Best of all? You can adapt it any way you like, so you don’t even need a recipe so much as a simple template.
How to Make an Icebox Cake
Here’s how to do it, step by step:
1. Pick Your Cookie
A traditional icebox cake is made using thin chocolate wafer cookies. You can choose a different flavor, but make sure you choose a thin, crisp cookie. If the cookie is too thick, it won’t soften enough overnight. Graham crackers or wafer cookies are ideal, but feel free to think outside the box. Gingersnaps or paper-thin Florentine cookies will work well, as will very thin chocolate chip cookies (yes, that means Tate’s, as none other than Ina can attest; see her Mocha Icebox Cake recipe). And of course, Oreos often turn up in icebox cake.
Related Reading: Expert Icebox Cake Tips & No-Bake Recipes from Jessie Sheehan
2. Whip Up Your Filling
Start with a base of plain whipped cream: Whip your cream until you have stiff peaks. If you like sweet desserts, beat in a few spoonfuls of powdered sugar. That’s all you really need to do, but if you want some more flavor in the mix, give it a twist.
Depending on your cookie choice, you can fold in some mascarpone or Greek yogurt for tang; flavor it with vanilla, lemon, or almond extract, or even a bit of liqueur; or fold in some cocoa powder, espresso powder, or fruit purée.
If you need a vegan icebox cake, coconut whipped cream works well here too.
3. Give It Layers
On a regular plate or cake stand, make a circular layer of cookies (or go square or rectangular if you prefer). Spread a generous layer of whipped cream filling over the cookies. Top with another layer of cookies, then another layer of whipped cream. Repeat until you run out of ingredients. That’s it.
4. Let It Rest in the Fridge Overnight
Place the cake in the refrigerator overnight (or for at least 8 hours), and let it do all the rest of the work. You can garnish it with a sauce, sprinkles, edible flowers, or anything else you like, but that’s totally optional. All you have to do at this point is remove your icebox cake, slice, and eat! Since slicing these can be a bit messy, make sure you use a truly sharp knife, and (carefully) wipe it clean between slices.
Related Reading: The Best No-Bake Easy Summer Desserts
Next-Level Icebox Cakes & Expert Tips
If you want to get a little more elaborate, here are some more ideas.
Use a Loaf Pan to Guide You
You can easily make this cake in a loaf pan, round cake pan, or another vessel for easy unmolding and a perfectly symmetrical shape. Line the pan with plastic wrap—leaving enough overhang so you can grip it and easily pull the cake out once it’s set—before you start layering and keep going until you fill it up.
USA Loaf Pan, $15-$17 from Sur La Table
The classic nonstick metal loaf pan is surprisingly versatile in the kitchen.
Add a Sauce
Drizzle (or fully shellac) your icebox cake in whatever topping you crave, like chocolate ganache, caramel sauce, homemade Magic Shell, blackberry or raspberry coulis or other fruit sauce, even jam or jelly thinned out with lemon juice if it complements your flavors (like a lemony mascarpone icebox cake with vanilla wafer cookies or gingersnaps).
Switch Up the Filling
While whipped cream is easy, classic, and delicious, any other creamy-to-fluffy filling also works. Think mousse, pudding, whipped ricotta, or even sweetened Greek yogurt by itself for a healthier take.
Add extra flavor by mixing things like fresh fruit, grated citrus zest, mini chocolate chips, or even crushed candy bars into the creamy filling before layering it with your cookies (or let the mix-ins have their own distinct layer between the other ingredients). You could also swirl the filling lightly with lemon curd or preserves for a marbled effect (and more flavor) before assembling your cake.
Honestly, icebox cakes are pretty endlessly adaptable, and incredibly easy, so play around with the format all summer and you’ll never have to turn on your oven for dessert.
This post was originally published by Posie Harwood in 2015 and was updated by Chowhound Editors with additional images, links, and text.
Header image courtesy of Dorling Kindersley: Charlotte Tolhurst/Getty Images