This old-fashioned icebox cake is a simple no-bake dessert that you can make with little effort! Layers of graham crackers, summer berries, and whipped cream combine for an amazing cake. There are only 4 simple ingredients in this no-bake treat.
A traditional icebox cake is a simple no-bake dessert that the entire family will enjoy! With only 4 ingredients, it comes together in minutes and yet is fancy enough to serve for a special occasion like Valentine’s Day or graduation.
The icebox cake is made by layering whipped cream with graham crackers and fruit. And while this seems very basic, all the ingredients combine for an elegant and special dessert.
As the dessert chills, the graham crackers absorb moisture from whipped cream and fruit and soften into a cake-like layer. The result is a dessert that looks like an elegantly layered French pastry!
Low effort desserts that look complicated, like Tiramisu trifle and cheesecake parfaits, are always my favorites to make. This berry icebox cake is kind of like a trifle but is even easier to make.
Old Fashioned Icebox Cake
This dessert originally became popular in the 1930s and had a big resurgence in popularity in the 1950s. It was touted as an amazing easy dessert.
And it really is easy! If you’ve ever tried to slice a cake into thin layers to make a fancy cake, you will appreciate how much easier it is to just use a graham cracker and skip slicing!
Plus this is the kind of dessert my grandma used to make, popular at midwestern church picnics. So it is almost like a comfort food dessert for me.
Why You Will Love this Icebox Cake
- It takes only about 20 minutes to make.
- There is no baking involved, so you don’t have to heat up the kitchen.
- This dessert is very versatile. There are only 4 basic ingredients, but you can change them up for endless variety.
- If you need to bring a dessert to a potluck or party, this dessert travels well and will be very popular.
- Even an inexperienced cook can successfully make a graham cracker icebox cake! And kids can get involved and help layer the ingredients in the pan.
- Whipped cream – Use cold heavy whipping cream for this recipe. Don’t try to make this recipe with half and half!
- Sugar – I like to use powdered sugar with whipped cream, but granulated sugar will also work.
- Graham crackers – I used basic honey graham crackers. These graham crackers turn into thin layers of cake after chilling.
- Fruit – I used a mixture of summer berries, including raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries. Thicker fruit, like strawberries, needs to be cut before being used in the icebox cake.
Step by Step Instructions
You will have an easier time whipping the cream if you put your mixing bowl in the freezer to chill it. While the bowl chills, wash and chop the fruit.
The fruit needs to be around 1/4 inch to 1/2 an inch in size so that it layers easily in the pan. I used a 9 x 13-inch glass pan to layer my graham cracker icebox cake.
Pro Tip : If you are planning to take this to a picnic or potluck, use a glass pan that has a lid to make it easy to transport!
2. Whip the Cream
Take the bowl out of the freezer and add the heavy whipping cream. Put the cream and sugar in a bowl and start beating the mixture on low.
As the cream beats, gradually increase the speed of the mixer to medium. You want to beat it until stiff peaks form. In my mixer, this takes 3-5 minutes, but it can vary a lot based on the mixer you use.
Stop the mixer and take the beater out of the cream to check for stiff peaks. The whipped cream should hold its shape after the beater is taken out.
3. Layer the Icebox Cake
To make layering the cake easier, divide the whipped cream into 4 even parts and the fruit into 3 even parts.
Start by spreading a small spoonful of cream on the bottom of the glass pan. This will just help hold the first layer of graham crackers in place.
Then add graham crackers to the dish, covering the bottom. If necessary, trim the graham crackers to make them fit.
Spread 1/4 of whipped cream on top of the graham crackers.
Then add 1/3 of the fruit to the top of the whipped cream, pushing it down into the cream slightly.
Add another layer of graham crackers, gently pressing them down into the cream to keep everything level. Continue to repeat the layers, ending with a final layer of whipped cream on top.
How to Serve
While this cake is quick to prepare, it does need to chill before serving. It takes time for the graham crackers to soften.
So cover the berry icebox cake tightly and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight. To serve, cut squares out of the cake and add more berries on top or on the side.
How to Store
This cake needs to be stored in the refrigerator tightly covered. The graham crackers will continue to soften, so the texture will change as it ages.
I think an old-fashioned icebox cake tastes best about 24-48 hours after making it, and after 3 days, the cake becomes too soft for me. Luckily I can count on my kids to eat it quickly!
Variations and Tips
There are lots of easy ways to make this recipe suit your family’s tastes! Here are some suggestions.
- Add some flavoring to the whipped cream. You can add cocoa powder for chocolate whipped cream or stir in some cinnamon or lemon flavor.
- Change up the fruit. Bananas work well or slice up some peaches or kiwi. Just use a fruit that is juicy and moist. Crisp fruit like apples won’t work as well with the texture of the dessert.
- Add layers of pudding to the dessert. This will start to make the dessert more like a trifle. Use a couple of layers of instant vanilla pudding along with the whipped cream, or completely replace the whipped cream with pudding.
Frequently Asked Questions
These cakes were named “icebox cakes” because they were popularized as a way to promote the first refrigerators, which were called iceboxes. The name has stuck even as refrigerators have gone from a luxury to a necessity.
An icebox cake freezes well as long as it is made with whipped cream. To freeze, wrap the cake after it has chilled in the refrigerator overnight and freeze it for up to a month.
When you are ready to serve the frozen icebox cake, let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then serve. If you use pudding in your icebox cake, it will not freeze as well.
Find More Easy No Bake Desserts
- 3 1/2 cups cold heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 box graham crackers
- 4 cups mixed berries
- Place mixing bowl in freezer for a few min before using to chill. This will make it easier to whip the cream. Find a 13 x 9 inch glass pan for holding the icebox cake.
- While mixing bowl is chilling, prepare fruit by washing it. Slice any fruit, like strawberries, that is thicker than 1/2 an inch.
- In the mixing bowl combine the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form. Start beating on low speed and increase the speed to medium.
- Divide whipping cream mixture into four equal parts and the fruit into three equal parts.
- Spread a small spoonful of cream on bottom of the 13 x 9 inch pan. Then add graham crackers, trimming them to fit if necessary.
- Spread a quarter of the whipping cream mixture on top of the graham crackers.
- Add a third of the fruit on top of the whipping cream, gently pressing the fruit down into the cream.
- Add another layer of graham crackers, pressing down gently into the cream to keep the dessert level.
- Then repeat all the layers, finishing up with the cream on top.
- Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.
- Serve chilled, garnished with additional fruit on top.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 337Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 19gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 94mgSodium: 30mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 2gSugar: 12gProtein: 3g
Nutrition facts are estimates.