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Lemon Icebox Cake

square slice of lemon icebox cake with a bite out on an off white plate on a blue background
Erik Bernstein

Icebox cake may be an old-school concept, but this recipe is truly spectacular. The combination of lemon curd and cream cheese frosting is intensely citrusy and refreshing, and the quick candied lemon peel makes it priceless. Did we mention how incredibly easy this is to make? You can whip this up in 10 minutes, and it will be ready to enjoy after a quick stint in your freezer–no need to even turn on the oven.

If you’re wondering, “what the heck’s an icebox cake?” or even “what’s an icebox?”, you’re not alone. Originally invented around the 1930s, an icebox is the precursor to modern refrigerators and freezers. Although at the time it was basically the cabinet equivalent of your Trader Joe’s freezer bag, it revolutionized keeping food cold at home. Housewives were very into it, and companies like Nabisco jumped on the bandwagon and started printing icebox recipes. Icebox cake is one of those that has stuck around, and for good reason. 

At its most basic, an icebox cake is whipped cream and wafer cookies (think Nilla, not Loacker Quadratini) that are layered then frozen. The freezer is where the magic happens, transforming cookies from crunchy to cakey, and whipped cream from soft to firm and sliceable. Just two ingredients and you’ve got yourself a cake!

Of course, we love adding in extras, like fruit or peanut butter. For this lemon version, we’ve used cream cheese, lemon curd, and Nilla wafers, but feel free to change it up. Other curds or jam could be nice, and we think lemon or original Oreos would work well too. You could skip the lemon peel garnish, but we don’t recommend it—it adds an extra special touch to this cake, and is super simple. Speaking of easy, now’s the time to start making your own simple syrup at home. Because sugar is a natural preservative, a batch of simple syrup will keep for months in the fridge, so we make a big one and use it to sweeten everything from cold brew to cocktails.

Made this recipe? Let us know how it went in the comments below!

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Yields: 10
Prep Time: 0 hours 10 mins
Total Time: 3 hours 10 mins
6 oz.

cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1/2 c.

powdered sugar 

2 1/2 c.

heavy cream

Zest of two lemons 


(11-oz.) box Nilla wafers

1 c.

lemon curd, store-bought or homemade

Easy Candied Lemon Peel


1/4 c.

simple syrup

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl with a hand mixer), cream the cream cheese and powdered sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the heavy cream and continue to mix on medium speed until medium peaks form, about 3 minutes. Fold in the lemon zest.
  2. Spread 1 to 2 tablespoons of the cream cheese mixture onto the bottom of a 9"x13" dish (to prevent cookies from sliding around), then cover it with a single layer of Nilla wafers. Top cookies with about 1/3 of the cream cheese mixture, using an offset spatula or back of a spoon to spread into an even layer. Drizzle this layer with approximately 1/2 of the lemon curd and lightly swirl in. Cover the curd with another layer of cookies and repeat, finishing with a layer of the cream cheese mixture. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and freeze for 3 hours.
  3. While the cake is freezing, use a vegetable peeler to slice long strips of peel from a lemon. (Be careful not to go too deep; you want to avoid the bitter white pith.) Slice the strips into very thin strips and soak in simple syrup for 3 hours or up to a week in the refrigerator.
  4. Remove the cake from the freezer and garnish with the candied lemon peel. Freeze any leftovers for up to 7 days. 

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Erik Bernstein

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