Why does it always seem to happen that the most cherished and memory-filled recipes of our youth also happen to be the worst for us? Need an example? My grandmother’s strawberry icebox pie.
You probably know what I’m talking about, because I’m fairly certain everyone’s grandmother made this treat. It was one of those desserts that showed up at every family function, every party and backyard barbecue; impossibly pink with a crumbly graham cracker crust, too heavy for the flimsy aluminum pie plate it came in, but oh so good nonetheless. To this day I have no idea of what went into it, but I can guarantee the ingredients weren’t wholesome, providing nourishment to nothing but the soul. An internet search of similar terms and guessed ingredients brings up cookie-filled crusts and fillings made with non-dairy, non-food whip, which means that until recently that particular pie was firmly planted in memory, never to be recreated.
But I’ve had strawberries on the mind lately. They’re in season here in Pennsylvania and I recently paid a visit to a local orchard to pick some myself, an activity that also conjures deeply rooted memories of walking through fields of the bright red berries with my mother and her friends, choosing only the plumpest and ripest to eventually be baked into strawberry rhubarb pies (if we had any left after the car ride home, of course). As I dropped berry after berry into my container, I got to thinking about that pie of my grandmother’s, and how, while it’s wonderful that healthy, whole food cuisine has made it to the forefront of our culture, how many favorite family recipes are likely being left in the dust, written off as unhealthy, outdated, and out-of-bounds? Inspired by the box filled with summer’s first strawberries that now sits on my kitchen counter and a craving for something sweet and cold, I set out to create a much more natural version of that 1950s-style icebox pie. It’s the perfect thing to bring along to a backyard barbecue or picnic, and it might just warrant a few good memories of its own. Try the recipe below and let me know what you think!
Raw Vegan Strawberry Coconut Icebox Cake
Looks complicated, but it’s not…
- For the “graham cracker” crust:
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup pecans
5 whole, pitted medjool dates
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of ginger
pinch of salt
- For the filling:
2 cups raw cashews, soaked overnight
1 cup strawberries, chopped and divided into two 1/2 cup portions
Juice from 2 limes
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup liquid sweetener (I used brown rice syrup, which has a taste close to honey, but you could also use honey, coconut nectar, or maple syrup)
2 tbsp coconut milk (full fat, from the can)
9″ springform pan or pie plate
High speed blender or food processor
Tip: To keep this recipe wallet-friendly, purchase nuts, spices, and dried coconut in exact quantities from the bulk bins at your natural foods store and only use what you need.
First, line your springform pan with parchment paper, this will make the finished cake much easier to remove and serve. If you don’t have a springform pan you can use a pie plate. To line, trace the bottom of the pan on the parchment and cut out, placing the circle of parchment in the bottom of the pan. Next, cut two strips of parchment and line the sides, You can use a bit of tape on the edges to keep the paper in place. If using a pie plate, only line the bottom.
To make the crust, add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse until well incorporated and finely ground. The final product should stick together easily; if it’s too dry, add another date and pulse. The more you grind, the finer the crust will be.
Spoon the crust mixture into the springform pan, and firmly press into place with your fingers. To keep the mixture from sticking to your hands, dampen your fingers with a little water every so often. Stick the pan in the freezer while you prepare the filling.
In a small bowl, mix together the melted coconut oil and the liquid sweetener. Add the oil/sweetener mix, plus 1/2 cup of the strawberries and all the remaining filling ingredients to the food processor. Turn the processor on high and allow to mix until very finely ground, scraping down the edges every so often – about five minutes. Once this mixture is as smooth as you can get it, add the remaining 1/2 cup of chopped strawberries and pulse a couple of times to mix in.
Remove the crust from the freezer and spread the filling evenly over it, using an offset spatula or spoon to smooth out the top. Sprinkle a light layer of the unsweetened dried coconut over top. Place in the freezer until completely solid, about two to three hours.
Remove when frozen solid. Unclasp the edges of the springform pan and remove the parchment. Transfer to a cake plate if desired. Garnish with strawberry slices. Place back in the freezer and remove five minutes before serving. This is a frozen dessert, so it’s best not to allow this to sit in the heat for too long. Enjoy!
+ Do you have a favorite family recipe? Please share!
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