Icebox Cake ala Francaise

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Photo by Keri White

This cake sparked my interest a few weeks back when I saw it written up in the Sunday New York Times. Known as a “Moka Dupont,” it is a classic icebox cake — perfect for summer since there’s no oven involved.

Icebox cakes generally mean layers of cookie, cake or biscuit interspersed with icing, pudding, jam, curd or any custard-type filling, and chilled. I’ve made this cake twice so far, the first time adhering strictly to the instructions and the second time streamlining the technique and skipping a few steps with no adverse consequences. Naturally, I share the second version here.

A few notes:


The addition of a raw egg to the filling freaked me out. I did some research and, according to a bunch of respected sources such as the United States Department of Agriculture, pasteurized eggs present little health risk, so I went ahead, and we were all just fine. That said, I completely understand the hesitation, and the recipe will work without the egg; the icing will just be a little denser and have a more solid texture.

The traditional Moka Dupont calls for granulated sugar and the grainy texture in the end result is desired. I was skeptical when I read this instruction, but ultimately liked it. If you prefer a smoother texture, you can substitute an equal amount of confectioners’ sugar for the granulated sugar. It will also deliver a fluffier texture.

Soaking in espresso gives the cookies a luscious mocha flavor, but you can improvise here, too. Try a liqueur such as Frangelico or Bailey’s, a brandy or dark rum, tea, chai, dairy or nondairy milk.

The cookies: I used Liebniz biscuit butter cookies because that is what my local grocer had in stock. You could substitute social teas, graham crackers (dipped very briefly in the espresso so they don’t fall apart), or any plain butter/tea cookie.

The quantity: This can easily be scaled up; my version made a long, thin rectangle — one cookie wide and four long — but you could certainly duplicate the ingredient list and make this a “double wide.”

The Cake
Serves 4

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate (or dark chocolate chips)
1 stick butter, softened
½ cup sugar
1 pasteurized egg
½ cup espresso or strong coffee
16 Liebniz Biscuit Butter Cookies
¾ cup heavy whipping cream, sweetened with confectioners’ sugar and flavored with a bit of vanilla, if desired, for serving

1. Melt the chocolate and cool slightly for about 5-10 minutes. (If it is not cooled it will melt the butter when mixed, and this will mess up the texture.)
2. Whip the butter and sugar together, add the egg and whip again until a bit fluffy. Add the chocolate, mix well and set aside.
3. Pour the espresso into a shallow bowl and, starting with four cookies, immerse each cookie, one at a time, in the espresso for a few seconds. The cookies should be soaked but not falling apart. Place the first four cookies in a single line on a flat plate, and cover with a layer of the chocolate icing. Repeat this step using four cookies at a time, layering with chocolate, until all ingredients are used and you have four layers and an oblong, rectangular cake.
4. Cover and chill 2 hours or longer.
5. Just before serving, whip the cream: Pour the cream into a bowl, whip until it holds soft peaks and, if desired, add a couple teaspoons of confectioners’ sugar and a dash of vanilla. Slice the cake into four pieces and top with the cream.

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