Cool respite: Refrigerator cake is a timeless dessert
Whipped cream, a basic cake and some fresh fruit make this a great summer dessert.
Star Tribune (Minneapolis
A summer dessert, like the proverbial revenge, is best served cold.
A refrigerator cake is the "great aunt" of such desserts — a little old-fashioned, yet exuding a bit of quiet elegance whenever she arrives on the scene. A serene square of chilled fruit, cool cream and a bit of cake provide a welcome antidote to a steamy evening, or a pretty dessert for a bridal shower, and is a whole lot more satisfying than a dish of sorbet.
Even better, such a cake has to be made ahead of time so it can chill thoroughly.
The term "refrigerator cake" encompasses a wide range of desserts, many of which had their origins in a layered combination of whipped cream and purchased chocolate wafers or graham crackers, so that kitchens never needed to be heated up by baking. Fruit was sometimes added. Then, cake rose to claim its place as the best way to sandwich fruit and cream.
We used strawberries for our cake, but you can use almost any fruit you like. This isn't an especially sweet dessert, with no added sugar on the fruit and only a bit in the whipped cream, which means it's important to use fruit at peak ripeness.
With the whipping cream stabilized with some mascarpone cheese, the cake will keep in the fridge for two days, letting you slice off a bit of summertime solace whenever the heat and humidity start to toy with your sanity.
Some tips to get you started: Mascarpone cheese, which comes in a small tub, is added for both flavor and to stabilize the whipped cream. The basic cake recipe, adapted slightly from "The King Arthur Flour Baking Companion," may be baked in a 9-by-13 pan or in two (8- or 9-inch) round pans. We like fresh strawberries as a filling, but other fruits such as mangoes or blueberries would work, too. Tossing the fruit with a liqueur such as Grand Marnier or Chambord adds another layer of flavor, but is optional.