Concerning heavy cream in the Ellis household, when it rains, it pours. Months will go by without the consumption of a single drop, and then all of a sudden, I’ll realize that we’ve gone through nearly a half-gallon in a matter of days. This past week has been particularly cream-laden and while my waistline may disagree, I’ve decided I’m okay with that.
A few days ago, I shared my recipe for Thyme-Infused Potato Gratin – a rich, decadent side dish that is the perfect addition to any Easter spread – and today, I present to you a dessert that will allow you to end the meal on an equally indulgent note. Salads and smoothies can wait, my friends – for now, we feast.
“Smashies” are not something I grew up with. No, I didn’t learn about these highly revered treats until my first Christmas spent with the Ellis family in Ohio. The table was cleared following the evening meal, and everyone’s eyes were aglow with anticipation when the dessert was brought out. Portions were served, and the only thing to be heard was the clank of spoons against dishes as each person descended on their bowl of black and white, savoring every last morsel.
Smashies are delicious to be sure, but what has made them so special for the Ellis family is the long history that accompanies them. They have been around for at least five generations, and they only make an appearance on holidays and the occasional birthday. I’ve spoken before about my admiration of Dan’s late grandmother, and it is from her side of the family that the recipe hails. With each bite, I am reminded of her and the impact she had in my own life, impressing upon me the importance of gratitude, even for life’s smallest pleasures.
Simple and straightforward, the alternating layers of chocolate wafer cookies and luscious whipped cream are capped with a homemade chocolate sauce that satisfies any sweet tooth. The original recipe doesn’t call for it, but it’s springtime and I’m feeling a little sassy, so I decided to add a touch of orange zest to the whipped cream. The citrus brightens it up a bit and contrasts well with the richness of the dessert. And one of the best things about this recipe is that it preps quickly ahead of time, leaving you lots of time to enjoy making memories with your family during the holiday weekend.
- 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, divided
- 2 teaspoons grated orange zest plus more for garnish
- 9 ounce package chocolate wafer cookies
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 cup cold water
- 1 1-ounce square unsweetened baking chocolate
- Using a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer, beat the whipping cream together with the powdered sugar and ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract just until stiff peaks form (when you lift the beater, a peak should appear and the tip should stand straight, not folding over). Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the grated orange zest.
- Next, begin assembling the smashies by spooning a generous tablespoon of the orange-scented whipped cream onto a chocolate wafer cookie. Place another cookie on top of the whipped cream, gently pressing the cookie into the cream (you might even say you are “smashing” the cookie into the cream). Add another tablespoon of whipped cream, followed by another cookie, and smash down again. Continue to layer the cookies and cream until there are four cookies. Put a dollop of cream on top of the last cookie. Cover the smashies and refrigerate overnight (or at least several hours) to soften the wafer cookies.
- For the chocolate sauce, whisk together the granulated sugar, cornstarch, and cold water in a small saucepan until the cornstarch is completely dissolved. Add the chocolate, then heat the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally; reduce the heat and let it simmer for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the sauce is slightly thickened (note that the sauce will still be fairly thin at this point, which is by design; it will thicken slightly more as it cools). Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. Once the chocolate sauce has cooled to room temperature, transfer it to a storage container or serving vessel and allow it to chill in the refrigerator until serving time.
- To serve, pour cold chocolate sauce over each smashie and garnish with additional orange zest if desired.
Tips and Tidbits
- When making whipped cream, I typically like to beat it only until soft peaks form, but in this case I think it is best to make the cream a bit stiffer in order to give the smashies stability. Keep an eye on the cream and stop beating as soon as it has stiff peaks. Overmixed whipped cream starts to turn into butter and can have a grainy texture – not exactly what we are going for here. (Though, if this does happen to you, don’t worry! It will still taste pretty good, and there’s always value in a lesson learned.)
- If orange isn’t your thing or if you would like to experience smashies in their original glory, omit the orange zest from the whipped cream and bump up the vanilla extract to 1 teaspoon. During the holiday season, another fun variation would be to add crushed candy canes to the whipped cream and as a garnish.
- As you’ll soon discover, the chocolate sauce is one of the best components of the dish, but there’s no need to use it just for smashies. It is an excellent substitute for store-bought chocolate syrup and can be used in all the same applications.