A Cut Above: Icebox Cakes and Pies

Delicious and easy to prepare, homemade frozen treats are the perfect anytime dessert.
A Cut Above: Icebox Cakes and PiesA Cut Above: Icebox Cakes and Pies

Busy or not, here we come. “A Cut Above” serves up new recipes, cooking tips and ideas for dishes that are elegant in taste and presentation, yet simple enough to prepare and enjoy in a snap.

No one can resist raiding the freezer, especially when there's a frozen pie or cake in there. We learned this when we were writing The Ultimate Frozen Dessert Book, a tome heavy with these retro treats. Not that we were doing the raiding. Our neighbors were.

We've given them our house keys to check on things when we're out of town, and told them to help themselves to whatever they might find in the freezer. And they did, with abandon. Problem was, we weren't always out of town.

We'd step out to the gym (we were writing a dessert book, after all) or to dinner, and come home to find our freezer emptied. A few times, someone just left a plate and fork in the sink. And one afternoon we heard a key slip into the front door. It was the guy from 6B. "Oh," he said, not really surprised, "Someone said there was a frozen pie."

No wonder people love these things: A cross between ice cream and cake, they're the best of both worlds. And they're make-ahead wonders — days before a party you can have dessert checked off the list.

Here are our top three tips: First, make sure nothing is warm when it goes into the freezer. This will help prevent ice crystals from forming (when ice crystals form during quick-cooling, they render pies and cakes crunchy, not creamy).

Second, let these desserts stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving. The flavors will have a chance to bloom a bit outside the cold.

Finally, remember that no amount of good cooking can overcome cheap ingredients. Buy good-quality chocolate and high-end frozen yogurt. If you're going to make something so wonderful that the neighbors will drop by uninvited, you might as well use the best, and make everyone happy.

About the Frozen Strawberry Layer Cake
A store-bought angel food cake, some store-bought frozen yogurt and a homemade strawberry sauce — all together, it adds up to a fabulous summer dessert, ready for your next barbecue.

Frozen Strawberry Layer Cake

Makes 12 servings

PointsPlus™ value per serving: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds strawberries, hulled and sliced (about 6 cups)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 12-oz store-bought, fat-free angel food cake, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 quart store-bought, fat-free frozen vanilla yogurt

Instructions

  1. To make strawberry sauce, combine strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and salt in a saucepan, stirring over medium heat until the sugar melts and the liquid comes to a simmer. Simmer 15 minutes. Use the back of a wooden spoon to mash about half the berries against the side of the pan. Cool to room temperature and use immediately or refrigerate, covered, up to 2 days.
  2. Spoon the frozen yogurt into a large bowl and mash it with the back of a wooden spoon until soft and spreadable.
  3. Line the bottom of a 9-inch round springform pan with one third of the cake slices, cutting any slices to fit the shape of the pan. Top with half the frozen yogurt, spreading it to the sides. Spread 2/3 cup strawberry sauce over the frozen yogurt, then top with half the remaining cake slices, again cutting any to fit. Spread the remainder of the frozen yogurt over the cake, top with 2/3 cup strawberry sauce, and finally seal the top with the remaining cake slices. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze at least 6 hours or up to 3 days. Let the cake stand at room temperature 10 minutes before unmolding and serving.

About the Chocolate Banana Chiffon Pie
Beating egg whites with a hot sugar syrup makes an Italian meringue — a light, airy confection that turns this chiffon pie into sheer bliss without any added whipped cream.

Chocolate Banana Chiffon Pie

Makes 12 servings

PointsPlus™ value per serving: 5

Ingredients

  • 9 whole graham crackers (or 1 cup store-bought graham cracker crumbs)
  • 2 Tbsp confectioners' sugar
  • 1 Tbsp fat-free milk
  • 2 large egg whites* at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp water
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 4 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice

Instructions

  1. To make the graham cracker crumbs, combine graham crackers, sugar and milk in a food processor and pulse until crumbly and well combined. Alternatively, break up the crackers, seal them in a plastic bag, and crush to the texture of cornmeal with a rolling pin or the bottom of a heavy saucepan. Transfer the crushed crackers to a bowl and stir in sugar and milk.
  2. Press the graham cracker crumb mixture into a 9-inch pie plate, evenly forming the crust across the bottom and up the side. Set aside.
  3. Beat the egg whites in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until soft peaks form. Set aside.
  4. Stir the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a simmer. Clip a candy thermometer to the inside of the pan and continue cooking until the temperature registers 238°F.
  5. Remove the thermometer and beat the egg whites a few seconds at high speed. With the mixer running, drizzle in the hot sugar syrup in a small, steady stream. Once all the sugar syrup has been added, continue beating at high speed 3 minutes. Set aside.
  6. Meanwhile, place the chocolate in a medium bowl and microwave on high 30 seconds. Stir well, then continue microwaving in 30-second increments, stirring after each, until about two-thirds of the chocolate has melted. Remove the bowl from the microwave and continue stirring until all the chocolate has melted. Alternatively, place the chocolate in the top half of a double boiler set over about 1 inch of slowly simmering water, or place it in a medium bowl that will fit snugly over a medium saucepan with about 1 inch of slowly simmering water. Stir constantly until half the chocolate has melted, then remove the bowl from the heat (be careful of any escaping steam) and continue stirring until all the chocolate has melted.
  7. Mash the bananas in a large bowl with a potato masher or a fork until creamy. Stir in the melted chocolate and the lemon juice. Fold this mixture into the beaten egg whites with a rubber spatula until uniform. Pour into the pie crust and smooth evenly across the crust.
  8. Place in the freezer and chill 1 hour, then cover with plastic wrap and continue freezing at least 7 hours or up to 3 days. Set out at room temperature for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.
 * Use pasteurized egg whites to prevent food borne illness.

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