What’s the phrase? Everything old is new again? You know, civil rights protests, pandemics, racially motivated murders committed by white supremacists in positions of authority in broad daylight- oh no, wait, that one never went away.
There is nothing I can say about the current protests that hasn’t already been said, better, by a Black person. Black lives matter.
If you’re reading this before Saturday, June 20th, you’ll notice a new page on the website- Bakers Against Racism. The Bakers Against Racism initiative is a week long fundraiser to benefit BIPOC communities all over the country. Any profits I make will be donated to the San Diego Black Nurses Association, Inc.; racial disparity within healthcare is a huge problem, and this group works hard to correct the imbalance. Check out their site or mine for more information on their incredible work.
For the bake sale, I’m making a version of the cookies in this recipe. But instead of thin wafers, they’re thick, pillowy soft cookies with “blm” piped on top. You can order them as is, or as a sandwich cookie with vanilla or peppermint buttercream. Since this is local, I can only sell to people in San Diego (or, I guess anyone who is willing to come to Sand Diego for some cookies), but if you’d still like to contribute, there is also a donation-only option. I would be so, so grateful for any and all help. No pressure. But it’s there if you are so inclined.
I implore everyone reading this to do what you can to support the Black Lives Matter movement. That said, if you are in any way immunocompromised, immunosupressed, or easily injured, keep yourself away from the protests. If you can’t run at a moments notice, or handle large crowds, or if inhaling pepper spray will shut your lungs down, stay home. Getting hurt or sick will not help anyone. Similarly, if you have had any symptoms of COVID-19 in the last few weeks, keep yourself away from the protests. The virus has hit BIPOC particularly hard (due to so many reasons, systemic racism not the least of them). Do not be the reason that any more people get sick. If you do go to an in-person protest, wear a mask and keep physical distancing as best as you can. Protest responsibly. There is so much you can do from your home, without putting yourself or anyone else at risk for contributing to the pandemic. Support black-owned businesses, donate to bail funds, contact your state and local government officials, get supplies for safe houses, provide first aid, cook for protestors and people who have been directly affected by police brutality. Listen to BIPOC.
In the spirit of “everything old is new again,” this cake is a holdover from the mid-twentieth century. I went back and forth for quite awhile trying to decide whether or not to post a recipe this month. It doesn’t feel like a very appropriate time for fun baking projects. I don't want to pull focus from the things that really matter right now. But then I remembered that baking helps me decompress and process information, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. And if you’re someone who can multitask, it’s a great time to catch a current events podcast episode or two. So...this is not technically a cake in the traditional sense, but stick with me. At its easiest, it’s two ingredients: Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafer Cookies and Cool Whip. You stack the cookies up with Cool Whip in between each one to create a long cylinder, cover the whole thing in more Cool Whip, and let it chill to set. The cream soaks into the cookies and transforms them from snappy wafers into pockets of cake-textured chocolate. You’re supposed to cut it on a bias to serve, because then you get cool stripes of cookie in the middle. It’s cheap and easy to make, which comes in handy when trips to the store aren’t always possible, ingredients like eggs and flour are running low, and money is tight.
The simplicity of it allows for so many variations! The type of cookie can change, the type and flavor of the cream can change, the assembly of the “cake” itself can change. I decided to go with homemade whipped cream and homemade cookies, built in a loaf pan for added stability.
As far as I know, although there are gluten free off-brand Oreos, there isn’t really a gluten free version of the wafers. Which means making them from scratch! The trick is to make a dough that is pliable enough to be rolled and cut, that won’t melt or spread in the oven, and that will produce a cookie that snaps and crumbles without being too dry or bitter. You can absolutely make the dough or cookies (or both) ahead of time and just use them when you’re ready to assemble the whole thing. It should chill for a few hours after assembly, so you can prioritize tasks pretty easily to divide them between days. If you’re like me and you only have enough energy to complete one task a day right now, this is a good project to tackle. Each of the component pieces is pretty simple and minimally time consuming.
First things first, the chocolate. You know how I feel about black cocoa powder. It’s not strictly necessary for this recipe, but you do need some sort of alkalized cocoa powder if you want a deep color. The dark chocolate imparts a lovely Oreo flavor, making them pretty darn close to the real thing.
As per usual with cookies, combine your dry ingredients in a medium-ish bowl. In a bigger bowl, cream together butter and sugar, then add egg, and then vanilla. You know the drill.
Slowly add your dry ingredients to your wet ingredients. I usually do it in three batches, mixing between every dry ingredient addition. Scrape down the sides as needed.
It should come together in large clumps, but depending on your mixing method, you may need to knead (hah) the dough to get it to come together. It’s not sticky, so it shouldn’t get your hands too messy. That’s another thing about this recipe; cleanup is so easy. Almost nothing sticks to the inside of the bowl when you’re done.
Divide the dough in two. Flatten each piece into disks to facilitate easy rolling later, wrap them in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 15 minutes. You can also leave them in overnight, they’ll be fine.
When you’re ready to bake them, preheat the oven to 350°. Put a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet before you start on the cookies. That way you’ll immediately have somewhere to go as soon as you’re ready. Take one of the disks out and roll it into a very thin sheet of dough. I did this between two pieces of parchment paper, but you do you.
