Comfort Food

Icebox Cake the Simple Way (& the Outrageous, S'mores-Flavored Way)

If the grocery store isn't your favorite place, it should be. We're sleuthing for the best back-of-the-box recipes and every Sunday, Posie Harwood from 600 Acres will share our latest find. 

Today: The most chill summer dessert can be simple or over-the-top—you choose.

Shop the Story

The nice thing about an icebox cake is how little effort it requires. It's perfect for hot, humid days when you just want to flop into the pool and drink lemonade.

Icebox cake demands no skill. You simply need two hands and the fine motor skills of a three-year-old. That's right, a toddler could make this. What are you waiting for?!

And once you learn to make it without a recipe, the world is your oyster. Whipped cream plays nicely with any type of crisp cookie, giving you a sort of blank canvas to infuse with your favorite flavors. You can create all sorts of combinations, like these I've been dreaming about lately: 

  • Peanut butter whipped cream with layers of graham crackers
  • Mascarpone whipped cream with layers of vanilla wafers and fresh blueberries
  • Nutella whipped cream with layers of chocolate wafers
  • Lemon curd folded into whipped cream, then layered with graham crackers
  • Whipped cream flavored with rum and lime zest with layers with flaked coconut, graham crackers, and sweet coconut jam

More: Fold dulce de leche into whipped cream and paint it over layers of chocolate cookies for this fancy icebox cake

Okay, now that you’re hungry, let’s get down to business. Here's how to make a traditional icebox cake and an outrageous s'mores icebox cake, depending on how adventurous you're feeling:

Simple Version: To make the classic icebox cake from the back of the Nabisco box, arrange chocolate wafers in a circle and layer them with whipped cream. Let it refrigerate overnight. While the cake sits, the whipped cream softens the cookies, creating a cake-like texture that yields easily to a knife. 

S'mores Version: After falling deeply into an internet black hole of icebox cakes, I was inspired by an outrageous s'mores cake on Completely Delicious. I adapted the recipe to my liking: less sugar, some mascarpone for tartness, and my favorite cocoa pudding recipe for the chocolate layer. 

The layers here are graham crackers, miniature marshmallows, whipped cream, and chocolate pudding. Torching the top layer of marshmallows produces a warm, burnt sugar flavor just like a real s'more. It's campfire in a cake.

A word on the pudding: Make it from scratch. This is labor intensive and I know I promised the recipe would be easy, breezy, and fast. But homemade chocolate pudding has a rich intensity that store-bought pudding can’t touch. If you can’t be bothered, make a quick chocolate ganache and use that in place of the pudding.  

More: Want a serious project? Make your own marshmallows and graham crackers, too.

If you decide to cover the cake with whipped cream after unmolding (and really, why wouldn’t you?), I recommend stabilizing your whipped cream so it is thicker and less likely to weep. I chose to fold a few tablespoons of mascarpone into the cream as I whipped it, but Kristen’s Genius Yogurt Whipped Cream is also an excellent option.

Now get layering! Let's all make this the summer of the icebox cake. 

Classic Icebox Cake

Adapted from Nabisco

2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
13 ounces Nabisco chocolate wafers (1 1/2 packages), or other thin cookie

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.


S'mores Icebox Cake 

Adapted from Completely Delicious

For the cake:

2 cups heavy cream, divided
4 tablespoons mascarpone cheese, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 sleeve graham crackers (about 9 sheets)
1 cup miniature marshmallows

For the chocolate pudding:

2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photo of dulce de leche icebox cake by James Ransom; all other photos by Posie Harwood

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Melissa
  • Posie (Harwood) Brien
    Posie (Harwood) Brien
  • jill morgan
    jill morgan
I like warm homemade bread slathered with fresh raw milk butter, ice cream in all seasons, the smell of garlic in olive oil, and sugar snap peas fresh off the vine.


Melissa July 15, 2015
None of the grocery stores around me have the chocolate wafer cookies, is there an acceptable alternative?
Posie (. July 15, 2015
Any thin crisp cookie will work well! That way it will soften with the cream. Chocolate graham crackers are great or make your own wafer cookies!
jill M. July 19, 2015
Keep in mind they may not be in with the cookies but rather with the ice cream toppings, like the jarred caramel and fudge. Weird, but that's where our stores keep them.