The icebox cake is a retro dessert made with two basic ingredients: homemade whipped cream and store-bought chocolate wafers. The very company that originally made store-bought chocolate wafers, Nabisco, first popularized the recipe back in the 1930s. Of course, a recipe doesn’t become iconic if it’s not delicious, even if it only has two ingredients and is promoted by a company with a vested interest in your making it. The conclusion, that this cake must taste very, very good, is therefore correct. If you haven’t eaten a bite of icebox cake since you were a child, your fond memory will serve you well.
To make any icebox cake, you layer cream and cookies in a pan. The cake then “cooks” overnight in the fridge, the cream melting into the cookies, softening them and transforming the many cookies into a single, satisfying summer cake that anyone could make, no kitchen skills required. Be sure to start the cake a day before you want to eat it, so it has a chance to rest overnight.
This version updates the flavors from the original. We’ve got a homemade, lightly sweetened whipped cream tweaked with spoonfuls of peanut butter that binds thin chocolate wafer cookies together. Look for extremely thin cookies, like Anna’s thins, Nabisco’s chocolate wafers, or Tate’s chocolate chip cookies. Any can be used in place of the chocolate. Nabisco’s wafers, which are incredibly dark and chocolate-y, are hard to find at the supermarket (I couldn’t find them), but you can order them from Amazon.
Click through the gallery above for a step-by-step breakdown of the recipe.
Here’s how to make a Peanut Butter Icebox Cake:
- The icebox cake begins and ends with cream. Homemade peanut butter whipped cream is the filling, the icing, and the key structural element of this cake. Pour two cups of cold heavy cream into a big mixing bowl.
- Add ¼ cup of sugar to the bowl and start whipping. Use an electric mixer (handheld or stand), or just a whisk if your arm is very strong. Whip until the cream holds soft peaks when you lift the beaters.
- Now, grab the peanut butter, chunky or smooth—it’s up to you.
- Measure out 3 heaping tablespoons of peanut butter and place them in a small bowl. Take about ½ a cup of the whipped cream from the big bowl and add to the small bowl. Gently whip this together til the peanut butter is incorporated into the cream.
- Transfer the peanut butter cream back to the big bowl. Add ½ teaspoon vanilla extract. Whip together for as short a time as possible (you don’t want the cream to get too thick).
- Get ready to assemble this cake. Take a loaf pan and line it with some foil.
- Unwrap your chocolate wafers. You’ll need about 64 of them.
- Line the bottom of the loaf pan with cookies, overlapping them slightly if necessary.
- Scoop some cream on top of the cookies, just enough to cover them in a ½-inch thick layer.
- Pile on another layer of cookies.
- Spread with more cream, then more cookies, then more cream, then more cookies. Aim for 8 layers, or until your loaf pan is full, ending with a layer of cookies. Place plastic wrap over the loaf pan and refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, invert the refrigerated cake onto a serving plate. Lift off the pan. Peel off the foil. Ta da! There’s your cake. Use a thin offset spatula to smooth out the sides.
- With a sharp knife, cut slices. You’ll see all the layers suddenly revealed.
- Keep cutting slices…
- Dig in! Store any leftovers in the fridge.