If you’re looking for a cool, yummy dessert for these hot, humid days, nothing is easier than the no-bake icebox cake. How did they originate? We have some history and a recipe to try! They combine layers of graham crackers or cookies, pudding, and fresh whipped cream or whipped topping, then the whole concoction is refrigerated until the cookies/crackers soften to a cake-like texture.
So before I give the recipe lets talk about what an Ice Box cake really is.
Icebox cakes became popular in the 1920s, most likely born of other chilled layered desserts that were commonly served at the time such as trifles. Recipes for these fabulous cakes can be found in cookbooks dating as far back as 1915 and they were a favorite for summertime church gatherings. The “cool” thing about them is the magic of getting a cake-like consistency which happens in the icebox rather than the oven. Even when refrigerators replaced iceboxes in kitchens, the name stayed with this dessert, adding to its nostalgic charm and conjuring up thoughts of something cool, easy, and sweet that is as delicious as the memories every bite brings back and the best part, NO BAKE!
One of the most famous icebox cake recipes appeared on the back of the Nabisco® Chocolate Wafer Cookie package, which simply called for layers of whipped cream and the cookies in a loaf pan. It was chilled and sliced, revealing the decorative pattern of layered chocolate cookies inside which is why it is now often referred to as the Zebra Cake.Modern cooks began experimenting with this recipe by adding boxed pudding, sweetened condensed milk, or other additions to flavor the whipped cream like mocha, mint, almond, or banana proving the sky’s the limit with these desserts. But you can still opt to keep it simple with just a few basic ingredients.As simple as these cakes are to make, their presentation yields a big impression!
Banana Cream Icebox Cake
2 boxes (3.5 oz each) instant vanilla pudding mix
2 1/2 cups milk (to prepare the pudding)
3 bananas, sliced
8 oz. tub whipped topping or 8 oz. whipped cream (make your own!)
3 1/2 sleeves graham crackers
Prepare pudding with the milk in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Once thickened, carefully fold in 1/2 cup of the whipped topping until combined.Place a layer of graham crackers on the bottom of a 9×13 pan, covering the bottom. Break graham cracker pieces as needed to fit.Slice 1½ bananas crosswise and arrange the slices evenly over the top of the graham crackers.Carefully top the banana layer with half of the pudding mixture, spreading evenly to the edges of the pan.Place another layer of graham crackers on top of the pudding layer and spread evenly to cover completely. Top with the remaining 1½ banana slices.Add a final layer of graham crackers, arranged evenly over the pudding layer. Spread remaining whipped topping over the top of the final layer of graham crackers, evenly to the edges.Cover the cake with wrap and set in the fridge for 4 hours, up to overnight. Dust with cocoa if desired. Slice and serve. Keeps in the fridge for up to 2-3 days.
If you’re not a fan of bananas, you can substitute any other berry (or make it without fruit). Try strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries! Swap out the vanilla pudding for your favorite flavor or use banana pudding. You can also use vanilla cookies, sandwich creme cookies, ginger snaps, or chocolate wafers in place of the graham crackers to go with the flavors you choose. You can also dust the top layer with coconut, nuts, or any toppings you like to complement the flavors of your icebox cake.
SO TELL ME ~ I realize there are so many variations of this recipe and I’d love to hear from you … have you made an icebox cake? If so what’s your go-to icebox cake recipe? Share it with me in the comments below!