Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Black and White Russian Icebox Cake

When I mix a White Russian, I love to add the cream ever-so-slowly.  The sharp line dividing the alcohol and cream is so beautiful, and I stare at that for a minute, before giving the glass a little shake so that the two begin to swirl together.

Espresso becomes dark amber which turns into caramel, and then the whole glass is the color of milk-infused coffee.

White Russians are my favorite cocktail, and Jamie's too, for that matter.  In Vegas, my girlfriends desperately tried to supply me with the ingredients for my drink by collecting coffee creamers to mix with the Kahlua and vodka later that evening in our hotel room.

They are smooth, creamy and sweet, and dangerously easy to drink.  The curves and edges of the partially mixed cocktail inspired this cake, a Black and White Russian Icebox Cake.  There are six layers of scratch chocolate cake soaked in vodka and Kahlua, three layers of homemade chocolate espresso pastry cream, three layers of fresh vanilla whipped cream and a generous sprinkling of shaved chocolate.

The cake gets better and better as the days go by, and every cold, creamy slice is as dangerously delicious as its namesake.

One Year AgoGrilled Peaches with Goat Cheese, Honey and Almonds
Two Years AgoS'mores Ice Cream
Three Years AgoStrawberry Bruschetta with Mascarpone and Aged Balsamic

Black and White Russian Icebox Cake

chocolate cake:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (Hershey's Special Dark)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 3 tablespoons Vodka
  • 3 tablespoons Kahlua
chocolate pastry cream:
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons espresso powder
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Hershey's Special Dark)
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
whipped cream:
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream, cold
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (or 1/2 vanilla bean)
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Baker's Note:  While you could substitute store bought chocolate cake or unfrosted brownies, instant chocolate pudding and cool whip, I really hope you don't.  Such shortcuts would not be doing justice to this magnificent cake.

Bake the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with non-stick spray.

In a bowl, whisk together the dry cake ingredients.  Add the wet ingredients (except for the alcohol) and whisk until smooth.  Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 25-28 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely on a wire rack.  (The alcohol will be drizzled over the crumbled cake later.)

Make the Pastry Cream:
Combine the milk and espresso powder in a saucepan.  Bring to a gentle simmer over medium low heat, just until the milk starts to steam.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, corn starch and cocoa powder; it will be very thick.  Ladle a cup of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking to incorporate and to temper the eggs.  Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan.  Whisking constantly, bring to a boil, until very thick like pudding, then remove from the heat.

Whisk in the chocolate until smooth, then the butter, a piece at a time, and the vanilla.  Pour the pastry cream into a bowl through a fine mesh strainer to remove any bits of cooked egg.  Cover with plastic wrap resting right against the surface of the cream, and cool completely in the refrigerator for several hours.

Whip the Cream:
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream, powdered sugar and vanilla on medium high speed until thick and the cream can hold its shape.  Refrigerate until needed.  Finely chop the chocolate and set aside.

Cut the cake into 6 equal pieces.  Combine the Vodka and Kahlua in a small bowl.  Set out your bowls of chocolate pastry cream, whipped cream, and chopped chocolate.

Line the bottom of an 8-inch spring form pan with a circle of parchment paper.  Take a long strip of parchment paper and line the inside of the sides of the pan; the paper should come up two inches higher than the sides of the pan, since your cake will be taller than the pan.

Take 1/6 of the cake and crumble it up with a fork.  Sprinkle the cake over the bottom of the pan and press it down into an even layer.  Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the alcohol.  Carefully spread 1/3 of the chocolate pastry cream over the cake, being careful not to lift up your spatula and pull up the cake crumbs.  Add another layer of cake and alcohol over the pastry cream.  Spread that layer of cake with 1/3 of the whipped cream.  Sprinkle the whipped cream with 1/3 of the chopped chocolate.

Repeat all the layers again with cake, alcohol, pastry cream, cake, alcohol, whipped cream, chocolate, and then again with cake, alcohol, pastry cream, cake, alcohol, whipped cream and chocolate.  In total, there are 6 layers of cake soaked in alcohol, alternating with 3 layers each of pastry cream and whipped cream with chocolate.

Refrigerate the cake for several hours (this cake actually gets better as the days go by, so the leftovers are fantastic).  Remove the sides of the pan.  Carefully peel off the strip of parchment paper from around the sides of the cake to reveal the beautiful layers.  If you like, you can slide the cake off the metal base of the pan onto a cake pedestal.  Refrigerate leftovers.

Serve cake with a White Russian, of course.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen


  1. Sounds good but quiet a lot of work

    1. There are a few steps involved, but I think that making all the components from scratch makes the end result so delicious!

  2. Amazing pictures, and the cakes sounds incredible!

    1. Thanks, Tammy! I froze half the cake, so hopefully it will still be good later after thawing out.

  3. I so totally agree with using Real Ingredients. Once I subbed some Cool Whip for the whipped cream in a Grasshopper Torte and it was so disappointing I could have cried.

    1. Exactly, it's just not the same at all, even though it is convenient! I grew up eating cool whip and no-bake instant cheesecakes, and now I always try to use real ingredients.

  4. this cake looks amazing! i definitely am craving a slice. saving the recipe to recreate in my kitchen!

    1. I'm looking forward to that other half of the cake stashed away in our freezer, for some weekend when I don't feel like baking, but want to eat something really decadent. :)

  5. Tia Maria is my choice of liqueur, but thei dea is the same for the cocktail. I so need this cake.

    1. Is Tia Maria also a coffee liqueur, or something else? I've also thought of trying a White Russian with Grand Marnier instead of Kahlua. I think the orange and cream would be amazing.

  6. Hey there!
    what's the diameter of your baking tin for the cake? :)

  7. Can you substitute Dutch Cocoa for the Hershey's Special Dark?


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