True story. I never had an icebox cake until I made this last year. I know what you’re thinking: “How can you, self-christened Fatty Daddy, never have had an icebox cake?” The honest answer: I don’t know.

But…ever since I developed this, inspired by a recipe by Jessie Sheehan, I made up for lost time. Boy, have I made up for lost time! This summer, I’ve made it no less than three times. And even though it’s not peak strawberry season, I’ve still made it. And our guests have adored it.

My biggest suggestion is to use perfectly ripe strawberries (see the FAQ below). It makes all the difference.

david caricature

Why Our Testers Loved This

LC testers were delighted by how quickly and easily this no-bake dessert comes together. Sasha Pravdic describes it as “light, refreshing and cool – perfect for a hot summer day when you want dessert but don’t want to turn on the oven,” and Angela Reynolds calls it a “perfect make-ahead summer dessert.”

What You’ll Need to Make This

Ingredients for strawberry icebox cake--Nilla wafers, strawberries, powdered sugar, cream, granulated sugar, and vanilla.
  • Strawberries–Use fresh, very ripe strawberries to make sure that the strawberry flavor shines in this dessert. Plus, underripe strawberries will be difficult to mash.
  • Vanilla wafers–I love the classic Nilla wafers, but any vanilla wafer cookie will work here. Some icebox cake recipes call for graham crackers. Still, I prefer this version as the cookies soften perfectly as they sit between the cream layers.
  • Vanilla–You know how I feel: Use the real stuff for the best flavor.

How to Make This Recipe

Strawberries and sugar being mashed in a bowl, and cream and confectioners' sugar being whisked in a separate bowl.
  1. Combine the strawberries and sugar in a large bowl and mash until chunky.
  2. Whip the cream in a large bowl until it starts to thicken.
Vanilla added to the bowl of sweetened cream, then the strawberry mixture folded into the cream.
  1. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until the cream forms stiff peaks.
  2. Fold the crushed strawberries into the cream.
A layer of strawberry cream in a baking dish, then a layer of Nilla wafers on top.
  1. Spread a layer of strawberry cream on the bottom of a baking dish.
  2. Top with a layer of Nilla wafers.
A layer of strawberry cream being added on top of a layer of Nilla wafers and an image of an assembled strawberry icebox pie.
  1. Spread another layer of strawberry cream over the Nilla wafers.
  2. Continue repeating layers until the baking dish is full. Cover and chill overnight so the wafers can soften into something amazing.

Common Questions

How can i choose perfectly ripe strawberries?

Great question. Since ripe strawberries are crucial for this icebox dessert, here are a few tips I follow when shopping.

How to Win the Strawberry Lottery

Color Me Red: Forget those pale strawberries. You want the ones that are already a beautiful, blushing red. No green or white “hats” (area around the leafy tops) allowed on these berries.

Size Matters (But Not Too Much): Big strawberries might be showy, but the smaller and medium ones often have the most personality. Plump and uniform is the name of the game here.

Sniff Test: Your nose knows best. If a strawberry smells like a strawberry, it’s a winner. If it smells like, well, nothing? Pass on that one.

The Squeeze: A little firm, a little yielding–that’s how a ripe strawberry rolls. Too soft, and it’s headed for a smoothie, too hard, and it thinks it’s an apple.

Leafy Greens: Look for lively, perky green leaves, not the wilted ones that look like they’ve given up.

Spot the Spots: Blemishes and bruises are out. You want your strawberries cover girl ready. No makeup required.

Bottoms Up!: Peek at the bottom of that container like you’re checking for hidden treasure. You don’t want any squished or underripe surprises.

Timing is Everything: Seasonal strawberries are like summer flings–they arrive at the perfect time and always seem to taste sweeter.

Shop Local, Think Delicious: Your local farmers’ market might just have the strawberry field of dream you’ve been seeking. Organic? Even better.

Can icebox cakes be frozen?

Because this icebox cake contains heavy cream, it’ll freeze very well. To freeze, just chill your cake in the fridge overnight, wrap it well, and stash it in the freezer. It’ll keep for up to a month. You can eat your icebox cake anytime–frozen or partially thawed, depending on your preference.

To thaw an entire cake, stick it in the fridge overnight. It should be thawed and ready to serve the next day.

When did icebox cakes become popular?

