This Icebox Cake is an easy, vintage-style no bake dessert recipe, perfect for summer. A simple layer cake made with sweet berries, graham crackers, and a delicious lemon-flavored whipped cream. Easy to make in 10 minutes plus freezing time, it’s perfect for summer gatherings all season.
Beautifully simple, this icebox cake is refreshing and festive for the summer holidays, like the 4th of July, with its red, white, and blue colors.
Or later in the season with blackberries, marionberries, and more.
Icebox Cake Origins
This nostalgic and simple cake recipe derives from classic recipes like a charlotte or trifle recipe.
First introduced to the United States in the 1930s, recipes were promoted as the icebox was marketed to housewives. Its popularity soon rose as ready-made ingredients (like condensed milk and wafer cookies) became more accessible. Companies, like Nabisco, began printing recipes on the back of their packaging.
Why Are They Called Icebox Cakes
As you may have guessed, these easy desserts are called icebox cakes after the first iceboxes were introduced into American homes in the early 20th century.
What is an Icebox Cake Made Of?
This vintage and retro layered cake is typically made by layering sweetened cream, fruit, and wafers, biscuits, or graham crackers. It’s a no bake dessert that is chilled or frozen before serving.
Variations of Icebox Cake Worldwide
Versions of this icebox cake are made in cuisines around the world. Here are a few examples:
The Nabisco version of an icebox cake uses wafers stacked to form a log sandwiching whipped cream that holds it together.
In Australia, the icebox cake is called a Chocolate Ripple Cake and is often made with Arnott’s Chocolate Ripple biscuits.
The United Kingdom’s icebox cake is also known as a biscuit cake and is often served with tea or anytime a tea cake is served. Prince William favored this cake enough to serve Chocolate Biscuit Cake as his groom’s cake. You can find a recipe link on our Easy Afternoon Tea Sweets Bites and Teacakes post.
Ingredients for Icebox Cake with Summer Berries
This simple-to-make icebox cake has 3 main components; graham crackers, sweetened cream, and berries. Here’s what you need:
- Graham crackers
- Heavy Whipping Cream (in a pinch, you can substitute a ready-made topping like Cool Whip)
- Powdered Sugar
- Lemon (juice and zest)
- Vanilla extract
- Summer berries: All berries work well in this recipe — I’ve used a combination of blueberries and raspberries, but strawberries are delicious too!
I like to have extra graham crackers on hand. Depending on which pan size you use, the number needed will vary. It’s important to cover the graham cracker layer completely.
There are very few tools needed to make this simple layer cake. If you’re making your own sweetened cream, which I highly recommend, you will need a handheld mixer with a whisk attachment to create stiff peaks. A stand mixer works well with a whisk attachment.
In addition, there are a couple of choices of pans that create different shapes.
A Loaf Pan:
I love to make this icebox cake in a loaf pan. I used a 9 by 5-inch pan but any size will do. Simply adjust the layers and quantities of graham crackers and berries to fit your pan size.
When making this dessert in a loaf pan, I freeze the cake until just before serving. It helps keep the layers together.
A Square Pan:
Very often, icebox cakes are made in an 8 x 8-inch or 9 x 9-inch square pan . Adjust the number of graham crackers to completely fill the bottom of the pan. Then build the layers as noted in the recipe card.
Icebox cakes made in a square pan can be frozen or refrigerated overnight.
How to Make Icebox Cake with Summer Berries
This cake should take no longer than 10 minutes or so to assemble. Here’s how:
Prepare the Pan and Whip the Cream
Begin by lining a loaf pan with plastic wrap for easy removal. Begin by layers graham crackers into the bottom, breaking as necessary to cover.
Then, using a handheld mixer, whip the cream until stiff peaks form.
Create classic icebox cake layers with graham crackers, followed by lemon cream, and topped with fresh berries. Repeat these layers until you reach the top of your pan.
Final Layer and Freezing
Top the berries with a final layer of lemon cream. Cover loosely and freeze for 4 hours or overnight.
Serving the Icebox Cake
Before serving, remove the icebox cake from the pan, and top with additional fresh berries and lemon zest. Let sit for a few minutes to thaw before serving.
- 12 graham cracker sheets (have extra on hand for additional layers if needed)
- 3 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 lemon for zest and juice
- 3 to 4 cups berries (I used raspberries and blueberries)
- LIne a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan (or size you have) with plastic wrap, leaving excess to drape over the edge so the icebox cake can be easily removed from the pan after freezing. Then zest the lemon and set it aside.
- Pour cold heavy whipping cream into a bowl and add the powdered sugar and juice from one lemon. Using the whisk attachment on a handheld mixer (or in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment) beat the cream until stiff peaks form. This means that when you pull out the whisk, the peaks continue to stand. Fold in the lemon zest and vanilla.
Assemble the Icebox Cake
- Into the bottom of the prepared loaf pan (or square pan), create a layer of graham crackers, breaking as needed to cover the entire bottom. On my loaf pan, it took 3 1/2 sheets of graham crackers.
- Spread a layer of whipping cream over the top, followed by a layer of berries. Each whipping cream layer, in my pan, was about 1 to 1 ½ inches high.
- Repeat this process until you reach the top of the pan. I like to have at least 3 layers.
Freeze Icebox Cake
- Cover the cake with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 4 hours or even overnight.
- When ready to serve, using the plastic wrap "handles", remove the cake from the pan and peel back the plastic wrap. Top with fresh berries, additional lemon zest, and mint leaves if desired. Let the cake thaw a bit before slicing and serving.
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