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Home » Desserts » Chilled or Frozen Desserts » Lemon Icebox Cake

Lemon Icebox Cake

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We can’t think of a more refreshing, no-bake summertime dessert than a lemon icebox cake. The lemon cream filling is light, airy, and creamy. It gets layered between crisp cookies that soften up enough to slice but still give the cake a contrast in texture. 

You can use storebought cookies or make our crispy lemon cookies in advance. Either way, this dessert is a winner. It is perfect for summer potlucks or any day of the year. 

A slice of lemon cake garnished with lemon and mint.

This divine treat also goes well with fresh berries and lavender ice cream on the side.

Try our triple lemon cheesecake recipe if you love lemon desserts. Our lemon ricotta cookies and whole lemon tart are also delicious. 

Why This Recipe Works

  • Lemon is the star of the show. 
  • Icebox cakes are simple to make, and they are a definite crowd pleaser. 
  • A hint of lemon oil intensifies the lemon flavor from the fresh lemon juice.
     
  • The creamy filling contrasts with crisp lemon cookies and makes a perfect combination. 
  • No baking required, so it is perfect for a hot summer day. 
  • This dessert is the real deal. There is no cool whip in this recipe. 
A creamy, no-bake cake with lemons on top.

Ingredients Needed

Here is a list of the simple ingredients for this recipe. Scroll down to the printable recipe card for all the details. 

How to Make a Lemon Icebox Cake

Here is a brief overview to give you an idea of what to expect with this no-bake dessert. Scroll down to the printable recipe card for all the details.

  1. Use an electric mixer to beat the softened cream cheese and sugar together.
  2. Add the lemon juice, oil, and zest, and continue mixing.
  3. Slowly pour in the heavy cream, increasing the speed until the mixture turns creamy and forms firm peaks.
Placing a layer of cookies on the bottom of a cake pan.
  1. Arrange a layer of lemon cookies in a 9-inch springform cake pan. Fill in any empty spaces as much as possible with broken cookie pieces.
Smoothing lemon cream over a layer of cookies.
  1. Spread one-fifth of the lemon mixture on top, followed by another cookie layer.

Adding a second layer of lemon cream to the icebox cake.
  1. Continue layering the cake, ending with a layer of the lemon cream mixture.
Covering the icebox cake wit plastic wrap.
  1. Refrigerate the lemon ice box cake overnight and add garnishes just before serving (if desired).

Tips for success

  • Run a thin, sharp knife around the inside edge of the cake pan so the icebox cake can release as cleanly as possible.
  • To add flavor variations, you can use lemon oreo cookies, graham crackers, vanilla wafers, or crisp coconut cookies.
  • Use block cream cheese for this recipe. Cream cheese that comes in a tub won’t set as well as the block cream cheese.
  • You can prepare this dessert up to three days in advance.
  • Keep the lemon icebox cake refrigerated until it is time to serve. 
  • If you want to assemble the layers in a casserole dish, it will be easy to transport. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Why is it called an icebox cake?

The term “icebox” is used to describe the first electric refrigerator. This cake needs time to set up inside a fridge before serving, hence the term icebox cake.

How long does an icebox cake need to be refrigerated?

The minimum is a few hours, but refrigerating our lemon icebox cake overnight is highly recommended for the best results.

When did icebox cakes become popular?

This dessert rose in popularity during the 1920s and 1930s. It is especially popular on hot summer days when you don’t want to turn on the oven.

Can you freeze an icebox cake?

Yes. Make sure you store it in an airtight container. You can freeze the cake for up to three months. Keep in mind that our lemon icebox cake tastes best when eaten fresh.

Two slices of cake with lemon garnish.

You can’t beat a no-bake lemon icebox cake. It is the ultimate summertime dessert. If you plan to serve this at any large gathering, don’t expect to have leftovers to bring home.

More Chilled or Frozen Desserts

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More Recipes You Will Love

Use any of your leftover lemons to make one of our other decadent lemon-flavored desserts like our lemon meringue cake, or lemon cake roll.

Try our double chocolate icebox cake or mocha icebox cake for more no-bake desserts. 

We also have a no bake strawberry cheesecake and a chocolate-covered strawberry inside a cheesecake.

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A slice of lemon icebox cake.

Lemon Icebox Cake (no bake)

Yield: 12 to 14 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 14 minutes
Total Time: 34 minutes

This lemon icebox cake is an easy, no-bake dessert. The lemon cream filling is light, airy, and creamy. It gets layered between crisp cookies that soften up enough to slice but still give the cake a contrast in texture.

You can use store-bought cookies or make our crispy lemon cookies in advance. Either way, this dessert is a winner. It is perfect for summer potlucks or any day of the year, really.

If you can't find lemon cookies, this dessert is great with vanilla or coconut cookies.

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon oil
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2 cups cold heavy cream
  • 24 crisp lemon cookies (homemade or storebought)

Optional Garnish:

Instructions

  1. Place the cream cheese and sugar in a mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat the mixture until smooth. Add the lemon juice, lemon oil, and lemon zest. Mix until combined.
  2. Stop the motor and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. With the mixer on low, add the heavy cream and slowly raise the speed and beat until the mixture is thick and creamy and has formed firm peaks. Scrape the bowl down part-way through mixing.
  3. To assemble the cake, arrange the cookies flat in a 9-inch springform pan. Cover the bottom as much as possible and fill in the spaces with broken pieces of cookies.
  4. Spread a fifth of the lemon cream mixture evenly over the cookies. Place another layer of cookies on top, lying flat and touching, followed by another fifth of the cream.
  5. Continue layering cookies and cream until there are 5 layers, ending with a thick layer of cream on the top. Smooth the top, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  6. To remove from the pan, run a thin sharp knife around the outside of the cake and remove the sides of the pan. Garnish the top of the cake with candied lemon and whipped cream if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve and slice into wedges.

Notes

  • If you don't want to bake your own cookies, this cake works well with storebought cookies. Try lemon oreo cookies, graham crackers, or crisp coconut cookies for a delicious variation.
  • Use the kind of cream cheese that comes in a block. The kind of cream cheese that comes in a tub will not set up as firm.
  • You can assemble the cake up to 3 days in advance. Don't add the whipped cream garnish until the day you serve the cake.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 14 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 568Total Fat: 41gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 21gCholesterol: 73mgSodium: 384mgCarbohydrates: 47gFiber: 2gSugar: 18gProtein: 6g

Nutrition information is a guideline only, is calculated automatically by third-party software, and absolute accuracy is not guaranteed.

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This recipe was first published on July 14, 2014. We updated the photos and added some helpful tips.

Pat Nyswonger

Pat is a wife, mom of four adult children, and grandmother to seventeen beautiful children. She is a self-taught home cook and loves creating delicious meals for her family and friends. Her kitchen is the hub of activity in her home, and she loves to entertain.

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Sharon

Saturday 10th of June 2023

I have everything on hand to make this except the lemon oil. How much will the flavor differ without it? I plan on making it tomorrow.

Dahn Boquist

Saturday 10th of June 2023

It will have a mild lemon flavor without the lemon oil. It will still taste good. If you have fresh lemons then you can add some lemon zest to the mix which will bump up the lemon flavor. Another trick is to rub the lemon zest into the sugar which releases the lemon oils from the zest.

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