The icebox cake is an incredibly simple delicacy that does not receive sufficient recognition. Only two components are required.
There is neither ice nor cake in an icebox cake, nor will you find it in the freezer. This traditional, all-American dessert was created as a result of savvy marketing and a need for convenience. American invention was on the increase, and iceboxes or refrigerators had recently debuted on the market. At the same time that women were seeking simpler dessert preparation options, Nabisco sought to promote the purchase of their now-iconic chocolate wafers. Combining something crunchy and sweet with something whipped or pudding-like resulted in the creation of the trifle-like dessert. The result is a chilled dessert with cake-like layers sandwiched between layers of creamy “frosting.” It is uncommon to locate an icebox cake in a bakery, and it is even more uncommon to find a vegan one. Certainly, it is a specialized treatment, but when the need strikes, we cannot get enough. Here is all you need to know about icebox cakes, along with seven vegan alternatives.
What is a cake in an icebox?
Iceboxes predate refrigerators in the same way that flip phones predate smartphones. Iceboxes, which are essentially enormous insulated cabinets filled with ice that are used to keep perishables cold during the warmer months, have been available since the 1830s, but it took a while for icebox cakes to appear in cookbooks. One of the first references to an icebox cake is in 1915, The Settlement Cookbook was published. However, these no-bake “cakes” did not reach their peak popularity until the 1930s and afterward. At this time, fully electric refrigerators were rapidly replacing traditional iceboxes, and the marketers were merciless. However, the new creation retained the icebox moniker until decades later, when it was renamed refrigerator. In the 1950s, eighty percent of rural Americans and ninety percent of urban Americans owned a mechanical icebox (aka fridge).
As electric iceboxes began to make their way into the homes of middle-class Americans, Nabisco introduced its Famous Chocolate Wafers. As was common at the time (and still is today), the wafer tin featured a printed recipe on the reverse. The recipe for the famous icebox cake required only four ingredients: Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers, whipped cream, sugar, and vanilla. A homemaker only needed to beat cream with sugar and vanilla, distribute it between layers of Nabisco wafers, and let it sit overnight in the icebox. What a simple idea that yields such great outcomes! This recipe’s brilliance lies in the time spent in the refrigerator, and icebox. The cream softens the crisp cookies and makes them delectably supple as the dessert sets (not soggy). This texture is reminiscent of biting into a rich cake coated in layers of whipped cream. As opposed to baking a cake, there is no chance of burning anything or making a mistake with the measurements. With the introduction of Cool Whip in 1966, the icebox cake became a two-ingredient treat that could be created in minutes (minus the fridge time).
We do not understand why the popularity of icebox cakes has declined over the past few decades. It is easier to prepare than the trendy cupcake and always tastes delicious. To revitalize the icebox cake, simply make it vegan.
How to prepare an icebox cake
Both the concept and execution of an icebox cake are straightforward. You only need something sweet and crunchy (such as graham crackers or cookie wafers), something whipped or creamy (such as pudding or whipped cream), and some patience. Fruit toppings, cookie crumbs, and sugar drizzles are entirely discretionary. The construction is as simple as making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, especially if you use pre-packaged materials. In a trifle or other deep serving dish, put your crunchy ingredient in a single layer. Cover evenly with your cream-based substance. Continue layering until all ingredients have been used up. You’ve just produced a foolproof and wonderfully delectable vegan icebox cake by placing the ingredients in the refrigerator overnight.
- Oreo Peanut Butter Chocolate Icebox Cake
Featuring a peanut butter and chocolate cream cheese filling, this substantial icebox cake ventures closer into the cheesecake genre. Combine this with cake-like Oreos, and anyone who enjoys spreading peanut butter over their favorite oat milk cookie will excitedly request a second serving.
- Vegan marshmallow icebox cake
This vegan deep-dish icebox cake has a lot going on, and we are here for it. You will combine layers of soft graham cracker, handmade chocolate pudding, marshmallow fluff, micro marshmallows, and chocolate drizzle to make an amazing, summer-appropriate treat. This spectacle surpasses a charred marshmallow any day of the week.
- Lemon Blueberry Icebox Cake Gluten-Free
Essentially, any icebox cake can be converted gluten-free by using gluten-free graham crackers or wafers. This recipe specifically asks for vegan S’moreables, but any vegan graham will suffice. This sweet blends store-bought ingredients with a homemade vegan lemon curd and fresh blueberries, making it slightly more complicated than a traditional icebox cake. It is the ideal spring or summer dessert for any gathering.
- Icebox cake with chocolate wafers.
This is a vegan version of the traditional Nabisco icebox cake. The recipe asks for homemade chocolate wafers and whipped cream, but those who prefer not to use the oven may use vegan Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers and a tub of So Delicious CocoWhip. The most difficult component of this recipe is waiting until the next day for the cookies to soften.
- Icebox Chocolate Pudding Cake Vegan
Complete: pudding, graham crackers, and whipped cream This semi-homemade vegan icebox cake consists of graham crackers and a quick homemade chocolate pudding sandwiched between layers of a nondairy whip. If you feel fancy, garnish with a few chocolate shavings.
- Carlota di Limo
Refreshing and indulgent at the same time, this version combines thin vanilla cookies with a cashew cream flavored with lime. For a party-ready dessert, we recommend adding a tablespoon or two of rum to the cashew cream mixture.
- Vegan Frozen Mocha Cake
This failsafe recipe that relies on store-bought ingredients combines your love of coffee and chocolate chip cookies. Nota bene: you should use crisp cookies, not soft-baked ones. It went wonderfully with Maxine’s Heavenly new crunchy cookies (which are also gluten-free).