I’ve been watching a lot of the Great British Baking Show over the past week. I blew threw a whole season in one week, but I love it and honestly it inspires me to bake. I love that they focus on bakes that are traditionally British. This inspired me to make recipes inspired by where I’m from in the American Midwest.
The Midwest is a peaceful place where people are kind, they put their heads down and work without complaining, and have their own rich and celebrated family history. It’s a place where so many immigrants have come together to create a unique, distinctive culture different from anywhere else in the USA. We have kielbasa for Christmas, knodel and sauerkraut for New Year’s, corned beef in March, and fatayer, hummus, shawarma, and fatoosh every other day of the year. It’s the true heart of America — the place of innovation and where so many people work to provide resources for the rest of the America. And we have a lot of corn.
We’ve been called boring, or “the fly over states,” but it’s not boring at all! If anything, I find it has such a rich history, which was why I was pretty bummed I couldn’t find many cookbooks out there documenting recipes from this region. So, I decided I’d document my own. If the Midwest is vanilla, then give me all of it ‘cause that’s my favorite flavor.
This icebox cake is inspired by what I would’ve eaten when I was little. Icebox cakes aren’t specifically a Midwestern delicacy, but I did enjoy my fair share of them when I was a youngster — lots of dirt cake with gummy worms and Oreos, my favorite! They’re cool and creamy and elicit that summer feeling, and I can see why American mamas love making them.
Charlottes and trifles were big in 1950s America, but to make it simple, women began layering wafer cookies with whipped cream rather than custard, which had to be baked. Layer some whipped cream and cookies, pop it in the icebox (aka refrigerator), and you’ve got yourself a cake. Because of their ease, icebox cakes took off, and allowed women to spend more time out of the kitchen. They’re meant to be made ahead of time, so that the cool whipped cream will run into the cookies, making them soft like a cake.
I was inspired by the 1950s, but also by my childhood in the Midwest. This cake is all about nostalgia. What is more nostalgic than Dunkaroos and Funfetti and Animal Cookies? Yes, remember Dunkaroos?! The whipped cream is spiked with Funfetti cake batter, layered with animal cookies that turn soft into a cake within a few hours, and topped with chocolate ganache and sprinkles. It reminds me of my days in Girl Scouts, baking cakes and covered in Funfetti frosting. I’m in love!