Sunday, March 21, 2010

Chocolate-Mint Icebox Cake and Some Chilling Thoughts

I remember when my last refrigerator died. It was chock-full of food and several days before the holidays. There’s never a convenient time for the refrigerator to go. Emergency resuscitation failed. The food was quickly scooped into coolers, and I made a frantic trip to the local appliance store. A replacement was delivered within about 24 hours. That chocolate brown beauty of a fridge – circa 1970 – had done an honorable tour of duty. The spanking new compact Hotpoint Refrigerator Freezer seemed ultra-modern. It certainly was, compared to these vintage models on display at the exhibit “America’s Kitchens” at the Long Island Museum at Stony Brook.

It’s easy to take the refrigerator for granted, but it is an essential kitchen tool. If you’ve never considered the maintenance-free qualities of the modern refrigerator, take a look at this passage from the booklet, “2000 Useful Facts About Food,” published in 1941 and a birthday gift from my friend Miss Tera.

In the section, “Care of the Automatic Refrigerator,” the author writes:

Defrost and clean refrigerator once every week or 10 days. Turn temperature control to defrost. Remove ice trays. (Ice cubes may be kept in a vacuum jar for several hours.) Remove food from refrigerator. Leave door open. Ice trays may be filled with tepid water to hasten defrosting. Do not chip ice from freezing unit with any sharp instrument. Wash inside of box and inside and outside of freezing unit with a solution of soda and warm water. Remove shelves and wash. Rinse with clear warm water. When defrosted, empty water collected in drip tray. Turn control to normal operation (if not automatic.)

This sounds like just the kind of household job I’d like to take on every week to 10 days.

It is precisely because I am lazy, that I recently decided to upgrade my refrigerator/freezer –that, and a desire to have more room to store the vegetables anticipated from the upcoming summer CSA season. You’ve probably gotten the sense that there is a bit of a kitchen renovation in progress right now here on suburban Long Island. The latest addition is GE® Energy Star Refrigerator with bottom freezer drawer, and “CleanSteel” doors that resist pesky fingerprints. It looks like something out of the Jetsons.

There is plenty of room for fruits and vegetables, chilled wine, and lots of wide shelf space to hold special cake projects. My sister-in-law Ramiza is convinced I have an incurable condiment problem, and now I’ve got a designated section to keep condiments organized and easy to access. My decluttering guru was not at all happy with the state of my baking cabinet, so she’ll be pleased to see that I’ve started out on the right foot organizing the new refrigerator. Everything is visible and has its place.

It’s easy to brag about your organizational skills when you start fresh. I’m not so willing to share photographs of my cupboards for Lydia’s “Other People’s Pantries” feature.

A classic no-bake Icebox Cake seemed like the perfect recipe to christen the new refrigerator. Chocolate wafers are stacked with layers of mint-flavored whipped cream to create a log that is covered with the remaining whipped cream and sprinkled with chocolate morsels. The cookie layers become soft and cake-like as the roll chills. You can find the recipe here. The most famous version of the recipe is found here.

It’s a sweet finish to dinner with good friends, and if you happen to serve this Icebox Cake during a blackout, be sure to slice quickly, because even the most modern refrigerator still needs electricity to keep a no-bake cake from melting.

©2010 T.W. Barritt all Rights Reserved


Nupur said...

I had to laugh when I read the defrosting tips from the 1941 book, because until as recently as 1999, my parents in India had a fridge that needed to be defrosted in exactly that way! I've done the chore many times, and it takes a lot of will power not to take a sharp instrument and hack away at the ice.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Aw, come on, how about a peek at that pantry once the renovation is complete?! I love the new refrigerator, and I know it will be filled with many wonderful foods from Renovation Farm. (By the way, we still have one of those old oak "iceboxes" in our cellar, though it hasn't been used for food storage in many years!)

My Carolina Kitchen said...

I love your new refrigerator and what I could see of your kitchen. I would love to see more of your renovations sometime.

Your chocolate-mint icebox cake is perfect for your new refrigerator. It's funny - not many people call it an icebox anymore except Emmeril. I hate to admit it, but I'm old enough to remember my Mom defrosting the freezer. Awful work I assure you.

