Pastry chef Paola Velez prepares this stunning dessert in this week's episode of Pastries with Paola.
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Chef Paola Velez
Credit: Courtesy of Farrah Skeiky

On this week's episode of Pastries with Paola discover the Maria Cookie Icebox Cake, featuring Maria cookies (usually found under the name galletas maría), which Paola grew up eating as an after-school snack in the Bronx. "What you think of graham crackers in the U.S., Maria cookies are to Latin America," she says. The round, thin cookies are layered together with a spiced whipped cream to form a delicious chilled cake, with added texture from layers of Maria cookie crumble, too. And after the cake has chilled? Dulce de leche and fresh strawberries are the crowning glory.

"I'm layering this with Latinx flavors like dulce de leche, nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon,"she says. "And of course, my all-time favorite, Maria cookies."

Read on for Paola's step-by-step method and follow along with the video below. For the detailed list of ingredients, click here.

Make the Whipped Cream

Whipped cream is often made with a hand mixer or stand mixer (or a whisk, if you've got a strong arm). However, as Paola demonstrates, you can also get the same results with an immersion blender. Simply add the heavy cream, vanilla extract or paste, powdered sugar, salt, and spices (don't forget these!) to a large bowl and get the blender going, making sure to keep it in motion and under the surface of the cream. In the end, you'll get perfect medium-soft peaks.

"You're never gonna make whipped cream another way, because this is just *chef's kiss,*" she says.

Build the Cake

After blitzing up some of the Maria cookies into a crumble using a food processor, it's time to layer the icebox cake. Get your springform pan ready with some cooking spray and line the bottom and sides with plastic wrap, ensuring all sides of the pan are covered. Then, layer the bottom with whole Maria cookies so that it's covered—Paola prefers to lay the textured side of the cookie down, so that when you invert the cake, the design is visible. 

Next, sprinkle some of the Maria cookie crumble on top, ensuring the gaps are filled. This is where the whipped cream comes in—using a piping bag with a large tip, pipe a layer of the whipped cream on top of the cookie-crumble mixture and use an offset spatula to smooth it out into an even layer. Repeat the process five more times, making a cookie and cookie-crumble layer the final one.

Chef Paola Velez Maria cookie icebox cake
Credit: Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Emily Nabors Hall / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

Let It Chill

Once the cake is assembled, you'll want to get it in the fridge so the cookies will soften and the cake will set. This is the "icebox" part of the icebox cake. Make sure you refrigerate it at least six hours, or overnight.

Serve

Once the cake has been allowed to chill and soak, it's ready to eat. Paola pairs it with some homemade whipped cream (made with an immersion blender, of course!) and fresh blueberries as the finishing touch.

"This tastes spectacular," she says. "It is light and tangy, and then you have some crunch from the cornmeal. The whipped cream is just perfectly sweet on top."

Come back next Wednesday for the next episode of Pastries with Paola featuring guava and cheese bread pudding!