Jessie Sheehan abandoned a
much-hated and short-lived legal career to work as an assistant
pastry chef at Baked NYC in Red Hook/Brooklyn. In addition to
making all the delicious treats served at Baked, Jessie also did
in-house recipe testing for all three Baked cookbooks. Jean
Sagendorph is an ice box cake expert. She can make a cake with one
arm tied behind her back and has mastered the use of the fork as
both a vertical and horizontal tool. When not being silly, or
wielding her mixer, Jean is a literary agent and author. Jessie and
Jean came together to create the recently-released Icebox Cakes: Recipes for the Coolest Cakes in
Town. (You can enter our contest for a chance to win a
copy of the book.) Find out more about the book, and these
cool cakes, in our author Q&A:
Can you explain to non-US members what an icebox cake is
and what is the history of this dessert?
An icebox cake is a dessert that never sees the inside of an
oven. Instead, cookies (or ladyfingers or graham crackers) are
layered with whipped cream (or pudding) and placed in the
refrigerator where the cakey ingredient absorbs the moist
ingredient creating a final dish that is cake-like.
Icebox cakes can be traced back to the early 1800s in France.
Marie-Antoine Careme's charlotte is well-documented in his
cookbook, The Royal Parisian Pastry Cook and Confectioner. The
icebox cake that we more commonly know really took off in 1920s
America with the advent of National Biscuit Company's (now known as
Nabisco) Famous Chocolate Wafers.
Icebox cakes would seem to be a great do-ahead dessert
for parties and entertaining. How long do icebox cakes last once
Icebox cakes are a fantastic do-ahead dessert for many reasons.
First, an icebox cake made with homemade ingredients (like the ones
in our book) actually needs 24 hours to set up in the refrigerator
once it is assembled, allowing you to make your cake a day (or even
two) before you want to serve it to guests. Second, icebox cakes
freeze beautifully, offering those plan-ahead types the opportunity
to make a dessert three weeks before the guests arrive. To freeze
an icebox cake, after allowing it to set up in the fridge for 24
hours, carefully wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze for up to three
weeks. Allow the cake to defrost in the fridge for at least 8 hours
How labor-intensive are the recipes and can store-bought
ingredients be substituted, e.g. for the cookie
Making icebox cakes with homemade ingredients does take longer
than making them with store-bought ingredients, but only a bit
longer than it takes to make cookies from scratch (the homemade
pudding and whipped creams come together in a jif). And here's the
thing, desserts always taste better when assembled with homemade
Although the recipes may look long, they are super simple and
easy to follow. All that said, substituting is totally fine, and we
even make suggestions in the book for various brands of
store-bought cookies, graham crackers and ladyfingers that will
make an excellent icebox cake.
What is your favorite recipe in the book?
Jessie's favorite recipe in the book is a tie between the
Marshmallow Peanut Butter (which tastes like the most amazing
fluffer-nutter sandwich you've ever had) and the Black and White
Malted (think of a malted vanilla milkshake with chocolate syrup in
cake-form). Jean favors the Old School (it appeals to her love of
Oreos) and the Raspberry Ganache because raspberries and chocolate
work together like Fred and Ginger.
Were there any experiments that you tried that
didn't work as icebox cakes?
Jean remembered having a spectacular dessert in California with
mascarpone and figs, and so Jessie tried desperately to develop an
icebox cake with a mascarpone whipped cream and a fig compote of
sorts, but to no avail - and off-season it was insanely expensive
to produce. Jessie also tried to launch a pear icebox cake, but
once layered in the cake, the pears never softened enough (not a
big surprise) in the fridge - even when poached prior to cake
With July 4th approaching, which of your recipes are
best suited to a red white and blue theme?
The Red Velvet cake is a perfect red and white cake that you
could easily decorate with blueberries to create a fun red, white,
and blue cake. The Lavender-Blueberry and the Raspberry Ganache
aren't exactly red, but they are very colorful. The Strawberry Lemon (pictured right) is also a
perfect early-summer dessert, with strawberries still around in
many farmers' markets, and you could top the cake with some
blueberries for the full Americana experience. The S'mores cake is
not red, white, and blue per se, but what summer BBQ is complete
without a s'more?
Icebox cakes would seem to be summer desserts but are
there any recipes that are suited to other holidays such as
Thanksgiving and Christmas?
Absolutely, given the spices, the Chai Ginger is the perfect
dessert for Thanksgiving and the Peppermint Chocolate makes for a
spectacular Christmas dessert.
I see from your bios that Jessie is a baker and Jean is
a literary agent. How did you divide the book writing duties
Jessie is a recipe developer and blogger who has worked with the
guys from Baked for many years and Jean is a literary and licensing
agent who worked with Food Network for more than a decade , as well
as being free labor in the various bars and eateries that her
family owned. Jessie primarily worked on the recipe development
(especially when the pistachio paste threatened to make Jean go
nuts, pun intended) and Jean focused on the writing, but each had a
hand in the whole process, they probably should have given Dropbox
a shout-out in the book.