We'll probably have to purchase a new refrig soon. We "visit" our favorite selections in the appliance department, so we'll be ready, just in case.

Julia said...

My fridge just died this week (ironically it needed a new heater... go figure). I'm jealous of your new one. Alas, that would never fit in my teeeny kitchen.

Duncan | syrupandtang said...

I had never contemplated the failure of a fridge until a power blackout on a 43C (two billion fahrenheit) day last year. How to insulate a packed fridge and freezer combo (not as nice as yours) from searing ambient temperatures?

Had a good laugh at the frequent defrosting regime:)

A Feast for the Eyes said...

As always, a great story leading up to the big ta-da... oooh, a new fridge! We bought a French door fridge in October. It's quite a huge beast, but I have to say that I am loving it. No more stacking plates on top of bowls, eh? A fancy new stove, a new fridge-- what's next?

Kalyn said...

I love your new refrigerator! You must show us your kitchen (and pantry!) when you're all done with the upgrading.

(And I have an incurable condiment problem too. Is there a 12-step program for that?)

The Chef In My Head said...

That is the same refrigerator I have and I've been very happy with it. They went a bit shelf happy for me, so one of my shelves is stored in the attic. I have an extra freezer/fridge in the garage (a $50 find on Craig's List) to help with the overflow for the holidays. The freezer in the kitchen is so handy for dropping leftover veggies until I am ready to make batches of stock. It looks very pretty in your kitchen! Happy Sunday~LeslieMichele

Marjie said...

My grandmother always made this chocolate icebox cake, and I have been known to make it, too. The problem is that my kids find the wafers, everyone sneaks into the box for one or two, and then, there's nothing left! I have two 20CF refrigerators and one under bar sized one for milk, and it's barely enough. I covet one as pretty as yours.

Velva said...

Cheers to the modern refrigerator. I am getting the impression that you are doing a kitchen update and it looks fabulous. Next month, I may be able to add my photo of my new refrigerator too-It may look very similar to yours.

Sophie said...

Your new fridge is a cool one!

Your chocolate & mint icebox cake looks tremendous fabulous!!

So appetizing too! Thanks!

veron said...

Glad we don't have to defrost the old way. ;) What a cake to celebrate your new refrigerator. Congrats on the new addition to your kitchen!

~~louise~~ said...

Congratulations on your new fridge, T.W. It sure is "purty."

I've never seen that book before. I do, however, remember defrosting the freezer in my youth. What a job. I use to boil hot water in a pan and set it in the freezer to help speed up the process. It didn't. I once "got caught" using a butter knife to hack away at the ice. Hey, I was ten, maybe younger.

I bought a new fridge when I got the house. I only wish I would have gotten the freezer on the bottom. For some reason, I seem to be doing a lot of bending, and, I'm pretty short:)

As for that ice box cake, it looks heavenly! Chocolate and Mint, I'm there. Have fun with your renovation. Spring has sprung and restoration is in the air!!!

Thanks for sharing...

tasteofbeirut said...

You make me feel old now lol! I remember when I had to defrost the fridge back in the early eighties!
Glad you got yourself a nice one now no more excuses right? I want a decent oven!
I thought of making this dessert many times during my period of addiction to chocolate wafers. Finally the thought left me.
Nice job. Easy and delicious.

Julia said...

I like your fridge

Mary said...

I am really jealous of that gorgeous refrigerator! I must admit to being old enough to have waged weekly war with my refrigerator :-). Our lives have changed enormously in the last 50 years. One true thing - your refrigerator cake is as delicious now as it was then. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

Susan G said...

Good memories -- my mother in law made that cake as long as I knew her; my husband won't stop saying "ice box"; I even remember a real ice box at my grandmother's house, with ice! Thanks for the reminders.

Fresh Local and Best said...

I have forgotten about the entire exercise of defrosting the freezer. Geez I remember standing on a stool and wiping the ice box down.

That chocolate mint ice box cake looks very good, especially after the task of organizing

Tera said...

I have to say I love the word "icebox" -- it sounds so cozy for something so cold. Reminds me of other old fashioned kitchen oleo. Your new icebox is beatiful TW.