As I was growing up, no book did more to encourage my incipient interest in dessert than Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Willy Wonka’s world offered a blissful alternate universe, where candy was not dangerous, or merely delicious, but magical. How different this is from the food corporations we hear about today—the ones that have conspired to hook us on salt, sugar and fat. There aren’t many Wonkas in the world anymore; we’re in a food world run by Slugworths.
Roald Dahl himself was the industry’s perfect victim, growing up just as large chocolate companies were asserting their influence. When he was born, in 1916, “The chocolate revolution had not begun,” he wrote in the Sunday Magazine. “There were very few delicious chocolate bars to tempt us.” But soon, chocolate was everywhere—and nowhere was it more influential than in Dahl’s own backyard. His boarding school, Repton, was right down the road from the Cadbury chocolate factory, which would frequently enlist the boys to test new creations, mailing them boxes of bars to try.
The golden age, according to Dahl, was from 1930-37; that’s when the world saw the debut of the Mars Bar, Rolos and (Dahl’s personal favorite) the Kit-Kat. Until his death, in 1990, Dahl would eat at least one Kit-Kat every day. (His dog, Chopper, preferred Smarties, eating four after lunch and four after dinner) He would save their silver wrappers, adding them to a giant foil ball on his desk, where visitors to the Dahl house can still see it today.
Dahl was hooked early—but he began to notice the candy industry’s increasing interest in the “bland, almost tasteless” tastes the public preferred. His special disdain was reserved for one of Cadbury’s bestsellers, “the blandest and most disgusting thing of all,” the Crème Egg. These “fondant-filled horrors” didn’t have any of the surprises—the delightful crunch, the bright colors, the sharp flavors—of Dahl’s beloved bars. “Nobody I know eats them. But somebody obviously does, by the bucketful.”
Because it wasn’t sugar that hooked Dahl, after all; it was food’s magical ability to amaze, to astonish, to transform. When Dahl’s first wife fell ill, he would surprise her at breakfast with pink milk, because—why not pink milk? Like Wonka, Dahl saw how food opens us to a world of new sensations, new possibilities, new sensations. With every new taste, childlike, we encounter a bit of wonder.
Besides the pink milk, one of Dahl’s favorite creations was a dessert he dubbed “Kit-Kat Pudding.” There’s not much to the recipe, as his wife Valerie noted: Just unwrap some Kit-Kats, layer them with healthy dollops of whipped cream in between, freeze the whole thing and you’re set. It’s a giant Kit-Kat ice cream sandwich.
But I thought we could do it one better—after all, while I can appreciate the textural genius that is the Kit-Kat bar, my main complaint is there’s not enough chocolate there. Dahl, too, would pass over things like chocolate cake for a more decadent treat out of his special chocolate bar stash. “I prefer my chocolate straight,” he wrote.
This no-bake cake definitely solves the chocolate problem; making your own ganache is incredibly quick, simple, and packs the punch of chocolaty flavor regular Kit-Kats lack. With layers of crispy wafers and homemade whipped cream, it’s a giant frozen chocolate bar that might just loosen candy companies’ hold on us once and for all. So long, Slugworth.
For the chocolate ganache:
4 ounces good bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon butter
For the cake:
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
54 rectangular wafer cookies (like Loacker)
1. Make the ganache: Coarsely chop chocolate and add to a medium heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan over low heat, bring 1/2 cup cream to a simmer. Pour over chocolate and let sit 5 minutes. Add butter and stir until texture is smooth. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat 1 cup cream on medium speed until soft peaks form. Sprinkle sugar over whipped cream, then beat again until just incorporated.
3. Assemble the cake: Line a large plate with parchment paper. Lay 6 wafers side by side to create a large rectangle. Cover with a layer of ganache, then top with another 6 wafers. Add another layer of ganache and cover with a 1/4-inch layer of whipped cream.
4. Continue assembling in this pattern (wafer, ganache, wafer, ganache, whipped cream) until no wafers remain. Spread ganache over top of the cake, allowing extra drip over the sides.
5. Freeze cake at least 4 hours, until ganache has set. Cut and serve immediately.