If you’ve ever made an icebox cake (also known as a refrigerator pie), you know the possibilities and magic that takes place when a handful of ingredients are layered and left to rest in the fridge.
This take on the no-bake, hands-off dessert alludes to key lime pie with fresh lime juice, sweetened condensed milk, cream, and layers of salty crackers. It’s creamy, light, tart, sweet, and a little salty. With just five ingredients, easy lime icebox cake couldn’t be simpler or more delicious.
Not only could this recipe not be any easier (no mixer, oven, or special equipment required!), it’s also ideal for making ahead. The icebox cake needs to chill for at least 2 hours, freeing you up for grilling or prepping dinner. It also freezes well. Double the recipe, whipping up two, and stash the second in the freezer for later.
What Is Icebox Cake?
According to The Food Timeline, icebox cakes are an inevitable descendant of 19th-century ice cream cakes, and therefore no one person or company can be credited with their invention. That being said, we do know that the first printed recipes for icebox cakes date back to the 1920s and were used to promote the first in-home iceboxes.
One of the most popular recipes from the 1930s is credited to Nabisco. This famous recipe layered fresh, lightly sweetened vanilla whipped cream with their original thin and dark chocolate wafers. After sitting in the icebox overnight, the soft cream soaks into the biscuits and creates a sliceable dessert.
How to Make an Icebox Cake
No matter the variation you choose to make, the basic, fundamental ingredients for an icebox cake are cream and cookies (or crackers). Fruit or nuts, custards, puddings, and gelatin are additions that came later and, while great, are certainly not necessary to making a delicious, sliceable icebox cake.
Once you gather the ingredients, making the cake is easy. Whip the cream (perhaps sweetening it with powdered sugar or condensed milk), then layer it into some kind of mold (loaf pans, pie plates, or glass trifle dishes all work well) with the cookies. Cover and let it rest for at least 2 hours to allow the cookies to absorb the cream, then the “cake” is ready to slice and serve. Ten minutes of prep for a great payoff.
Can You Freeze Icebox Cakes?
Today’s icebox cakes are most often set in the fridge, but many of them can also be frozen, sliced, and eaten straight from the freezer.
If you have a simple cake with cookies or crackers and cream, like this lime icebox cake, it can be frozen safely for up to 1 month. If there are fresh or canned fruits, gelatin, or other ingredients that might change texture if frozen, it’s probably not a good idea to freeze.
Easy Summer Desserts
- Orange Cream Popsicles
- Easy No-Bake Cheesecake
- Grilled S’more Sliders
- Blueberry Cake
- Banana Nice Cream
Make the filling:
Add condensed milk, heavy cream, and sour cream to a mixing bowl. Add the lime juice and whisk until the mixture is smooth and thick, about 1 minute.
Use a 1/2 cup measuring cup to add filling to the bottom of an 8-inch cake or pie pan (you could also make individual servings using ramekins or even martini glasses) and spread evenly to cover the bottom. Top with a single layer of Ritz crackers.
Repeat, alternating layers of filling and crackers, ending with a final layer of the remaining filling; you should have 3 layers of crackers and 4 layers of filling. Sprinkle the top with lime zest.
Chill and serve:
Loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Serve chilled. The pie will keep well in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month. If frozen, let thaw for 10 minutes at room temperature before serving.