2019: I… A to Z Italian Famiglia Foods and Memories: Icebox Cake
I’m back for “Year 4” of the A to Z… April Challenge!
My first year of this challenge had me racking my brain for a writing topic… especially as I didn’t quite understand the process. But finally I came up with 2016: Southern Foods and Memories. They said write what you know… and being a girl born in the South… well this was what I knew. 2017: Conversations with Mama was a somewhat easy one for me as I’d journaled our conversations for years so I researched some of my favorite topics to write on. 2018: All About Nancy Drew has been my favorite topic so far, and I don’t know if I’ll ever come up with another to equal it. It literally had me researching every day for over six months… researching, reading and perfecting every post. I was totally consumed with Nancy Drew for months… and still am! I didn’t want to “not” participate this year, but I was drawing a blank. Finally, mid February, I came up with writing on my husband’s Italian family foods and memories. I did my Southern foods the first year, so it was time to finally give his family their due! I’m also participating in the yearly 52 Ancestors 52 Stories this year… I am really feeling over-extended this month. April is a tough month for me, as we usually are traveling to my mother’s and my son in Florida… but somehow I’ll manage!
I think I can safely say that before marrying into an Italian family, I had never eaten any of the foods I’m blogging on this month… such an underprivileged child I was! Growing up in the South where we ate fried chicken, okra, black-eyed peas, butter beans, mashed potatoes, creamed style corn and southern biscuits! Oh My…!
The first time my husband mentioned “Icebox Cake”… and explained what it was… I was like, “this is not cake!” Even today, I still find the name to be somewhat funny… but it is what it is! I learned to make this as a newlywed… as it was hubby’s favorite dessert. Today after 48 years of marriage… he makes it. How times change!
Hubby (baby) with the Italian cooks in his family. Great Grandma Julia holding him, with mother Celia and Grandma Minnie behind.
Most of the Italian recipes have stemmed from my mother in law… but she made her icebox cake a little different from the way we now make… although mostly the same. She sometimes added bananas or fruit, which we usually don’t. Hubby mostly only eats this, and he’s not a fan of fruit in his pudding, although I enjoy sliced bananas in it. But if you use bananas… drizzle them first with lemon juice so they don’t brown… and I suggest making a small dish as they don’t keep well… but it never lasts long in our house anyway! She also added vanilla extract to her chocolate homemade pudding and lemon extract to the vanilla pudding. I never liked that difference in tastes, so I keep mine original… adding vanilla extract to the vanilla and chocolate chips to the chocolate.
I was taught to make Icebox Cake with pudding made from scratch… which was always called “Italian Cream”, which isn’t hard to make, and sets up better than the instant or cooked pudding in boxes; he often will use the box cook pudding in a pinch.
Ingredients Needed: Graham crackers, pudding (boxed or homemade) of your choice (we use vanilla and chocolate), bananas (optional), vanilla extract, Choc. Chips
If you’d like to try your hand at making “Italian Cream”… recipe is below. It’s really easy to whip up and always a good way to use up any extra milk you might have on hand.
- 4 large egg yolks
- 4 cups milk
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 heaping tablespoons cornstarch (I use a regular tablespoon to measure)
- 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract – save for “only” at the end, and only in the vanilla)
- chocolate chips (abt 8 ounces) “only” in chocolate pudding. Can add more or less depending on how chocolatey you want it.
This recipe can easily be doubled – single recipe given above:
In large saucepan (5 quart) add egg yolks and milk, whisk to blend well. Add sugar and cornstarch…. turn heat on low and begin whisking all together… slowly add more heat. Once everything is all blended together, I keep heat on medium to slightly higher; stir constantly with wooden spoon. It needs to first come to a medium bubble, then have a medium-low bubble until you feel the mixture becoming thick. When you remove the spoon and the pudding drops off in a clump, it’s ready to take off the heat. Don’t walk away from it, and stir constantly… or you’ll have burnt pudding… just saying!
I remove half of my Italian cream to a bowl, and to that half I add 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. To what is left in the pan, I add chocolate chips… adding enough to make it turn into the chocolatey consistency and taste you want… there’s no set rule. You can also make it all vanilla or all chocolate… we just like it half and half. Whisk it well so there are no clumps.
Cool the creams, leaving a layer of wax paper on top… to help it not develop a film, but if it does, just take the whisk and mix up well. Sometimes you need to use the whisk again anyway to make it nice and smooth.
My recipe is for a large pan, but you can easily make any size pan you want. Usually my husband makes it in a smaller 8 inch square pan… empty nesters now! He’s meticulous in how he lines the dish with the crackers… filling it in all nice and perfect and squared off…. me, I’m not so neat like that. It takes only one batch for small dish.
Hubby forgot to call me after he layered the graham crackers, but here it is with the first layer of chocolate pudding. Graham crackers also cover the bottom.
Lay a layer of graham crackers after first layer of pudding.
A layer of vanilla pudding is added on top of chocolate – a layer of graham crackers is in between.
A final layer of graham crackers covers the vanilla pudding. You can also use crushed graham crackers on top if you don’t want solid crackers.
Besides making an Icebox Cake with the Italian Cream… it makes an awesome chocolate pie, which we call Italian Cream Pie. You can either make your own favorite crust… or cheat like I have, and buy a crust. This is a favorite to make at Christmas for us.
Do you make Icebox Cake… let me know how you prepare yours!
Continue reading more of the A to Z… Cooking Famiglia Italian Foods and Memories
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