Summer no-bake cakes

Keep the oven off and still enjoy a sweet treat in the sweltering heat.

One bowl chocolate cake (photo credit: Courtesy)
One bowl chocolate cake
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Although there is so much luscious fruit in season now, many of us want to eat our cake.
For summer, a no-bake cake is perfect. This kind of dessert is composed of slices of cake layered with a sweet, creamy mixture. Whether you call it an icebox cake, a mousse cake, a trifle or a charlotte, it’s delicious and can be very easy to make.
To prepare one, you can use homemade or store-bought cake, ladyfingers or crumbled cookies. The creamy layers can be made of cooked custard, Bavarian cream or mousse, or can be as simple as instant pudding enriched with whipped cream. For extra flavor and a contrasting texture, you can add fruit between the layers or as a topping.
A classic example is the English trifle, for which slices of cake are placed in a glass bowl, moistened with sherry or liqueur and layered with vanilla custard and fresh or poached fruit.
Just about any sweet, tender fruit will do. Since we like cherries with chocolate, we paired the fruit with chocolate custard to make a black forest trifle. (See recipe below.) When you want to prepare a trifle quickly, you can use packaged pudding, as Paula Hamilton does in The 5 in 10 Cookbook: 5 Ingredients in 10 Minutes or Less. She makes a speedy trifle by lining a bowl with slices of prepared pound cake and topping the cake with preserved lingonberries, then with instant vanilla pudding, followed by another layer of cake and more of the berries. Before serving, she spreads whipped cream over the dessert. You can use this formula to make a trifle with any kind of preserved, frozen or ripe tender fresh fruit.
To make another kind of no-bake cake in 10 minutes, you can follow the technique used by Michele Urvater, author of the Monday-to-Friday Cookbook. For her berry shortcake, she crumbles shortbread or butter cookies into bowls, tops them with pureed frozen raspberries and fresh berries, and coats them with vanilla-flavored whipped cream. After an hour in the refrigerator, the cake is ready. The frozen berries moisten the cookies and give the dessert a cakelike feeling. You could substitute peaches or bananas for the fresh berries.
For another practically instant no-bake cake in this genre, Urvater layers plain chocolate wafers or other chocolate cookies with whipped cream. The longer the dessert stands in the refrigerator, the softer the cookies become, making their texture resemble that of cake.
Lemon cloud pie is a quick and easy no-bake treat that takes only five minutes, wrote Hamilton. To make it, she combines lemon curd from a jar with whipped cream and spoons the mixture into a prepared graham cracker pie crust. You can top the dessert with strawberry halves or any seasonal fruit.
Making no-bake cakes has long been a tradition in American kitchens. Maida Heatter, an expert on American baking, devotes an entire chapter to icebox cakes in Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts.
Her lemon chiffon icebox cake is made in a loaf pan lined with ladyfingers, filled with lemon custard that’s set with gelatin, and finished with whipped cream and beaten egg whites. After being chilled, the cake is frosted with vanilla whipped cream. To make a country-style chocolate icebox cake, she puts ladyfingers in a bowl, tops them with chocolate Bavarian cream lightened with whipped egg whites, and sprinkles them with walnuts; the dessert is served with soft whipped cream.
There’s another kind of dessert that’s “great for those hot, sticky summer days when you wouldn’t dream of turning on the oven... a light, cool, creamy cheesecake,” wrote Dana Bovbjerg and Jeremy Iggers in The Joy of Cheesecake. Their cheesecake mixtures are basically mousses enriched with cheese.
Classic no-bake cheesecake has a base of gelatin-thickened custard, flavored with vanilla and lemon rind and juice; the custard is mixed with sieved cottage cheese, beaten egg whites and whipped cream, and poured into a cookie-crumb crust. Banana cheesecake has banana slices mixed into the cheese mixture; the enticing ginger no-bake cheesecake is flavored with candied ginger.
