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02/13/2014

~ Chocolate, Vanilla and Butterscotch 'Icebox' Cake~

IMG_3751My three favorite flavors of pudding are chocolate, vanilla and butterscotch.  Banana pudding comes in a close fourth.  About the only thing I like better than any one of them is all of them layered on top of each other with graham crackers separating each flavor.  This dessert was one of my mother's specialties and was my favorite.  Whenever she would make it, after I got done "counting, cracking and crushing" the graham crackers for her, I would sit motionless on the counterstool, eyes transfixed on the glorious process, patiently waiting for my lick of the spoon as each pudding got cooked.  Once assembled, she'd put the 'icebox' cake in the refrigerator for what seemed like an eternity, but, it had to chill to set up properly, so, it was well worth the wait!

No matter how you slice it, this pudding dessert is irresistible!

IMG_3772A bit about icebox cakes:  Back in the day, a refrigerator was called an icebox (because it was basically a block of ice placed in an insulated box to keep food cold).  Back in the day, making pudding from scratch and "putting it in the icebox" was a way to extend the shelf life of nutritious milk and eggs.  While the idea for icebox cakes probably came from classic, time-consuming, layered desserts like charlotte and trifle, commercial shortcuts and premade ingredients (like condensed and evaporated milk, wafer cookies and boxed pudding mixes) enabled many creative housewives to put easy-to-make variations of these on the weekday tables of post World War II America.  Recipes for icebox cakes, which required no baking, just refrigeration, could be found on the back of graham cracker and wafer cookie boxes as well as gelatin and pudding mixes.  

It was the era of "back-of-the-box" cooking!

Valentines day hearts picture (1)For those of you who haven't been following along, in honor of Valentine's Day, I've been posting retro desserts from my youth this past week.  I saved my mom's icebox pudding cake for last because it is my favorite.  To get my recipes for ~ Snowstorm Fun:  'Impossible' Coconut Custard Pie ~, ~ Pucker Up for:  Triple-Lemon Lemon Bars/Squares ~, and, ~ Hello Dolly!  The 5-6-7- Layer 'Magic' Cookie Bar ~ just click into Category 26 !

IMG_2742 IMG_3185 IMG_3575

These recipes are more than easy and delicious.  They're a fun way to spend time with your kids while introducing them to simple baking skills!

Part One:  Counting, Cracking & Crushing the Graham Crackers

IMG_3592It's so easy this 5-year old could do it.  I knew that every box of graham crackers contained 3 packets of crackers, and each packet contained 9 whole crackers. I knew that each cracker had perforations that allowed it to be cracked into 2 halves or 4 quarters. 

In order to assemble her cake properly, besides 3 kinds of pudding, mom needed 3 layers of graham crackers.  On each of three plates (one for each layer), it was IMG_3601my job to crack and stack 15 halves and 8 quarters.  On a fourth plate, I was instructed to put the mis-shapen, broken crackers.  

IMG_3595PS:  I knew my alphabet and could write my name too, but that is another story and another recipe!

IMG_3599 IMG_2785Mom used a square-sided 13" x 9" x 2" cake pan, not a round-sided 3-quart casserole.  The assembly process started with a layer of graham crackers that were arranged exactly like this.  After one layer of pudding was poured on, another layer of graham crackers was added and arranged again -- exactly like this.

IMG_3706The irregular and broken pieces got placed in a food storage bag, and, with the aid of a small rolling pin, I got to crush them to crumbs.

IMG_3736They were placed in a shaker type container (one with large holes). These would be the topping for the cake!

Note:  This all amounted to about 1, 14-ounce box of graham crackers + 1 additional packet.

IMG_3788Part Two:  Cooking the Three Puddings

IMG_3612Back in 1939, Jell-O introduced a "cook and serve" chocolate pudding mix that got stirred with milk, simmered and served warm or cold. Shortly afterward, other flavors were developed: vanilla, tapioca, coconut, pistachio, butterscotch, lemon, banana, etc.  Thanks to this time-saving convenience, almost none of us make pudding from scratch for a retro recipe like this.

3  3-ounce  boxes chocolate cook & serve pudding & pie filling, not instant pudding

3  3-ounce  boxes vanilla cook & serve pudding & pie filling, not instant pudding

3  3-ounce boxes butterscotch cook & serve pudding & pie filling, IMG_3619not instant pudding

4  1/2 cups of whole milk for every 3 boxes of pudding cooked (13 1/2 cups total throughout recipe)

Note:  My proportions differ from the back of the box, which calls for 2 cups of milk per box, which would total 6 cups per every 3 boxes.  

My mom reduced the amount of milk to insure the pudding would be thicker and stiffer after it chilled.

IMG_3649 IMG_3620~ Step 1. Place the first 4 1/2 cups of milk in a 4-quart saucepan and sprinkle in the contents from 3 boxes of chocolate pudding.  Bring to a full boil, over medium heat, whisking almost constantly to prevent any scorching.  On my gas stove this takes about 7-9 minutes.

IMG_3664 IMG_3653                                       ~ Step 2. Remove from heat and pour the hot pudding directly over the layer of graham crackers in the pan.  If necessary, use a rubber spatula to evenly distribute the pudding.  Arrange a layer of graham crackers, in the same configuration as the first layer, over the hot chocolate pudding.

IMG_3691 IMG_3686~ Step 3. Wash the saucepan and the whisk.  Cook the vanilla pudding exactly as you did the chocolate pudding, pour it over the graham cracker layer, and, place a layer of graham crackers over the vanilla pudding too.

IMG_3738 IMG_3711~ Step 4. Cook the butterscotch pudding and pour it over last layer of graham crackers.  The pan will be full to the very top. Lastly, sprinkle the top of the cake with an even coating of the graham cracker crumbs.  Allow it to cool down quite  a bit, on the the countertop, about 2 hours:

IMG_3748Step 6.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  Remove from refrigerator, slice (or scoop) and serve each portion topped with a few banana slices, a dollop of whipped cream and a light sprinkle of remaining graham cracker crumbs.  I won't lie, getting the first piece out is a bit tricky (I always make it a small slice), but after that, every portion is pretty as a picture...

IMG_3790... and every bite is a yummy as this one:

IMG_3813Chocolate, Vanilla and Butterscotch 'Icebox' Cake:  Recipe yields 15, 2" square servings and 8, smaller 1" x 2" bar-shaped half-size servings.

Special Equipment List:  food storage bag; small rolling pin; cheese-type shaker container w/large top holes; 13" x 9" x 2" square-sided aluminum cake pan; 1-quart measuring container; 4-quart saucepan; whisk; rubber spatula; plastic wrap

6a0120a8551282970b016763a3ffe9970b-320wiCook's Note:  ~ My Creamy, Orange-Kissed Arborio Rice Pudding ~ is another one of my favorite ways to indulge in the pudding world.  This one is the real-deal, made from scratch from beginning to end and well worth every second it takes!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) 

Comments

Wonderful and sinful is the LEAST of your problems. It is addictive. When this is in my refrigerator -- it is the ONLY thing in my refrigerator. We can't stop eating it!

I just have to get to the store and get the ingredients. It sounds wonderful and sinful!

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