Liz has a strange affliction: a voracious appetite for lemons coupled with the complete inability to taste them anymore. I watched her pour equal parts water and lemon juice into a tall glass on Sunday and chug it. “It’s just water,” she shrugged. When we made lemon raspberry buttercream for our macarons last month, we dumped in a whole cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice, then wondered why our butter was separating. “Still not tart enough” she concluded. There was also that unfortunate time we made lemon brownies 😐
Now I have the affliction too. For me, it all started with Smitten Kitchen’s whole lemon tart, which, true to its name, has a whole lemon in it, peel and all. I never even liked lemon squares before, but I’d only ever had store-bought. Not enough lemon zest, obvs! These days, when Liz and I bake on Sundays, there is always a lemon (or four) involved. “I eat them like apples now and nothing,” Liz exaggerates. Or maybe not.
This icebox cake is the latest thing we flavored with lemons. I’m so excited.
We used Joanne Chang’s holiday sugar cookie recipe from her Flour cookbook. Instead of rolling the batter out and using cookie cutters, we used a cookie scoop. The cookies are extra thick and chewy in the center, brown and crispy around the edges. We threw in a tablespoon of lightly packed lemon zest for good measure. It’s practically an involuntary reflex at this point.
We also attempted to make ice cream, because originally, the idea was to make lemon ice cream sammies. Sadly, with only heavy cream and no milk, a Kitchenaid ice cream bowl that was only frozen 3 hours instead of the requisite 15, and a freezer that I discovered to be not particularly cold, we came up with lemon flavored custard instead. But damn, was it a great custard. So rich.
We lined a cake pan with plastic wrap, piled in the cookies, and dumped in the custard. Our friend Mike loved it. Laura wouldn’t eat it, citing our use of ALL heavy cream. Nathan ate a sugar cookie and said it was quite lemony. I reported back to Liz and she texted back, “Yeah I gave them to people at work and just said they were sugar cookies because in my mind they are so mild. Then Kate asked, “Is there a lot of lemon in here?”
“Yes! Omg it would offend everyone,” Liz texted back with glee.
As is, our icebox cake can only be eaten in one centimeter thick slices. It’s that rich. The flavors though, in our humble opinion, are on point. Below is the lemon ice cream recipe I tried to make, the only difference being I used heavy cream instead of half-and-half. Turns out that’s a pretty big difference. When I went ingredients shopping without checking the recipe, I mistakenly interpreted “ice cream” literally. OR, you could use one of my favorite Greek froyo flavors, Ben & Jerry’s Liz Lemon, a coincidentally fitting name for this post.
Lemon Sugar Cookies adapted from Joanne Chang's Holiday Sugar Cookies recipe in Flour
- Make the ice cream first and store in the freezer while you make the cookies.
- Cream together the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy (5 minutes in a stand mixer on medium speed or 10 minutes using a handheld mixer or by hand), scraping down the sides a few times.
- Beat in the egg, vanilla, and lemon zest on medium speed (2-3 minutes). Scrape down the sides to make sure the egg is fully incorporated.
- Stir flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl until well mixed. On low speed, or by hand, slowly blend the flour mixture into the butter-sugar mixture just until the dough is evenly mixed.
- Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and scoop out the cookie dough with a cookie scoop, placing the cookie dough balls at least two inches apart on the baking sheet (they will spread).
- Bake for 17 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, if your ice cream is completely frozen, take it out of the freezer to soften for about 15 minutes or until it's a spreadable consistency.
- Line a 6 inch cake pan with a double layer of plastic wrap. Place one layer of cookies (about 3 cookies) in the bottom of the pan, flat side down. Spread a layer of ice cream over the cookies, pressing the ice cream down to fill the space between the cookies.
- Repeat until you run out of cookies or ice cream. We did two ice cream layers and three cookie layers, but I think two layers of each would be better.
- Return to the freezer for at least one hour.
- If completely frozen, use a heavy duty knife to cut the cake immediately after removing it from the freezer, place each slice on a plate, then let stand for 5 minutes before serving.