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Whip up a summer cake that takes no baking

Recipe: Peaches and cookies chill in a cool treat

Cool and creamy, this peach icebox cake features ginger snaps as the "cake" base. But other cookies can be used -- other fruit, too.

Cool and creamy, this peach icebox cake features ginger snaps as the "cake" base. But other cookies can be used -- other fruit, too. Kathy Morrison

Today we're going to channel the Sacramentans who had to live through the heat of summer before air conditioning or modern refrigerators were invented. They didn't want to turn on their ovens, either. 

icebox-cake-ingredients.jpg
Peaches and ginger snaps complement each other.

One of their solutions to dessert was the icebox cake, named for the literal icebox that kept the most perishable foods cool, at least as long as the ice lasted. According to the Smithsonian, "By the end of the 1800s, many American households stored their perishable food in an insulated 'icebox' that was usually made of wood and lined with tin or zinc." Electric refrigerators started replacing iceboxes in the 1930s.

But an icebox cake sounded so refreshing on this stifling weekend. Cream, cookies and fruit when chilled together make an easy and cool summer dessert.

Freestone peaches finally are plentiful, so that was my choice for fruit, but any juicy fruit such as cherries, strawberries, plums, pluots or nectarines (or a combination) would work in an icebox cake.

Actually, icebox cakes can be made with just the cookies and whipped cream -- anything else is up to the maker. I chose ginger snaps for the cookies, but any flat cookie or wafer works. (Nabisco has discontinued making their famous chocolate wafers, but you might be able find a substitute, if you want to use chocolate with cherries, for example.)

So stack up the ingredients, chill, unmold -- and enjoy! No need to add to our already plentiful heat.

Peachy icebox cake

Serves 8

Ingredients:

loaf-pan-cookies.jpg
Set cookies into the whipped cream.

2 cups heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

6 to 8 ounces of flat cookies: ginger snaps, Biscoff cookies, shortbread or similar wafers

2 large peaches, preferably freestone, plus 1 more for garnish, peeled if too fuzzy

Instructions:

Prepare a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan by lining it with plastic wrap, crossing two pieces of wrap that extend a few inches over each side.

Whip the cream with the confectioner’s sugar until the cream forms firm peaks. (Not too whipped, though -- you'll get something like butter!) Pit two of the peaches and cut into slices about ½-inch thick (or less, depending on the size – keep the slices all about the same thickness).

Carefully spread about one-fourth of the whipped cream across the bottom of the loaf pan. Place a single layer of ginger snaps into the cream without overlapping the cookies. (That took 8 of the cookies I was using.) Note: Broken cookies are just fine to use, especially when filling in holes. No one will see that they’re broken when the cake is served.

Spread a thin layer of the whipped cream over the cookies. Layer half the peach slices over the cream.

Repeat with cream, cookies, cream, peaches and the last of cream. Press one final layer of cookies into that cream, and loosely cover the top with more plastic wrap or a piece of foil.

Refrigerate several hours — overnight is best.

When ready to serve, uncover the loaf pan and invert a serving plate on top. To unmold, flip the pan onto the serving plate and carefully peel the plastic wrap off the icebox cake.

icebox-cake-closeup.jpg
The cookies are pleasantly soft after chilling.

Garnish cake with peach slices and cookie crumbs, then slice and serve.

Note: If desired, skip the plastic wrap lining in the pan. Then rather than unmolding, scoop out the cake into bowls for serving.

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Garden Checklist for week of April 14

It's still not warm enough to transplant tomatoes directly in the ground, but we’re getting there.

* April is the last chance to plant citrus trees such as dwarf orange, lemon and kumquat. These trees also look good in landscaping and provide fresh fruit in winter.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden needs nutrients. Fertilize shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash.

* Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias.

* Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom.

* Mid to late April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce seedlings. Choose varieties that mature quickly such as loose leaf.

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