If you want a parve dessert, you can make dairy-free tiramisu. In spite of its gourmet reputation, according to The Bais Yaakov Cookbook (edited by Batsheva Weinstein), this dessert is actually easy to make and requires no cooking. Instead of mascarpone, the ultra-creamy Italian cheese used in traditional tiramisu, the Bais Yaakov recipe calls for nondairy cream cheese, which is beaten with confectioners’ sugar, soy milk and vanilla. Part of this mousse is flavored with cocoa. After being enriched with whipped parve cream, the white and chocolate mousses are layered with ladyfingers that were dipped in a mixture of coffee liqueur and coffee. Sifted cocoa powder garnishes this no-bake cake, which makes a cool, satisfying summertime finale for a Shabbat dinner.
Faye Levy is the author of the award-winning book Chocolate Sensations.
Fruity Chocolate Trifle
Use fresh or frozen cherries to make a black forest trifle; or make a trifle using bananas, poached pears, strawberries, raspberries or any fruit that you like with chocolate. Use a wide-bottomed glass bowl or a glass soufflé dish so the attractive layers are visible.
Makes 8 servings
❖ 225 gr. (8 ounces) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped ❖ 1 cup milk ❖ 1 Tbsp. cornstarch ❖ 1½ cups whipping cream ❖ 2 large eggs ❖ 2 large egg yolks ❖ 3 Tbsp. sugar ❖ About 100 gr. (3½ ounces) ladyfingers (about 7.5 cm or 3 inches long) ❖ ¼ cup kirsch ❖ ½ cup cherry or other preserves ❖ 2 cups fresh or frozen dark, sweet cherries, (225 gr. or 8 ounces), halved and pitted, or other small or diced tender, ripe fruit, plus a few more pieces for garnish ❖ Kirsch Whipped Cream (see recipe below) ❖ Grated semisweet chocolate (garnish)
Melt chocolate in ½ cup milk in a medium bowl over nearly simmering water. Stir until smooth. Remove from water; let cool.
To make custard, mix cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of milk in a small cup until dissolved. Heat cream with remaining milk in a heavy medium saucepan until bubbles form around edge of pan. Whisk eggs and yolks in a medium bowl. Add sugar; whisk until blended. Whisk in dissolved cornstarch. Gradually whisk in hot cream mixture. Return mixture to saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, about 5 minutes or until mixture thickens slightly and reaches 70ºC (160ºF) on an instant-read or candy thermometer. Do not boil. Remove from heat. Stir 1 minute. Let cool, stirring occasionally. Whisk in chocolate mixture. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours.
If you have packaged ladyfingers that are split in half horizontally and joined in a row, there is no need to separate them into individual ones. Put enough ladyfinger halves in a 6-cup glass bowl or deep baking dish to make 1 layer.
Brush 2 tablespoons kirsch evenly over them. Stir custard; pour 1¾ cups custard over ladyfingers in bowl. Cover and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours to firm custard slightly.
Heat preserves until melted in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally and mashing pieces of fruit that are in the preserves. Arrange remaining ladyfinger halves in 1 layer on custard in bowl. Brush with remaining kirsch.
Spoon preserves evenly over them. Scatter fresh fruit on top.
Carefully spoon remaining custard over fruit. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or up to 2 days.
Shortly before serving, carefully spoon Kirsch Whipped Cream on top of dessert; spread in an even layer. Grate chocolate onto center of dessert. Garnish edge of dessert with fruit.
Kirsch Whipped Cream
Kirsch, the clear European cherry brandy, is a popular match not only for cherries, but also for peaches, pears and other fruit. For making trifle, which is usually a spirited dessert, a relatively high proportion of the brandy is used to flavor the cream. You can use other fruit brandies the same way.
Makes about 2 cups
❖ 1 cup whipping cream, well-chilled ❖ 1 Tbsp. sugar ❖ 2 Tbsp. kirsch
Prepare cream a short time before using. In a large, chilled bowl, whip cream with sugar until stiff. Add kirsch; beat at low speed until just blended. Refrigerate until ready to use.