I appreciate that this icebox cake lets me turn just a few ingredients into a gloriously delicious and easy dessert for a whole table of friends — all without turning on the oven. Zero heat, very little work, plenty of happy people!
Beat the cream until it holds stiff peaks: Combine the powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt with the cream in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large mixing bowl). Beat on low, then high, until the cream holds stiff peaks. You can do this with a stand mixer, hand mixer, or whisk.
Divide the cream into 4 parts: Use a spatula to evenly divide the cream into four quadrants.
Smear a spoonful of cream in the bottom of the baking dish: Smear just a small spoonful of cream in the bottom of the dish. This will hold your first layer of graham crackers in place.
Cover the bottom with graham crackers: Lay down a full layer of graham crackers in the dish, breaking some down the middle if necessary to form a full layer.
Spread whipped cream on top of the crackers: Gently spread 1/4 of the cream (one whole quadrant) on the crackers.
Spread 1/3 of the fruit on the cream: Lay about a third of the fruit (1 1/3 cups) on top of the cream.
Top with a second layer of crackers: Top with another full layer of crackers, again breaking some if necessary to make a layer that fits snugly in the dish.
Top with cream and fruit: Top this second layer of crackers with another 1/4 of the cream and another third (1 1/3 cups) of fruit.
Top with a third layer of crackers: Add another full layer of graham crackers.
Top with cream and fruit: Top with another quarter of the cream and the remaining fruit. At this point you'll have three layers of graham crackers, three layers of cream, and three layers of fruit.
Top with a final layer of crackers and cream: Add a fourth layer of crackers and the final quarter of the cream. Spread gently or swirl the cream.
Garnish the cake: Sprinkle chopped nuts or fruit on top of the cake.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate: Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. The cake is ready when a knife inserted in the center goes in easily and comes out with soft crumbs. Refrigerate any leftovers.
Note: Best eaten within two days. It does get soggy after more than two or three days in the fridge, especially if very juicy fruit is used. Any kind of soft, juicy fruit is very good. Try thinly-sliced banana and strawberries, as shown here, or kiwi, mango, chopped raspberries and blueberries, or peaches.