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Lemon Icebox Cake

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Prep Time: 20 minutes     Cook Time: 0 minutes

5 from 5 votes

This lemon icebox cake is such a tangy, refreshing treat for the summer. It’s wonderfully easy to make since the filling is simply a question of beating everything together! It’s also a no-bake dish so you don’t need to heat up the kitchen with the stove or oven during the warmer months.

A slice of lemon icebox cake on a plate.
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Lemon icebox cake is a fantastic make-ahead dessert that would be ideal for any kind of party, gathering, or event. You can just make it and forget about it!

It uses graham crackers for crunch and flavor. The filling is thick, creamy, and sweet. A simple lemon slice on top finishes them beautifully and makes the cake look every bit as elegant as a bakery-bought dessert. And the flavor? Well, you’ll just have to make this yourself and see how tasty it is!

Speaking of tasty no-bake desserts, I have a fantastic no-bake chocolate chip cookies recipe. And you could never go wrong with this lemon parfait, which doesn't require any baking and is another one of my favorites!

Main Ingredients

The ingredients to make a lemon icebox cake laid out on a table.

Lemon is of course the main flavor in this heavenly homemade lemon icebox cake and you will also need a few other pantry and refrigerator staples. Let’s take a closer look:

  • Lemon: Juice and zest flavor the filling while slices decorate the finished cake. For the best results, I’d strongly recommend buying fresh. For the topping, slice twists look good or you might prefer candied slices which you can usually find in the baking aisle.
  • Cream cheese: To make the filling. The slightly tangy, creamy taste and texture of this ingredient make it perfect for this lemon icebox cake. Let the cream cheese come to room temperature first, so it’s easy to mix. I prefer whole milk cream cheese although the reduced fat kind would work just fine if that’s what you prefer to use.
  • Heavy cream: For an airy texture. Not only does the cream give a light texture to the cake but it also gives an indulgent flavor. Heavy cream is used in the filling as well as the topping. This is definitely a cake recipe for cream fans!
  • Confectioners' sugar: For sweetness. Also known as powdered sugar, it is easier to combine with cold ingredients than granulated sugar which would be grainy because there’s no heat used to dissolve it. This ingredient features both the filling and the topping.
  • Vanilla: To complement the other flavors. Make sure you use vanilla extract (made from real vanilla) rather than vanilla essence (which is synthetic).

Instructions Overview

Now your mouth will be watering as you imagine biting into this zesty, sweet, and creamy lemon icebox cake dessert! So how exactly do you make it? First of all, you will beat cream cheese with confectioners' sugar and then you can beat in lemon juice and zest.

Next, whisk heavy cream until you get soft peaks, and then whisk in the vanilla and some confectioners' sugar. Fold this mixture into the cream cheese mixture. That’s the filling all done.

Arrange graham crackers in a baking dish and spoon half the filling on top. Repeat with more graham crackers and the remaining filling. Top with more graham crackers.

Whisk some heavy cream with confectioners' sugar as well as vanilla to make the topping. Spread the topping over the cake. Now just chill it overnight (or for at least 4 hours) and then decorate with lemon slices to serve.

An overhead shot of an icebox cake with a slice on two plates.

Common Questions

Why is it called an icebox cake?

This type of sweet treat was introduced to the US back in the 1930s when companies making iceboxes were marketing and promoting them to American housewives. Knowing they could use this handy appliance to make lemon icebox cake and other mouthwatering cakes, they would supposedly be more excited to purchase a brand new icebox!

What is a good summer treat?

This is something I ask myself every summer. You know when the weather is too hot to even think about cooking but everyone is still hungry? Well, that's typically the time I think about making frozen and chilled desserts such as this strawberry granita recipe.

However, I've been experimenting with icebox cake recipes lately because the no-cook aspect is very appealing! Being able to make a dessert and simply chilling it in the refrigerator is a very simple way of making sweet treats for the summer.

What are soft peaks and stiff peaks?

You will often hear these terms which typically refer to whipped cream. In this icebox cake recipe, you need to whisk the cream to the soft peak stage but what is that exactly?

If a recipe calls for soft peaks that means they barely hold up their shape and when you remove the beaters they collapse. Stiff peaks hold their shape when you remove the beaters. Occasionally a recipe will call for medium peaks which are partway between the two, meaning the tip of the peak will curl over itself when you remove the beaters but the rest will hold up.

