Matzo Icebox Cake for Passover
Jessie Sheehan, recipe developer and author of several cookbooks, shares her creation of the Matzo Icebox Cake. This ultimate Passover dessert – layers of soaked matzos, ganache, and vanilla-scented whipped cream – will surely become a family tradition.
Considering I’m the co-author of an entire icebox cake cookbook , it’s safe to say I’m a big fan of the no-bake treat. And because Passover is almost upon us, I wondered what it might be like to replace cookies with matzos in order to create a seder-worthy version. A little Googling revealed that when folks create desserts from sheets of matzos, they often dip each sheet in either wine or grape juice before assembling to help soften the crackers (a la tiramisu).
While most people opt to layer the soaked matzos with straight-up ganache, melted chocolate, mousse, or pudding, I took inspiration from the iconic black and white cookie, which boasts the perfect balance of chocolate and vanilla and looks visually striking, too. So, I soaked my matzos not in wine but in warm milk, and then layered them with ganache and lots of vanilla-scented whipped cream. The resulting matzo icebox cake is an otherworldly dessert.
Assembling the cake
You’ll assemble this cake directly on the platter you’ll serve it on, which makes it look impressive yet fun, with its tall stature, perfectly square shape, and “naked” look, in which every layer of cream and chocolate is visible in all of its oozy, drippy glory. The whole shebang gets popped in the fridge post-assembly for at least eight hours (and up to 24) to set up, making this a make-ahead dessert of the finest caliber. The matzos never transform into something quite as pillow-y and spongy as cookies and graham crackers do when layered in an icebox cake, but the little chew they retain is wonderful with the soft, creamy textures of the whipped cream and chocolate.
Yes, this matzo icebox cake is large, as it calls for an entire box of matzos, but it lasts for three days once sliced, and leftovers are superb. Or you can halve it or freeze the leftovers – but this dessert will get eaten, I guarantee it, Passover or any time of year.
Matzo Icebox Cake
For the milk chocolate ganache:
- 20 ounces milk chocolate, coarsely chopped (about 4 cups)
- 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
For the vanilla whipped cream:
- 1 quart (4 cups) cold heavy cream
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
For the milk soak:
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 (10-ounce) box matzo crackers (9 sheets)
1. Make the ganache:
Coarsely chop 20 ounces milk chocolate (about 2 cups). Place in a large microwave-safe bowl and add 1 1/4 cups heavy cream and 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Microwave on high in 50-second bursts, whisking after each burst, until melted and smooth, about 2 bursts. Let cool to room temperature. (Alternatively, place the chocolate and salt in a large heat-proof bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles form around the edges, then pour over the chocolate. Let sit for 1 minute, then whisk until smooth.)
2. Make the whipped cream:
Place 1 quart cold heavy cream, 3/4 cup powdered sugar, and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. (Alternatively, place in a large bowl if using an electric hand mixer.) Beat on medium until medium peaks form, about 3 minutes.
3. Make the milk soak:
Microwave 2 cups whole milk in a microwave-safe 2-cup glass measuring cup or medium bowl until warm to the touch, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. (Alternatively, warm the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat). Pour into an 8 or 9-inch square baking dish.
4. Assemble the cake:
Place 1 matzo in the milk, press it down with your fingers so it is completely submerged, and let soak for 30 seconds. Lift the matzo out, let the excess milk drip back into the dish, and place the matzo on a serving platter.
Using an offset spatula or butter knife, spread about 1/3 cup of the ganache onto the soaked cracker, then spread with 3/4 cup of the whipped cream. Repeat soaking and layering the matzo with the ganache and whipped cream until you have only 1 matzo left. Soak this matzo and place it on top of the cake. Spread the remaining ganache on the matzo. You may have a little whipped cream leftover – lucky you.
5. Refrigerate the cake:
Refrigerate the matzo icebox cake uncovered until the matzo is softened and turned almost cake-like, at least 8 and up to 24 hours. (At 8 hours, the matzo is mildly toothsome with a pleasant chew to it. At 24 hours, it will be softer.) Slice with a sharp knife and serve.
- Refrigerate leftovers lightly wrapped in plastic wrap for up to three days.
- If you aren’t making this cake for Passover (malted milk powder isn’t kosher for Passover), you can add malted milk powder to the whipped cream and the milk soak, which makes this cake taste just like a black and white malted milkshake. To do so, add 1 1/3 cups malted milk powder to the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract for the whipped cream. For the soak, you’ll stir in 1/3 cup malted milk powder to the warm milk and whisk until dissolved.
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