Icebox cakes found fame in the 1920s and 1930s, when convenience foods became popular and readily available. The cakes called pre-made, commercially-produced ingredients, and for the first time, folks could entertain almost on a moment’s notice–no more spending hours in the kitchen to whip up a dessert for guests.

Why is this called an “icebox cake”?

This no-bake dessert got its moniker because it needs to be chilled. Of course, waaaay back before electricity, people kept their food cold by placing it into insulated wooden and metal containers called iceboxes. Large chunks of ice were delivered by horse and carriage (then motorized delivery trucks) and loaded into the iceboxes.

When electric refrigerators came about in 1913 and found their way into many homes, people continued to refer to these new appliances as “iceboxes.” Many of our parents and grandparents still use the term today. Even The One calls our chest freezer in the basement the icebox.

Helpful Tips

  • If you don’t have a potato masher, you can use a food processor to mix your strawberries and sugar, but take care to not over-process the mixture.
  • Chilling your bowl and mixer attachments will help your cream whip up quickly.
  • The cake will keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped in plastic. Freeze for longer storage.
  • If you’re not a fan of Nilla wafers, you can use graham crackers, Biscoff cookies, ladyfingers, or even Oreo cookies. Thicker cookies will take longer to soften.
A serving of strawberry icebox cake on a plate with sliced strawberries and a spoon on the side.

More Excellent Strawberry Dessert Recipes

Write a Review

If you make this recipe, or any dish on LC, consider leaving a review, a star rating, and your best photo in the comments below. I love hearing from you.–David

This was a huge hit at my house. Even my daughter-in-law, who never takes seconds of dessert, asked for more.

It was so easy to make, too. And I love that you can make it way ahead of time and throw it in the fridge until serving time. Thanks for this recipe!

A serving of strawberry icebox cake on a plate with sliced strawberries and a spoon on the side.

Easy Strawberry Icebox Cake

5 / 8 votes
Thin layers of strawberry puree, homemade whipped cream, and vanilla wafers make this easy no-bake icebox cake a classic that you'll want to make all summer long.
David Leite
Servings10 servings
Calories425 kcal
Prep Time20 minutes
Chill Time6 hours
Total Time6 hours 20 minutes


  • 2-quart dish


  • 3 cups strawberries, chopped
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • One (11-ounce) box vanilla wafers
  • Sliced strawberries, for serving (optional)


  • Crush the strawberries and sugar in a medium bowl using a potato masher until very juicy and just slightly chunky. Don't have a masher? Pulse the berries in a food processor, but be mindful not to overprocess.
  • Whip the heavy cream in a large bowl using a whisk or a handheld mixer until the cream starts to thicken, 2 to 3 minutes. Dump in the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and whip until stiff peaks, about 1 minute more.
  • Gently fold the strawberry slush into the cream.
  • Grab an offset spatula or a spoon, and spread a layer of strawberry cream on the bottom of the dish. Top the cream with a layer of vanilla wafers, fitting them as closely together as possible.
  • Continue alternating layers of strawberry cream and wafters, ending with a luscious layer of cream. Swirl and swoop the top decoratively. Cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight.
  • The next day, scoop the cake onto plates and finish with sliced strawberries.


  1. Chill your bowl and mixers–Chilling your bowl and mixer attachments will help your cream whip up quickly.
  2. Storage–The cake will keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped in plastic. Freeze for longer storage.
  3. Use different cookies–If you’re not a fan of Nilla wafers, you can use graham crackers, Biscoff cookies, ladyfingers, even Oreo cookies. Thicker cookies will take longer to soften.


Serving: 1 portionCalories: 425 kcalCarbohydrates: 49 gProtein: 3 gFat: 25 gSaturated Fat: 14 gMonounsaturated Fat: 6 gTrans Fat: 0.1 gCholesterol: 61 mgSodium: 141 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 35 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2022 David Leite. Photos © 2022 David Leite. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This light and airy icebox cake is easy to put together and perfectly sweet. The strawberry flavor shines through, and the vanilla wafers magically transform into a sponge cake-like texture overnight. This is a dessert that kids and adults will enjoy making and enjoying!

If I’m honest, what attracted me most to this strawberry no-bake dessert was the term “icebox” in the title. It conjures old-fashioned desserts made by a smiling mom in a cute apron and chilled in the “icebox.” And this easy strawberry icebox cake will reward you with a nostalgic taste. It’s light, refreshing, and cool–perfect for a hot summer day when you want dessert but don’t want to turn on the oven.

