Consider Oreo Torte, the dessert that came in from the cold

Illustration for article titled Consider Oreo Torte, the dessert that came in from the cold
Graphic: Libby McGuire, Allison Corr

Welcome to Turn Off The Oven Week, featuring creative ways to beat the heat and stay far away from your stovetop.

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Whenever there’s a potluck invite on the horizon that you’re super excited about because you haven’t seen your family in forever, and you’re eager to abide by the social contract and bring a dish to pass around, but you’re loathe to commit to the hassle of recipe-hunting, grocery shopping, and sweaty mess-making, so you consider for a moment purchasing some pre-made bakery item, but dismiss the idea as soon as you realize this path only leads to tight smiles that seem to say, “If I knew you were bringing that, I just would have invited Kroger,” Oreo Torte is exactly the recipe you need.

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Yeah, you could just buy a couple bottles of wine. Or you could make this fabulous torte. It’s the IKEA console of the dessert world, a ready-to-assemble showpiece fashioned from store-bought products like Oreos, Cool Whip, and chocolate pudding. The result is a luscious chilled dessert that soars above its individual parts and tastes like fluffy, cold, creamy, crunchy sugar.

Part of a balanced breakfast
Part of a balanced breakfast
Photo: Zach Brooke

Despite the name, it does not resemble any cake or baked good in any way. “Icebox cake” is the fancy, old-timey term to dress up what is essentially a “dessert casserole”: a bunch of self-contained sweets layered in a 9-by-13 baking dish. It’s a heat-and-eat hotdish without the heat or the hot.

This recipe is the type of tactical midcentury party tool made from ingredients concocted by stone-faced, bespectacled chemists who had been working on military supplies a decade earlier, mixed up in test kitchens by an army of trend-hungry cooks and magazine editors, and sold to chain-smoking housewives by the lard-slick city ducks of Madison Avenue. A glance at the ingredients tells you two things. One: Oreo Torte is a product of an era when “indulgence” was called “abundance” and considered a goddamn virtue. Two: this was a time when food items collaborated like recording artists. Sure, you couldn’t get the premade Doritos tacos and Sour Patch cookies that exist nowadays, but helpful packaging clued customers in on how to turn standalone products into an off-market bacchanalia.

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Illustration for article titled Consider Oreo Torte, the dessert that came in from the cold
Photo: Zach Brooke
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Oreo Torte

  • 1 family-sized package (1 lb. 3 oz.) of Oreos (regular or Double Stuf work equally well)
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 16 to 24 oz. Cool Whip
  • roughly 22 oz. chocolate pudding
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • ½ cup (8 Tbsp.) of butter

It’s important to note that none of these brands are essential. Feel free to swap whichever regional generic version has been embraced by your community. If you want to rebel against Turn Off The Oven Week and make some Jell-O pudding on your stovetop, have at it. (One caveat: do not use low-fat Cool Whip in place of the original version if you want to plate the final product as intact rectangles).

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Make the crust

Smash the Oreos to bits by any means necessary. The cookies need not be reduced to tiny crumbs, although you can do that if you want. A food processor works great: all the cream filling vanishes, leaving fine, moist cookie crumbs. But a hammer is just as good, even if can’t perform the same trick. I like to dump the cookies in a large mixing bowl and go all caveman with a stone pestle.

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The aim is to cover the bottom of a 9-by-13 baking pan with crushed cookies and not leave any gaps. Reserve roughly ½ cup of crushed cookies for topping.

Make the filling

Melt butter in the microwave (25 seconds should be fine). Drizzle all over the cookie crust and pat down.

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Mix together cream cheese and powdered sugar. Blend in 12 oz. of Cool Whip. Spread the mixture on top of the cookie crust, then refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Complete the torte

Remove pan from the fridge. Spread pudding over the cream cheese layer. Top with remaining Cool Whip.If the Cool Whip is too frozen to spread cleanly, simply ignore the advice on the carton and let it sit out for 15 minutes, then stir with a fork, and it should be good to go. Sprinkle remaining crushed Oreos over the top. Lick the spatula and look forward to the plaudits in store when you bust out this refreshing showstopper.

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Cinematic Antihero

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DISCUSSION

Dr Emilio Lizardo
  • roughly 22 oz. chocolate pudding