Do bear in mind you can get from the soft peak stage to the stiff peak stage very quickly, not so much when you're whipping cream by hand but when you are using an electric whisk, so stop often to check your progress.

What should I serve with this cake?

It makes a wonderful dessert during the spring and summer months when nobody wants a hot dessert. It’s great after any kind of meal, perhaps served with some iced or hot tea.

How should I store it?

Keep it refrigerated and use it within 2 or 3 days at the most. By day 3 the cookies will be quite soft, but it’s still edible.

Can I freeze lemon icebox cake?

Wrap the cake in plastic and then aluminum foil (to prevent freezer burn) then freeze it for up to 4 weeks. Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator.

Should ice box cake be frozen?

Although yes you can freeze this dessert if you aren't going to use it up within a few days or if you want to boost the firm texture before serving, it isn't something that has to be frozen like many other summer treat options.

Can I make this recipe ahead?

Yes. Make it a day ahead and cover the baking dish with plastic wrap. Keep it refrigerated. It will taste fine!

Do I have to use fresh lemon for this?

It’s always best to use fresh, especially since it’s the main flavor in this cake recipe. If you don’t have any, you could try bottled. It will be ‘nearly’ as good!

Finished icebox cake in its baking dish about to be sliced.

Chopnotch Tips

  • Can’t find graham crackers? Use other crunchy types of cookies such as shortbread cookies, chessmen, or Nilla wafers.
  • Try lime or orange in this recipe instead. Either of those makes an equally refreshing summer dessert.
  • Creamy desserts don’t do well in the heat, so it’s best to remove this from the refrigerator just before serving.
A bite of icebox cake up close.

A lemon icebox cake is the quintessential summertime dessert. It’s quick and easy to make and requires no cooking at all.

Let us know what you think! Give this recipe a rating in the comments section below.


How to Make

Lemon Icebox Cake

This recipe offers a sweet, creamy, tangy flavor. It makes a perfect dessert for the summer when you want to make a no-bake cake.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Chilling Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 20 minutes
Servings: 18 slices


For the filling:

  • 16 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 ¼ cups confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 14 ounces graham crackers
  • zest of 2 lemons

For the topping:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • lemon slices, to garnish
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  • Take a large bowl and beat cream cheese and ¾ cup confectioners' sugar until smooth. You can use an electric mixer. Then add lemon zest and lemon juice to the mixture beat well, and set aside.
  • Take a separate bowl and whisk the heavy cream until soft peaks begin to form. Then add remaining vanilla extract and confectioners' sugar to the cream and beat until stiff peaks form.
  • Fold the whipped cream mixture into the cream cheese mixture.
  • Now take a 9x13-inch baking dish and cover its bottom with a single layer of graham crackers and spread half of the filling mixture over it. Repeat this with another layer of crackers and the remaining filling. Then top with one more layer of crackers.
  • Prepare the topping by whipping heavy cream until soft peaks form. Now add confectioners' sugar and vanilla and whip until stiff peaks form. Don’t over-mix on this stage.
  • Spread the topping on the cracker layer and refrigerate for 4 hours. Slice into squares and garnish with lemon slices before serving.
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  • Can’t find graham crackers? Use other crunchy types of cookies such as shortbread cookies, chessmen, or Nilla wafers.
  • Try lime or orange in this recipe instead. Either of those makes an equally refreshing summer dessert.
  • Creamy desserts don’t do well in the heat, so it’s best to remove this from the refrigerator just before serving.

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 358kcal (18%), Carbohydrates: 29g (10%), Protein: 4g (8%), Fat: 26g (40%), Saturated Fat: 14g (88%), Cholesterol: 82mg (27%), Sodium: 242mg (11%), Potassium: 111mg (3%), Fiber: 1g (4%), Sugar: 16g (18%), Vitamin A: 922IU (18%), Vitamin C: 3mg (4%), Calcium: 68mg (7%), Iron: 1mg (6%)
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Comments & Ratings

  1. This is the best Lemon ice box pie i have ever made and ate love it

    • Hi Deborah, that is so great to hear! Thanks so much for taking the time to leave this feedback. Glad you are loving it!!