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  • Susan Welsh

Ritz and Roll

When I was a kid we called it icebox cake, but it's also referred to as Zebra Cake or, officially, Nabisco Chocolate Refrigerator Roll. It was a dessert staple in our household and one of my father's favorites. Without fail we made it twice a year for him--on his birthday and on Father's Day. It was (and still is) addictive and I would devour slice after slice, later suffering the intestinal consequences of my then-- undiagnosed lactose intolerance. Given all the rich and delicious desserts my mom made with heavy cream, it's amazing I survived my childhood at all. Because of my genetic predisposition (inherited from my father's side) for worrying, the pediatrician diagnosed me with "nervous stomach".

When June and July roll around (Father's Day and my Dad's birthday respectively), I find myself craving another slice of nostalgia. I spend the other ten months of the year keeping an eye on where Giant has shelved (hidden) the wafers. Product placement there seems to be an never-ending Scavenger Hunt which has become an interesting game to me now that I'm retired and have the spare hours to invest in geo-grocery location. Where did they hide the Applegate Organic Bacon this week?

Generally our diet was healthy. My mother insisted on fresh fruits and vegetables from farmsteads and local orchards when they were available; She and my grandmother froze, canned and preserved seasonal fruits and veggies for consumption in the cold and barren winter months. Even so, my mother was a product of her generation and many of the back- of- the- box recipes were her dessert specialities. Even as my adult tastes evolved, I never lost my love for these decadent and decidedly less-than-gourmet indulgences.


My own birth story, in fact, goes something like this. . . My mother had just made Ritz Mock Apple Pie. Shortly afterwards, she went into labor. Given my appetite for every iteration of pie, it makes complete sense that I decided to enter the world as soon as a pie had been pulled from the oven.


Fast forward a few decades. My mother requests that I make an icebox cake recipe by Ina Garten for my Dad's birthday. I was and am a HUGE fan of all things Ina, yet somehow this delectable version had escaped my notice. It was a Google search that changed my icebox cake life forever. Ina's Mocha Chocolate Icebox Cake is an elegant and sophisticated version of the original. My homage to the original, and because I really love the flavor, was to keep the Nabisco Chocolate Wafers instead of subbing in the Tate's cookies. I don't think you can go wrong either way.

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