When it comes to summer desserts, I’m always looking for something refreshing and effortless that looks like I’ve been sweating my brow in the kitchen all day (when I really haven’t). An even bigger incentive to make an icebox cake? Not turning on the oven! In its simplest form, an icebox cake is whipped cream layered with chocolate wafer cookies. While chilling in the freezer, the cookies get tender and soft and the whipped cream firms up just right, like a light and airy ice cream. It’s a phenomenal make-ahead dessert—just assemble it earlier in the day, either in a baking pan or free-form on a platter, then pull it out of the freezer when you’re ready to slice and serve. Here are some of my favorite combos to make this summer.
If this is your first venture into icebox cakes, this step-by-step tutorial from Faith Durand of Kitchn is an excellent place to start. The recipe calls for minimal ingredients: whipped cream, vanilla, graham crackers, and fruit. Fresh berries and bananas are used here, but you can easily swap in whatever fruit you have on hand, such as sliced mango, raspberries, or peaches.
Sometimes a dish is perfect in its simplest form. This classic recipe from Brette Warshaw of Food52 uses just whipped cream and chocolate wafer cookies, but it will surely become one of your favorites. The blog even includes a clever tip on how to make this cake without a recipe: For every sleeve of chocolate Nabisco brand wafers, whip up 3 cups of heavy cream. This will give you the perfect cookie-to-cream ratio.
This icebox cake studded with deep purple blackberries from Claire Saffitz for Bon Appétit is assembled in a large mixing bowl, creating a dramatic domed shape. You gotta love the smart use of a no-cook ingredient like blackberry jam in combination with the fresh, plump berries. Be sure to use a quality jam that you like since this dish relies on so few ingredients.
Leave it to Martha Stewart to make a simple, four-ingredient dessert look so elegant! This recipe calls for folding creamy peanut butter into the whipped cream mixture. If you’re working around any allergies, you can easily swap in a smooth almond or cashew butter. You can also layer salted and roasted chopped nuts with the cookies and whipped cream for added nutty crunch.
Marscarpone and store-bought lemon curd are folded into whipped cream for this decidedly Italian twist on an icebox cake from Food & Wine. The combination of the layered graham crackers and the rich marscarpone cheese also elicits the flavors of a cheesecake. The lemon curd and tart blueberries keep this cake tasting light and summery.