By some miracle, we’ve once again made it through the dreary, seemingly endless stretch of January and February. For me, that’s reason enough to indulge in this creamy, whimsical (and supremely easy) icebox cake that I’ve been dreaming up for a while.
If you’re not familiar with icebox cakes, they’re easy to get to know. Not to be confused with ice cream cakes, they’re made with layers of whipped cream and some variety of sweet cracker that are then refrigerated for several hours. The magic happens during the lengthy chilling time, which allows the snappy wafers to soften into the whipped cream to form layers of delicious, scoopable “cake.” If you google “icebox cake” you’ll find that the variations are endless: pudding, cream cheese, or mascarpone are mixed in with the whipped cream; surprises like strawberries or chopped nuts are tucked into the layers, and every garnish under the sun is called upon to grace the top of the cake. I like to think of icebox cake as a foolproof blank canvas for whatever your heart desires.
For this cake, what my heart desired was Gosomi, my favorite sweet-and-salty Korean cracker. Packaged in bright-yellow boxes that are instantly recognizable in the H Mart snack aisle, the thin, crispy squares are earthy, nutty, and lightly coated in sugar. Their flavor and texture makes them both the stuff dreams are made of and a perfect substitute for the graham crackers or chocolate wafers that usually appear in an icebox cake. Along with the layers of Gosomi that make up its base, this cake gets flavor and texture from sesame oil-spiked whipped cream, toasted shredded coconut, and sesame seeds. After you carefully mold all of the layers into a loaf pan, all that’s left to do is stick the whole thing in the fridge and wait. This is admittedly the hardest part, but try not to skimp on the chilling time, as it takes at least 8 hours or overnight to fully soften and meld all the ingredients.
The grand reveal of an icebox cake never gets old for me, and this one is no exception. What may look like a plain loaf-shaped log when you first invert it onto a large plate becomes a creamy, layered beauty once it’s dressed up with more Gosomi pieces, coconut, and sesame seeds and cut into thick slices to serve (or scooped into bowls for ease). However you slice it, you’ll find that the toasted coconut inside the cake and the freshly crumbled crackers that garnish it provide just the right amount of textural contrast to the cream and softened crackers. It’s all tied together by the subtly savory flavor of sesame.
Though I’ll always be in the mood to dig into a sleeve of Gosomi crackers, this recipe proves that things are only bound to get better in (icebox) cake form — after all, there’s no reason why graham crackers and Oreos should get all the love.
Gosomi Icebox Cake
Makes 1 (9-by-5-inch) cake
2 cups heavy cream, cold
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons (50 grams) powdered sugar
¼-¾ teaspoon toasted sesame oil, depending on how savory you want the cake to taste
60 Gosomi crackers (look for a box containing at least 8 individual packs, or has a weight of more than 150 grams), plus more for topping
½ cup unsweetened coconut, plus more for topping
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds, plus more for topping
Flaky sea salt (optional), for topping
Step 1: Toast the coconut: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spread the coconut evenly on a baking tray. Bake, stopping to shake the pan every two minutes, for 8-10 minutes or until the coconut is evenly browned. Coconut burns very quickly, so be sure to keep an eye on it. Set aside to cool completely before using.
Step 2: Gently line a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, covering the entire surface and leaving at least a 5-inch overhang on both of the short ends.
Step 3: In a large bowl, add the heavy cream, powdered sugar, sesame oil, and a pinch of salt. Using an electric mixer or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the ingredients — starting on a low speed to prevent splattering — until stiff peaks form (but take care not to over-whip).
Step 4: Dollop about ¾ cup of the sesame cream on the bottom of the lined pan, then spread into a smooth layer using a small offset spatula. Evenly sprinkle 2 tablespoons of toasted coconut and ½ teaspoon of sesame seeds over the cream. Layer 15 Gosomi crackers (5 along the long side, 3 along the shorter side) on top, slightly overlapping the crackers if needed. Repeat this layering process (starting with dolloping and gently spreading ¾ cup of whipped cream on top of the crackers) 3 more times for a total of 4 layers. Finish by spreading the rest of the remaining cream on top of the crackers and smooth the surface.
Step 5: Gently press the plastic wrap overhang from both sides on the surface of the cake to cover it. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.
Step 6: When ready to serve, unwrap the plastic from the top and carefully invert the cake onto a large plate or serving tray. Peel off the plastic wrap and top with more crumbled Gosomi crackers, toasted coconut, and sesame seeds. If desired, finish with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt (optional, but highly recommended). Scoop into individual bowls or cut into thick slices with a sharp knife (wiping the knife between slices) and serve immediately.
Joy Cho is a freelance writer, recipe developer, and pastry chef based in New York City.
Dina Ávila is a photographer in Portland, Oregon.
Recipe tested by Deena Prichep