By Paul Suplee, MBA, CEC, PC-3
As you may well have gathered, I like my cakes and baked goods in the wintertime.
The holidays are a time of splurging, indulging, being frivolous and otherwise making unsound dietary choices.
Perhaps this is why so many people choose health as a new year’s resolution and may very well be why so many people get their gym memberships then.
“I’m going to get in the best shape of my life. 2023 is going to be my year!”
“No it’s not, Carol, but you go right ahead and get that gym membership that you’ll use for a month, and then … nothing.”
And, this coming from a guy who has done that more than a couple times in his miserable, middle-aged life. I was smarter this year, as I purchased my gym membership a month ago.
Just try to stop me, 2023. Just try. Ah yes, the cleverness of me, as Mr. Pan was known to proclaim.
Already feeling the decline in gym attendance, I am at least pleased that I’m averaging four days a week for now.
Who knows? Maybe this time it will stick. The thing is, I enjoy going to the gym, as long as it’s not in a group setting. That, I finally did figure out for myself.
I am much better off just going solo and working my way through the various workouts. No timer, no one pressuring me to do this exercise or that, and otherwise just going through the well-calculated motions.
And hey, it’s been a month and I haven’t pulled a muscle or damaged a joint yet, so I have that going for me. Is there a piece of wood around here that I can knock on?
I digress and we once again must circle around to baked goods at Christmastime. I’m a sucker for Swedish Heirlooms, Yule logs, Rosettes, Cristoli, you name it. And a good cake certainly has its place at my table.
The kids and I have not made a New York or Chicago trip in a few years, but both cities are well-regaled in their Christmas splendor as part of their effort to spread Christmas joy (and to encourage retail shopping, let’s be honest here) this time of year.
Of course, as much as it saddens me, New York has become a bit of a trash mountain over recent years, even more so than in years past. Hopefully, they find a happy medium in waste removal.
But Chicago… oh, Chicago… with her cleanliness and incredibly unique infrastructure, is a city all in its own, with a subterranean world where most of the trash resides before being relocated to the dump.
Walking around Chicago this time of year is amazing, with the German Christmas Market, plenty of fantastic restaurants to choose from, and, of course, the bakeries. And I have to go on a tangent here, because there is something so special about big cities and small European towns alike, when it comes to bakeries.
There is nothing quite like walking into a bakery at 7 a.m. and rejoicing in the sights and smells. At once, our senses are bombarded with the sweet and savory offerings of the day, our eyes tantalized by these bake goods in the typically brightly lit room.
It is a feeling that I have gotten since I was much younger when I would walk into the Donut Shack in Severna Park. That was always a treat for us after church or on a random Saturday helping Dad do chores. There is just a certain feeling that one gets from such an experience.
I felt this a few years ago at the Magnolia Bakery in Chicago, as my daughter introduced us all to their famous icebox cake. It is a deceivingly simple recipe to make, and quite frankly, it can be one that doesn’t make any sense to you until you try it.
You may want to call this “soggy cookie cake,” but once you make this and let it sit long enough, I think you’ll appreciate the introduction. Oh, and have a cot handy for the sugar crash.
You will need it, and you will need your rest as you get ready to start up at the gym, again.
Chicago Icebox Cake
makes one large cake
3-4 boxes Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers
1 qt. Heavy whipping cream
1/4 c. Granulated sugar
1 tsp. Pure vanilla extract
For whipped cream, combine cream, sugar and vanilla and whip until soft peaks. You do not want stiff peaks here, but just enough so it holds its form and is nice and creamy.
Grab a large round mold for our cake, ensuring that it has a flat bottom.
Smear a small amount of cream on the bottom of the mold.
Line the bottom with wafers, and then cover any gaps with more wafers on top.
Top with a thin layer of the whipped cream.
Repeat the process until the wafers and cream are gone.
Loosely wrap and place in refrigerator for at least overnight. This is where the science happens. In case you hadn’t guessed yet, the moisture from the whipped cream will make the wafers – dare I say it – soggy as they seep up the cream’s liquid, and it becomes one of the most unique cakes you’ll ever have. And yes, this is a bit on the sweet side, but what 20-minute, no-bake cake wouldn’t be?
— Paul Suplee is the owner of boxcar40, boxcar on main,
boxcar crafted events and sportfish catering.