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RECIPE: This easy-peasy icebox cake has been a family favourite for decades

No oven required to make this famous old fashioned icebox cake!
No oven required to make this famous old fashioned icebox cake!

Icebox cake isn’t really a cake. It is an old-fashioned dessert that is most famously made with chocolate wafer cookies and whipped cream that is chilled and not baked. The wafer cookies absorb the moisture from the whipping cream and transform overnight in the fridge into a delicious cake filling.

The cake origins date back to the early 20th century when families kept food cold in iceboxes. Nabisco made the icebox cake famous in the 1930s when it appeared as one of the first “back of the box” cookie recipes. A sophisticated dessert could be made with just two ingredients, chocolate wafers and whipping cream.

By the 1950s, with the creation of instant pudding and store-bought ice cream, icebox cake recipes showcased an explosion of flavours and a variety of ingredients. Popular 1950s icebox creations include banana cream, lemon, strawberry and peanut butter made with graham crackers, vanilla wafers, ginger snaps and ladybird fingers. However, with its wonderful simplicity, the original Nabisco icebox cake remained a family tradition.

In early 2000, New York’s famed Magnolia Bakery can be credited with once again starting North America's renewed fascination with icebox desserts. Magnolia Bakery created their version of the famous Nabisco icebox cake because of Allysa Torey’s fond childhood memories of making the dessert with her Mom.

While Magnolia Bakery makes their own chocolate wafers, the original Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers sold as Mr. Christie’s Chocolate Wafers in Canada are perfect for making this easy and delicious icebox cake at home.

I prefer the Magnolia Bakery method of stacking the cookies into a wavering tower versus the original Nabisco recipe of forming stacks to form a roll.  The cake can also easily be layered in a baking dish.

If this icebox cake isn’t already a family tradition, it will become one. Serve with a giant bowl of strawberries.

Adapted from The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook. Simon & Schuster

Makes 8-10 servings


3 cups heavy cream
3 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 packages Mr. Christie’s chocolate wafer cookies


In a large bowl beat cream, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer or hand mixer. Start on slow speed to avoid splattering the cream and then increase to high speed until soft peaks form.
Arrange a layer of whipped cream in a circle on a flat serving plate.

Arrange 7 cookies side by side over the whipping cream, keeping 1 cookie in the center.

Spread with 1/2 cup whipped cream, making a circle. Repeat with remaining cookies and cream, ending with a layer of cream. Cover with plastic wrap or a cake cover and refrigerate overnight.
If you wish, you can top the cake with a dusting of cocoa powder, chopped chocolate or strawberries.


— Claire Sear is a Vancouver-based food, wine and lifestyle writer

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