Kitra: A lot happened to bring us here.
Jordan: This is actually not the first time we’ve caked since our zucchini chocolate cake, but it is the first time it’s been worth writing about. Two weeks ago we attempted a blackberry cake for my boyfriend’s birthday, and it was… fine?
I never got to eat it, so can definitely say its googly eyes were the best part.
I did get to eat it, and I agree.
Kitra has been refinishing a table this weekend, so between her exhaustion and the un-noteworthy blackberry cake, we wanted something easy and foolproof.
And I wanted something pretty. Because I’m bored.
Which led us to chocotorta: an Argentinian chocolate/coffee/dulce de leche dessert that’s somewhere between tiramisu and an icebox cake.
There are few things in this world I love more than icebox cake and desserts you can eat with a spoon right out of the pan.
The problem is that back in February, Kitra moved from Columbia Heights to Eastern Market, which is pretty darn white.
*Hill East. But yes.
In Columbia Heights, we probably could have found dulce de leche at about seven different stores within three blocks of her apartment. Here, we tried every store we could without any luck. Kitra rejected my suggestion of using fleur de sel caramel sauce and making the whitest bastardization of this cake imaginable.
In an attempt to salvage the cake, since it took us all weekend to even decide on this one, Jordan suggested an adaptation. And I like cardamom, so.
So we ditched “foolproof” and did our own thing.
This turned out… really well?
Yeah, I would make this cake on purpose.
There are some things we’d change slightly (more on that in the notes), but we did high five after finishing the first of two slices.
Turkish Coffee Icebox Cake
This is a very customizable recipe. In fact, basically every part of it is open to adjustment:
- Pan: You can use just about any container you like. We used two 6-inch springform pans, but an 8- or 9-inch pan would work well too. If you want to unmold it like we did, line the sides of a springform pan with wax paper or parchment paper.
- Cookies: We used Kedem chocolate tea cookies, but any plain chocolate cookie would work. Kedem had a very mild flavor that allowed the coffee to come through a bit more; something like a chocolate wafer cookie would give a stronger chocolate flavor. For a higher cookie-to-cream-filling ratio, you could also do a double layer of cookies between each layer of cream.
- Coffee: When we saw “coffee or espresso” in the original recipe, we were dubious—those are very different things!—but truly, either one would work. We used Keurig coffee and the flavor was quite mild; if you want the coffee flavor to come through more, go for espresso (either real or instant), very strong coffee, or a mix.
- Cream mixture: The amount of sweetened condensed milk is very flexible here. Jordan would have gone with about 1 can (14oz) for a tangier cake; Kitra probably would have preferred 1.5 cans for one that tastes a little more like sweetened condensed milk. We ended up with something in between. You could even sub whipped cream for all/part of the cream cheese, though that would be a very different cake.
- Cardamom: Do this one to taste. Our cardamom was old and sad, so we added two full teaspoons and then ground up some pods and added those. If you have good cardamom, you may need less. Keep in mind that the flavor will get a little stronger as it sits. If you want, you can also throw some whole pods in with the coffee while it cools.
(all ingredients are to taste; see notes above)
2c strong coffee or espresso
2 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened
1-2 14-oz cans sweetened condensed milk
1-2 tsp ground cardamom
3-4 packages chocolate cookies
cocoa powder, to dust (optional)
In a medium bowl, use an electic mixer or some elbow grease to combine the cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk. Start with one full can and add more as needed, tasting after each addition. Once you reach your desired level of sweetness, mix in cardamom, again adjusting the amount to your liking.
Pour some of the (cooled) coffee into a wide, shallow container. One by one, dip each cookie into the coffee for 5-10 seconds, until slightly softened, and place in a single layer in your cake pan. Feel free to break cookies to fill in any gaps.
On top of your cookie layer, drop a few dollops of the cream cheese mixture and gently spread with a spoon or spatula to cover the cookies. A thinner layer is better here–don’t worry if a little bit of cookie peeks through occasionally.
Repeat, alternating between layers of coffee-soaked cookies and the cream cheese mixture, until you run out of cream cheese, cookies, or space in your pan.
Place pan in the fridge or freezer for at least 30 minutes. Icebox cakes are meant to soften as they rest, so you can leave this in the fridge for quite a while; just know that the longer it sits, the softer the cookies will get. This is not a bad thing!
If desired, sift a layer of cocoa powder (mixed with cardamom, if you like) over the top of the cake before serving.