Lately it’s been tough, sticking to healthful foodways. The gross weather makes me crave caloric hibernation fuel. Plus, when it’s so cold and slushy out, I don’t feel like frolicking to the grocery store and selecting the very freshest produce, I want to curl up in bed with cocoa and a book and never leave.
Nevertheless I’m trying to slog along wholesomely. And today, I succeeded. Behold my latest creation: the icebox cake! Low in fat and refined sugar, and swoonably delicious.
Icebox cakes are an American creamy layered no-bake dessert, akin to French charlotte, English trifle, or Italian tiramisu. Popularized by Nabisco around World War I as an advertising effort for their Famous Chocolate Wafers, the best-known recipe layers chocolate wafer cookies with whipped cream. The cookies swell and soften in the fridge overnight to a cakelike consistency. The next day, the cake is sliceable. In the most elegant versions, the layers form a beautiful banded pattern. (Obviously, mine is not so pretty.)
Icebox cakes are wonderfully customizable. You can replace the wafers with any kind of cookie or firm cake, use pudding or custard in lieu of whipped cream, and add any type of nuts, chocolate, candy pieces, or fruit you desire. Naturally many of these desserts are quite rich. However, I was confident that the recipe’s flexibility could be turned to my advantage. Here’s what I did:
- First, I softened two prunes and a tablespoon of dried tart cherries in just enough hot water to cover them.
- Then, I blended the fruit plus its soaking liquid with 1/2 cup of nonfat cottage cheese and 1 packet of Splenda until smooth and custardy. (I’d probably use more fruit and no Splenda in future.)
- I covered the bottom of a small container with about one and a half whole wheat cinnamon graham crackers (Trader Joe’s makes excellent old-fashioned grahams).
- On top of the graham crackers, I spread a thin layer of cheese mixture.
- Top with more grahams, then continue to alternate cheese and grahams until all the cheese is gone. I used about six graham crackers.
- Cover and chill overnight in the fridge.
It came in around ~450 calories for the whole container (about a cup), but it was quite filling. This honestly tasted like cheesecake. The sweet cream between fragrant graham cracker layers made each bite feel indulgent. Using fewer crackers, or low-fat grahams, would considerably reduce the calories and the already-low fat count.
I would serve this confidently to even a standard cheesecake enjoyer. It wouldn’t beat out a classic slice on taste alone, but calorie for calorie, I think it’s a pretty solid match-up. For example, mine has less than 10 grams of unsaturated fat, as compared to 15+ grams of saturated fat (and up to 30 grams overall) in a piece of restaurant cheesecake! Eating it for breakfast is still pretty lush, but I savored every bite.