This icebox cake is a welcome dessert on a scorching day when it’s best to leave the oven off! I recently survived a hot day with the oven on for a stretch. After that I was highly motivated to come up with some cool desserts.
Recently I baked about 60 cupcakes, to test recipes for chocolate and yellow cake, and also for a vanilla buttercream. A pleasant endeavor that I launched into with enthusiastic spirit! For me it is really a dream-way to spend my day, baking and frosting. So enthusiastic was I that I did not give much thought to the fact that it was mid-morning in early August and the temperature was already 85°. I knew of course that the kitchen would get warm but was not worried.
By lunchtime it was humid, in the nineties and the kitchen felt twice that oppressive. I became a hot mess (and not in a sexy way… more like a demented way.) The buttercream I mixed up later that afternoon fought valiantly to hold firm, but then began to glisten. And then wilt. The cupcakes were all still delicious, mind you, but creating them that day was a painful reminder that using the oven on a hot summer day is no party at the beach.
No wonder that, after rehydrating and apologizing to those who endured my hot, demented messiness, my next dessert attempt was icebox cakes.
The name alone reels me in with its retro vibe. Icebox. Thoughts of summer parties and cool desserts on hot afternoons. Kids running through the sprinkler.
Icebox cakes have been around since the early twentieth century. In reading through my vintage cookbooks I found that there are many variations given. Side note: in researching the birth of icebox cakes I found this fascinating website, FoodTimeline.org which chronicles recipe development from 17,000 BC through 2009! AD! Do check it out.
The most basic description of icebox cakes is that they are made with layers of something already baked (cake, cookies, crackers) along with something sweet and creamy (puddings, custard, whipped cream) and often fruit. Ambitious bakers can bake cakes in advance (not on heated August days of course) and freeze them to be available for desserts like these. The whole, layered creation is then refrigerated overnight which allows the ingredients to meld. No longer delicate, separate layers: they come together to form a solid, chilled, sweet dessert that is easy to slice and serve.
This icebox cake recipe houses a favorite combination: strawberries and cream. Greek yogurt with the whipped cream gives a tart, little note and a bit more weight to the clouds of whipped cream. Graham crackers are the sturdy, pre-baked base for the fruit and cream.
Enjoy this icebox dessert, and give your oven the cold shoulder!
Strawberries & Cream Icebox Cake
*Plan this cake in advance, it requires an overnight stay in the fridge before serving!
- 1 pound fresh strawberries, washed & allowed to dry
- 1-1/2 cups whipping cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 5.3 ounce container plain Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup cup superfine (castor) sugar
- 9 sheets graham crackers (typical boxes of graham crackers have 2 pre-wrapped packages with 9 crackers in each.)
Have ready an 8-cup loaf pan (mine is 5.25" x 9" x 2.75".) Place a mixing bowl and beater into the freezer, to chill them for whipping cream.
Prepare the strawberries: set aside 3 whole strawberries for use later. Hull the berries, and then slice them vertically into thin slices. Set them aside.
Once the bowl and beater have chilled, whip the cream: assemble the bowl and beater. Turn the mixer on low and slowly pour in the whipping cream. Add in the vanilla and increase the speed to medium-low or medium. The cream will whip faster the higher you can have your speed: find the highest speed you can go to without cream flying all over the kitchen!
As the cream begins to thicken, add in the superfine sugar. Beat the mixture until it has thickened and holds loose peaks. Depending on the speed you use, expect this to take between 10 to 14 minutes. (Warm weather may also make the whipping process take a little longer.)
Once the whipped cream is finished, fold in the plain Greek yogurt.
Assemble the icebox cake: take 1 cup of the whipped cream mixture and spread it over the bottom and most of the way up the sides of the loaf pan.
Break the graham crackers along the perforated lines and make a single layer of grahams over the bottom of the pan, on top of the cream. Fit the pieces in as closely as you can.
Lay a layer of slices strawberries over the top of the graham crackers, fitting them close together.
Take 2/3-cup of the cream mixture and spread it evenly over the strawberries. Add another layer of grahams and a layer of strawberries as you did in steps 7 and 8.
Repeat the layers one more time with 2/3-cup of cream first, then grahams and then strawberries.
Spread the remaining whipped cream mixture over the top of the cake.
Take the whole strawberries set aside at the beginning, slice them in half vertically and arrange them decoratively on top of the cake (cut sides down.)
Wrap the pan in plastic wrap and place it in the coldest corner of your refrigerator. Chill for 8-10 hours: overnight is ideal.
Remove the cake from the fridge. Cut the cake into slices as you would a loaf of bread and serve immediately.
Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 4 days. Makes 8 servings.