 color whipped cream onto the rounds, then place another wafer on top.
- Continue 3 more times with the remaining colors.
- Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator—or, for very firm cupcakes, in the freezer—for at least 4 hours or overnight to chill.
- Serve directly from the icebox.
The actual number of cookie rounds in the Nabisco boxes vary, so if you're concerned about exact servings, count the cookies before you buy.
If you have extra cookies left over after you've made your four-high stacks, add a fifth cookie and put little hats on the cupcakes!
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