Amaretti: Seven-Layer Cake for One

schneider apr1 cakeforone.jpg

Photo by Ellen Silverman

Late in the evening, I often find myself wandering into the kitchen like some sort of hungry bear, or raccoon, or snuffling truffle pig, looking for something sweet to eat: not fruit, something more powerfully dessert-like.

That's when I devise odd, curiously delicious and satisfying concoctions that are the products of serious constraints: a pantry and fridge with a hodgepodge of offerings due to my aversion to buying a bona fide dessert, coupled with my refusal to bake or spend much time cooking, or get dressed and go out to buy ice cream.

I ate one crème fraiche-smeared amaretti to tide me over while I waited for the other six to meld into an alternately chewy, crunchy, creamy confection.

The occasional sweets I do keep in the house, like amaretti cookies, are invariably too austere and chaste to be truly satisfying--my attempt at not keeping anything really fattening around.

Amaretti are perfectly honorable Italian cookies make from egg whites, sugar, and bitter almonds, but my wild hunger one night craved extremes of cream puff and gateau.

schneider apr1 cakeforone small.jpg

Photo by alice q. foodie/Flickr CC

I suppose what possessed me to stack amaretti with crème fraiche into a miniature leaning tower was a faint, sudden memory of the classic ice box cake of my childhood: thin, store-bought chocolate wafers layered with whipped cream, left to soften for a couple of hours into a cake.

I ate one crème fraiche-smeared amaretti to tide me over while I waited for the other six to meld into an alternately chewy, crunchy, creamy confection that quelled my hunger perfectly: my personal seven-layer cake for one.

Here's Nabisco's original recipe for a chocolate ice box, which is a true classic for a reason; it's a really great dessert.

Recipe: Seven-Layer Ameretti Cake for One

This amaretti cake is really just a variation on a theme of icebox cakes. You can improvise endlessly with other not-too-dense cookies and crème fraiche, or whipped cream (These little cakes would actually be just great for a dinner party; just scale up the ingredients for the number of guests).

Makes one very narrow, very rich cake that serves one.

    • About 2 1/2 tablespoons crème fraiche
    • 7 amaretti cookies
    • Cocoa powder (optional)

Put a ¼ teaspoon dab of crème fraiche on a little plate, and place amaretti cookie on top. Spread about a teaspoon of crème fraiche on the domed top of a cookie and place on the dab of crème. Spread another teaspoon of crème fraiche on the domed top of a second cookie and balance on top of the first. Repeat with the remaining cookies and crème fraiche, eating one or two if you like.

Place in the fridge and let meld for as long as you can stand, preferably at least an hour. If you want to get fancy, strain cocoa powder over the top.

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Sally Schneider writes The Improvised Life, a lifestyle blog about improvising as a daily practice. Her cookbook The Improvisational Cook is now out in paperback. More

Sally Schneider is the founder of The Improvised Life, a lifestyle blog that inspires you to devise, invent, create, make it up as you go along, from design and cooking to cultivating the creative spirit. It's been called a "zeitgeist-perfect website." She is a regular contributor to public radio's The Splendid Table and the author of the best-selling cookbooks The Improvisational Cook and A New Way to Cook, which was recently named one of the best books of the decade by The Guardian. She has won numerous awards, including four James Beard awards, for her books and magazine writing.

Sally has worked as a journalist, editor, stylist, lecturer, restaurant chef, teacher, and small-space consultant, and once wrangled 600 live snails for the photographer Irving Penn. Her varied work has been the laboratory for the themes she writes and lectures about: improvising as an essential operating principle; cultivating resourcefulness and your inner artist; design, style, and food; and anything that is cost-effective, resourceful, and outside the box.

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