Plum Icebox Cake

Icebox cakes let you use your refrigerator as an oven, and in the height of summer, that’s pretty much the best way to bake. For this recipe, we like to make the Tarragon Vanilla Wafers in the cool of the evening, and then have them ready to layer when it’s time to make our cake. In fact, nearly all the elements of this recipe can be made ahead, so it’s an easy one to whip together when you’re expecting guests. Just make sure you give the layers enough time to come together and soften. Plums are a surprisingly under-utilized fruit in most summer dessert recipes. We’re not sure why. Peaches seem to always be the star of the show, but we’re happy to give these juicy stone fruits a little time in the spotlight. The delicate flavor of the tarragon in the wafers, combined with lightly spiced (and easiest ever) honey caramel, toasted pine nuts, and whipped cream, brings this retro concoction firmly into the 21st century.

Plum Icebox Cake
Make 1 (10-inch) cake
  • ⅓ cup (50 grams) pine nuts
  • 2 cups (480 grams) heavy whipping cream
  • 4 tablespoons (48 grams) granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon (13 grams) vanilla extract
  • Tarragon Vanilla Wafers (recipe follows)
  • 9 ripe plums (900 grams), pitted and cut into ¼-inch slices (do not peel)
  • Spiced Honey Caramel (recipe follows)
  1. In a small heavy saucepan, toast pine nuts over low heat until golden and fragrant, 2 to 5 minutes, watching carefully as they can burn quickly. Set aside to let cool.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat cream, 2 tablespoons (24 grams) sugar, and vanilla at medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Spread one-third of whipped cream in bottom of a 10-inch pie dish. Arrange half of Tarragon Vanilla Wafers in a single layer over cream.
  3. In a medium bowl, toss together plum slices and remaining 2 tablespoons (24 grams) sugar. Arrange half of plum slices in an even layer over Tarragon Vanilla Wafers.
  4. Pour half of Spiced Honey Caramel over plums. Top with about half of toasted pine nuts. Cover with another thick layer of whipped cream. Layer with remaining Tarragon Vanilla Wafers, plums, Spiced Honey Caramel, and all but 1 tablespoon pine nuts. Finish with a dollop of remaining whipped cream in the center, leaving outer edges of layers underneath exposed. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon pine nuts. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight to allow wafers underneath to soften.

Tarragon Vanilla Wafers
Makes 60 to 65
  • ½ cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup (110 grams) firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg (50 grams)
  • 2 tablespoons (26 grams) vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) whole milk
  • 1¼ cups (156 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons (4 grams) finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves
  • ¾ teaspoon (3.75 grams) baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon (2.25 grams) kosher salt
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and brown sugar at medium-high speed until creamy, about 2 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl. Add egg, and beat for 1 minute. Add vanilla and milk; beat until combined, about a minute, stopping to scrape sides of bowl.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, tarragon, baking powder, and salt. Reduce mixer speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating just until combined. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 5 days.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line half-sheet trays with parchment paper.
  4. Using a teaspoon-size scoop, scoop dough into balls, and place on prepared pans. Using the heel of your hand, gently press down on dough to flatten.
  5. Bake until golden brown around the edges, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking. Let cool completely on pans.

Spiced Honey Caramel
Makes about 1½ cups
  • 1½ cups (360 grams) heavy whipping cream, divided
  • ½ cup (170 grams) mild honey (like clover or orange blossom)
  • 2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  1. In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup (240 grams) cream, honey, and butter to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened and honey colored, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat; whisk in salt, ginger, cinnamon, and remaining ½ cup (120 grams) cream. Let cool to room temperature before using.


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