Have you ever heard of zebra pie? I am not sure what the name is for this fantastic fast dessert. A close friend of mine, MHS, always referred to it as such back in university days. MHS loved her mocha desserts, so I thought of the variation in today’s post while recalling her appreciation for cookies and coffee. While MHS – who is very smart and knowledgeable about desserts – called it “zebra pie”, I really think it more appropriately falls into the icebox-cake category. So I have renamed it.
At its most basic, there are just two ingredients: store-bought chocolate wafers (for an unpaid plug, Mr. Christie in Canada or Nabisco in the US) and either non-dairy whipped topping – to which I say, “No, thank you” – or whipped cream – yes, please! Usually, I whip heavy cream with vanilla extract and a bit of sugar. However, I had just read about a mocha-whipped cream topping a molten chocolate cake in a recipe somewhere lately (who can recall? – so many blogs, so many cookbooks, so little time).
The “zebra” comes from the vertical stripes of the cake. I guess one should not really have a tan-coloured whipped cream for a true zebra, but this cake is so delectable that one can overlook the zebra-who-has-been-running-around-grazing-on-the-dust-on-the-veldt look from the coffee-infused whipped cream.
Besides some old horses on the island, the closest to a zebra around here is a young spotted fawn wandering around our property. George and Jinja seemed to be monitoring it for suspicious behaviour, so I had to include the GKPs (“gratuitous kitty pictures”) in this post.
For the simple directions and the recipe…
Back to the zebra cake itself. It is assembled, easily, by spreading whipped cream on the cookies, stacking them in mini-towers, and then placing them on the side. The whipped cream acts as a glue and a frosting, and, after three hours or so in the fridge (but don’t you love using the old-fashioned “icebox” for desserts like this?), it is ready. The cookies meld into the whipped cream, taking on a true cake-like consistency. I have served this at dinner party where my guests refused to believe that it was as simple as I describe. It… is…really…that…simple.
I often flavour the whipped cream with a liquor, e.g., the Danish Cherry Heering (my grandmother Jessie loved her liquors, but I could never understand the combination of cherries with herring as a child, until perplexed Danish friends clarified its lack of fish, years later…) By any name, it is the simplest and most satisfying of summer treats.
Mocha Zebra Icebox Cake, adapted from my recollections of MHS’s recipe, which was on a cookie box
- One package of chocolate wafer cookies
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 1/2 heaping teaspoons instant espresso powder (other instant coffee granules will do but you will not get the same kick)
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- Chocolate covered espresso beans for garnish, optional
- Raspberries for garnish, optional
- Whip cream in a stand mixer (or use a hand-mixer or the old-fashioned-balloon-whisk-with-elbow-grease method), with sugar and espresso powder, until soft peaks form.
- With a small offset spatula — or other favourite tool of your choosing — spread whipped cream on top of one cookie (the rounded side). Place cookie on work surface, with flat unfrosted side down.
- Repeat spreading whipping cream on another cookie then place on top of the whipped cream of the first cookie.
- Continue until a “tower” of five or six cookies is complete.
- Once all cookies are frosted, assemble towers by rotating towers on their sides, on the rounded edges, into a log, by putting two towers together first. Add remaining towers and carefully press together.
- Frost rest of zebra cake log with remaining whipped cream.
- Refrigerate for at least three hours (even eight or nine will work) – if you are in a hurry, you can freeze the zebra cake and eat it within two hours.
- Cut on a bias (diagonal) in order to achieve the true zebra effect.
- Garnish with raspberries, chocolate-covered espresso beans, or your favourite zebra-appropriate items.