Cut out 2in. round circles, making them as close together as you can. Remove the excess dough and set it asking to re-roll. Transfer the cookies very, very carefully onto the baking sheet. They’re pretty delicate. But my arthritic and tremor-ridden hands only tore a couple, so make of that what you will. You don’t need to put them very far apart, because they don’t spread in the oven.
Repeat the rolling and cutting until you’re out of room or out of dough. You can also prep two baking sheets and have them in the oven at the same time.
Bake for about 10 minutes. Take them out and let them cool on the baking sheet until they are firm-ish, and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely before assembling the cake.
Your cookie cooling time can be used to make the whipped cream portion of the cake. Put 3 cups of cold heavy cream, 1/4 cup of confectioners sugar, and two teaspoons of vanilla into a big bowl. Whip everything together until you get stiff peaks.
Here’s the fun part. When you’re ready, assemble the cake! Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap and smooth it out. Leave a lot of plastic wrap hanging out over the sides. Put one wafer cookie at each end of the pan. If you find that your cookies have softened, put them on a wire rack that’s on a baking sheet, then put them in the oven on about 120° for 1-15 minutes, and they should firm back up again. Just wait for them to cool before trying to cake them.
Spread a layer of whipped cream at the bottom of the pan. Then make little cookie towers! Starting with a cookie, stack layers of cookie and cream on top of each other until you reach a height that’s roughly equal to the width of the pan. I actually underestimated how many I’d need. So I made stacks of six cookies each, and then added three more to each row once they were in the pan.
Move the stacks to the pan and place them in on their sides. Fill in any air pockets with whipped cream. Really get in there. Any air pockets will turn into holes in the finished product. Spread a layer of cream over the top and smooth it out (this will be the bottom of the cake, so you want to give it a level base). Take the excess plastic wrap, and gently fold it over the cream. Make sure you hang on to any extras, because you’ll use them for decorating later.
Freeze your beautiful cookies and cream creation for several hours. Like, lots of hours. I left it overnight. Once it’s set, take it out of the freezer and peel back the plastic wrap. Put a serving dish on top of the pan and turn the whole thing over. Remove the pan, then peel away the plastic wrap. You might find that it’s stuck in some places because of how it folded or how the cream set. That’s okay! It adds some character!
Get out the extras from earlier, and use those to decorate. Go wild, it’s fun. When you’re done, put the whole thing back into the freezer so your decorations set.
When you’re ready to serve it, take it out and let it sit for a few minutes. Cut it into slices and serve! You may find it easier if you heat the knife up first (just by running it under hot water or something).
The final product is so very pretty, and fun to eat. The cookies soak up moisture and flavor from the cream, so you’re basically getting tiny layers of chocolate cake. It’s pretty great.
For the Cookies:
🥄🥄; makes 40-50 cookies, depending on size and thickness
1 stick of room temperature butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 room temperature egg
1 1/2 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1. Make sure butter and egg are out of the refrigerator so they can come up to room temperature.
2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, and salt.
3. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar.
4. Add egg.
5. Add vanilla
6. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients.
7. Knead dough if needed to make it come together.
8. Divide dough in two, and flatten each half into disks.
9. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 15 minutes, or until ready to use.
10. Preheat oven to 350°.
11. Remove one disk of dough from the refrigerator, and roll it out between two sheets of parchment paper. It should end up being about 1/8 in. thick. Use a circular cookie cutter to cut circles in the dough, as close together as possible.
12. Remove excess dough and set it aside to roll again. Transfer the cookies onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
13. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
14. Remove baking sheet from oven and let cool until cookies are firm to the touch. Then remove the cookies to continue cooling on a wire rack.
15. Repeat steps 11.-14. as needed, until all of your dough has been baked.
*if cookies soften before assembly for any reason, set you oven very low, on a convection setting if possible, for several minutes (I did 120° for 10-15 minutes, first putting the cookies onto a wire rack on a baking sheet) and they crisp up again nicely.
For the Whipped Cream:
3 cups cold heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1. Put all ingredients into a large bowl.
2. Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, or a hand mixer, on low to incorporate ingredients.
3. Increase speed gradually to medium high and mix until stiff peaks form.
For the Cake:
1. Line a rectangular loaf pan with plastic wrap (enough that is hangs off of the edges).
2. Put a layer of cream on the bottom on the pan, and set the pan aside.
3. Stack the cookies on top of one another, with a layer of cream between each one. The height of your stacks should be roughly equal to the width of your pan. You will probably need 3-4 stacks, depending on the size of your pan.
4. Place a cookie at each end of the pan.
5. Lay each stack of cookies next to each other on their sides, going across the width of the pan.
6. Fill in all of the empty space with cream, making sure there is a thick layer on top. Level it so the top is smooth.
7. Fold the plastic wrap over the top of the cream.
8. Put the pan in the freezer for a few hours or overnight.
9. Unwrap the plastic and invert the pan onto a serving tray. Remove the pan and the plastic wrap.
10. Decorate with leftover cookies and cream. Freeze. Slice to serve.