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Make Summer’s Easiest Dessert: Icebox Cake

A strawberry icebox cake, a peanut butter icebox cake, and a s'mores icebox cake.
I Heart Naptime/Mom on Timeout/Amanda’s Cookin’

When summer days are scorching, the last thing you need is to heat up the house with your oven. Enter, icebox cakes: summer’s coolest no-bake treat!

Never heard of icebox cakes? We’ll fill you in, and share how you can make a signature recipe using ingredients you probably already in your pantry. Then, be sure to try the delicious recipes we’ve included or peruse them for a little inspiration.

What’s an Icebox Cake?

An icebox cake is a cold and refreshing no-bake dessert made with layers of fluffy whipped cream (or other smooth fillings) followed by alternating layers of cake (or cookie) elements. The fridge (aka the icebox) transforms these layers into a structured final course people just love.

There are a few ways to assemble icebox cakes, with or without a pan. The traditional method is by stacking cookies or cakey layers with dollops of the creamy filling between layers. The cookies and whipped cream work in tandem to hold up the shape on their own.

When adding thinner additions, like pudding, or fruit coulis, it’s helpful to layer up in a deep baking dish for support—kind of like a dessert lasagna.

Components of an Icebox Cake

Each element of an icebox cake plays a vital role. As we mentioned previously, these cakes boast two main elements: the velvety whipped and structural cookie/cake layers.

Let’s break these down even further:

  • Cookie or cake layers: These provide the structural oomph to your magical dessert. Whether you use baked cake or cookies, these crispy (or spongy) additions form the brunt of your flavorful cake.
  • The light and fluffy layers: These typically consist of whipped cream, frosting, or pudding. As your icebox cake sits in the fridge overnight, the moisture from the creamy filling soaks into the crunchy or cake layers and softens them. After this occurs, you’ve reached your goal and can indulge.
  • The extras: This is the fun part, where you get to flavor your icebox cake and create a signature recipe to suit your own taste buds.

How to Create a Signature Icebox Cake

Creating your own signature icebox cake recipe is easier than you probably think. Use our detailed instructions below as a starting point to create an icebox cake that’s all your own:

  • Select the right dish: If you add loads of thin ingredients, like chocolate sauces, or caramels, your cake won’t have as much opportunity to hold its structure. Avoid creating an unattractive, mushy blob by creating your cake in a lovely baking or casserole-style dish.
  • Choose a signature idea: This is the fun part! Choose your very own delicious flavor combos, whether that’s salted caramel and banana nut cake or peaches and cream. Get creative!
  • Choose your cookie or cake layers: Some cookies that work well include Oreos, Nilla Wafers, Chips Ahoy chocolate chip, or shortbread. If you’re going the cake route, try angel food, ladyfingers, flavored, or pound cake.
  • Select the creamy layers: These should complement the cookie or cake elements. Try adding whipped cream, cream cheese frosting, flavored puddings, lemon curd, or anything light and fluffy.
  • Select the extras: These should also balance and work with the creamy and cake layers. Mini chocolate chips, nuts, caramels, and fruit jams are all fun extras. Feel free to add fresh or cooked fruits, various chocolate sauces, or sprinkles, too!
  • Begin layering: Start with a thin layer of your creamy filling, as it helps anchor the next, which is the cookie or cake layer. Then, add a bit more of the creamy layer, some fun extras, and continue to layer up until you reach the top of your cake pan.
  • Make it pretty: Sprinkle or drizzle some of your extra ingredients on top for a little artistic fun. Of course, it’s already going to be delicious, but why not make it look pretty, too?

Now that you’ve got the basics, it’s time for the fun part: choosing the kind of icebox cake you want to make! If you prefer structured recipes, or just need a little help sparking up some sweet ideas, the recipes below are sure to help!

S’mores Icebox Cake

Two images: the left image features a s'mores icebox cake topped with mini marshmallows, and chocoalte peices, and the right image features one peice of cake.
Amanda’s Cookin

Here’s one of many ways to “bring the s’mores indoors,” as author Rebekah from Amanda’s Cooking says in her blog post, featuring a delicious s’mores-inspired icebox cake recipe.

Filled with graham crackers, marshmallow whipped cream, and chocolate ganache, you’ll find a newfound love for that special summertime trio. This recipe has summer written all over it, so be sure to give it a try for any upcoming barbecue or party.

Get the Recipe: Amanda’s Cookin

Chocolate Strawberry Icebox Cake

Two images: The left image features a peice of strawberry icebox cake and the right image features an entire cake with one missing peice.
I Heart Naptime

Here’s another sweet rendition, this time filled with cream cheese filling and strawberries! Call it a strawberry cheesecake and icebox cake mashup if you will!

Because it’s so versatile, you can switch out the strawberries for a mixed berry combo, or use Nutella instead of melted chocolate. You can even sub out the strawberries for sliced banana and add nuts and caramel for the luscious combo we talked about earlier!

Get the Recipe: I heart Naptime

Peanut Butter Chocolate Icebox Cake

Two images displaying cut out peices of peanut butter icebox cake, garnished with Reese's peanut butter cups.
Mom on Timeout

Would you look at those gorgeous layers of hot fudge and peanut butter cheesecake filling. Add in the chopped Reese’s peanut butter cups, and you have one helluva-rich dessert to serve.

Change things up by creating a fun peanut butter and jelly version, substituting the chocolate for your favorite jam, and switching out chocolate graham crackers for nilla wafers.

Get the Recipe: Mom on Timeout

Irish Cream Oreo Icebox Cake

Two images: The left image features a cookies and cream oreo ice box cake, and the right iamge is a cut out slice of the cake.
Melanie Makes

For lovers of everything cookies and cream, you’ll adore this free-standing oreo icebox cake. We love the bonus booze added to this sweet treat, especially because it adds a creamy touch of spirits to each bite.

Feel free to omit the Irish cream and sub it for flavored coffee creamer if you’re feeding kids.

Get the Recipe: Melanie Makes

Chocolate Chip Cookie Icebox Cake

Two imeages featuring a chocolate chip icebox cake. The left image is of someone adding chocolate pudding over a cookies layer and the right image is a large cut out peice of the cake.
The Best Cake Recipes

If you thought it couldn’t get any better than Oreos and peanut buttery layers, you’re wrong! This delicious Chips Ahoy version will win everyone’s heart every. single. time.

One layer of cream cheese filling, another of chocolate pudding, and Chips Ahoy (we always use crunchy), and let your icebox do its magic! It’s rich, creamy, and everything an icebox cake should be.

Get the Recipe: The Best Cake Recipes

Icebox cakes are the perfect party dessert, and you don’t even have to turn on your oven. They’re so simple to make and everyone is sure to love them, so be sure to add one to the menu for your next summer gathering.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »
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