It was tasty after one day in the fridge, but even better was the slice I had today out of the freezer, thawed on the counter for about 20 minutes. The nice thing about freezing this cake is that it is easy to cut a square straight out of the freezer and have a terrific on-demand dessert. Easy and quick, with few required ingredients, this cake is a winner!

I made half a recipe, and it turned out beautifully. I recommend using a heaping cup of strawberries to really maximize the flavor. Next time, I may try a layer of sliced strawberries in the middle layer for additional flavor.

I needed a quick and easy no bake strawberry dessert for this testing round and Jessie Sheehan’s strawberry icebox cake fit the bill perfectly. Barely 20 minutes of hands-on time and then it worked its magic while we slept.

I didn’t grow up with icebox cakes, so the very soft texture of the finished cake was not something familiar and probably not my favorite, but the strawberry cream flavor – especially using the fabulous seasonal best berries available right now – was fresh and fabulous and the proportions of cookie to cream were just right.

You can make this in a springform pan and slice it like a baked cake and it’s a fairly stunning return for such little investment in time and ingredients.

This would be an absolutely terrific recipe to make with children of any age. They would love watching the cream go from liquid to pillowy peaks (the transformation still fascinates me as an adult!), stirring in the pretty berries, layering the cookies and then seeing how everything transforms after a few hours in the refrigerator. Topping with some colorful sugars finishes the fun!

This easy strawberry icebox cake recipe is a perfect make-ahead summer dessert. While it was delicious after 8 hours in the refrigerator, it was even better after 12 hours; the layers were more defined and the cookies even more cakelike.

While I think fresh strawberries are the best, I bet frozen could be used here for a taste of summer in December. My husband is allergic to bananas and this gives him an option for that soft cookie fruit dessert.

If I could take one cake with me to a deserted island (alone), it would be this easy strawberry icebox cake! No-bake icebox cake recipes are typically so versatile, simple, nostalgic, and delicious and this one certainly fits that bill.

As to its simplicity, it really doesn’t get easier than this strawberry no bake dessert. In under 30 mins, 27 to be exact, I had a beautiful icebox cake assembled and ready to be chilled.

I have to say that I LOVED the idea of carefully folding the strawberry puree into the whipped cream. It produced a pretty strawberry-speckled, fluffy, cloud-like delicious filling. Plus, when it came time to assemble the cake, it was much easier to just spread this filling rather than layer sliced strawberries and whipped cream separately.

The assembly process was clearly laid out in the directions and worked well. A 2 qt. Pyrex dish held all of the layers and used up all of the cookies and filling. Minimal breakage of cookies was needed to produce a solid layer of cookies. It was covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight for about 12 hrs total.

As suspected, the final dish was loved by all who devoured it. I could tell they were all secretly thinking about that deserted island! The dish was pillowy and creamy with a perfectly sweetened, fresh strawberry taste.

The wafers had a very, very slight bite, as they had absorbed some of that strawberry whipped cream puree. A very special no-bake dessert perfect for a warm summer day!

This no bake strawberry icebox cake is easy to throw together, looks homey and lovely, and tastes great! I’ll definitely be making this again this summer!

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    We loved this dessert. My daughter-in-law had never heard of an icebox cake and she was enthralled with the ease of this dish. It was the perfect finish to our labor day meal of baby back ribs and coleslaw.

    1. Raw Ann, I’m Team Icebox Cake, too. This one is a winner. We made it for the holiday, too!

  2. 5 stars
    I know, I know you did not mention this on the recipe notes, but what if I only had frozen strawberries on hand?
    Strawberry season is long past gone here and I’m dying to make this!

    1. Marcella, we haven’t tried it with frozen strawberries, so we can’t say for certain if it would work, or if it would cause the filling to be too wet. If you try it, I’d recommend thawing the strawberries, then gently patting them dry before using. If they’re giving off a lot of liquid, you could also strain them.

    2. Marcella … the strawberries in the store now are awful, true but there are orchards in PA (and perhaps near you) that bring down strawberries which are divine, and I am off to get those tomorrow 🙂 You are correct that eating food at its prime is the best way to savor. Good luck.

      1. Thank you Ruth, but I’m in northern Italy and all I can find right now are some (awfully expensive) raspberries. I’ll try with frozen, following Angie’s advice.