The perfect spring or summer treat: strawberry icebox cake. This layered no-bake dessert has two layers of shortbread, silky lemon curd, fresh strawberries, three layers of cream cheese whipped cream and a layer of toasted meringue on top. It’s the ultimate lemon meringue/strawberry icebox cake mash up.
If you’re a fan of ice box cakes, lemon desserts or strawberry shortcake (and who isn’t?) you’re going to love this recipe. It’s part no bake cheesecake, part strawberry shortcake/strawberry icebox cake and then I had to go in and throw a ton of lemon in there and, of course, add a toasted meringue on top… the result is, *ahem* ten layers of pure deliciousness.
The shortbread hydrates and softens, the strawberries get pliable and release juices into the cream cheese, and all ten layers meld into a wonderful summer dessert, the perfect make ahead, no bake cake that everyone will ooh and ahh over.
(As you know, I make a lot of desserts. There’s always something waiting, either in the cookie jar, under the glass cloche or in the fridge/freezer and my husband is quite accustomed to this so he rarely make requests. However, a few days after we finished the first, he requested I make the entire thing again – a full cake, just for him ????)
Kind of! The ingredients tend to be very similar but it seems the official difference is in how it’s all put together; one is built (ice box) and one is piled (trifle). They both tend to have layers of fruit (usually berries), some kind of cookie (often graham crackers) and whipped cream.
We’re more or less sticking to the basics: we’ve got a berry, a cookie (fancy buttery shortbread!), and whipped cream. The difference is for this strawberry icebox cake we’re making a cream cheese whipped cream which gives it that no bake cheesecake flavor and we’re adding in lemon curd which breaks up the sweet layers with an added sharpness and nuanced flavor.
Cream Cheese: Full fat makes for a more firm whipped cream layer. Allow the cream cheese to soften at room temperature before starting, this will make it easier to make the cream.
Sugars: Powdered sugar and granulated. Powdered helps stabilize the whipped cream.
Heavy cream: or heavy whipping cream. Light cream or half & half cannot be used as there’s not enough fat in them to thicken the cream.
Lemon Curd: Use my best lemon curd recipe. It’s sharp, easy, and silky smooth. Also, you won’t have any leftover egg whites. It can be made and kept, sealed, in the fridge for two weeks.
Shortbread: I used Walker’s Vanilla Shortbread. Any shortbread shape will do, just be sure it’s not too thick – we want it to soften in the fridge.
Lemon: Just a bit of lemon zest that goes into the whipped cream portion of the dish and helps flavor it. The zest plays a role in giving the cake its no-bake cheesecake flavor.
If you don’t have a food processor, don’t fret – you can still make this either with a stand mixer or a hand mixer. But if you do, let’s talk about why using the food processor is best for whipped cream.
Without the addition of gelatin or cream of tartar (common ingredients used to stabilize whipped cream) we’re able to get a thick cream that lasts longer and doesn’t separate or weep in the fridge.
This is because when you pulse or process whipped cream in a food processor, it thickens the cream without beating as much air into it.
To make this cream cheese whipped cream we’ll first process the cream cheese with the sugars and flavorings, to both mix them but also remove any lumps from the cream cheese. Then we’ll add the cold heavy cream and process on high for about 30-60 seconds until it’s thick. It might not look like it at first glance, but swipe a spoon or finger in there and you’ll see it holds shape.
You can over process whipped cream into butter, so keep a careful watch on the food processor as it’s working and stop whenever you think it might be thick enough.
Three layers of whipped cream and two of each: shortbread, lemon curd and strawberries for a total of nine. Plus – the meringue! If you want it that is. It’s really just a fancy finishing, there’s enough layers and cream going on in the cake that you don’t need it, but it adds a nice little toasted mallow touch and between it, the shortbread and the lemon curd it evokes that lemon meringue pie flavor.
Here’s the breakdown of the layers, in the order which they are built:
Don’t worry too much if while spreading the curd for example, musses up some of the shortbread or when piling on the whipped cream it moves the strawberries. This isn’t the kind of dessert to fuss over, simply build layer by layer and then let the fridge do it’s magic.
Fridge: Icebox cakes need to sit in the fridge for about 4 hours before they’re eaten. The time allows for the layers to meld together, for the flavors to disperse and come together to make something new. If it hasn’t had enough time for the cookies to soak up the lemon and whipped cream (and strawberry juice!) you will have crispy cookies that won’t slice. Fridge time transforms this into a cake.
It’ll keep in the fridge for about 2 days without the meringue. The meringue should always be made the day of serving.
Freezer: If you wanted to make this a week or several days in advance you can make it, without the meringue, leave it in the fridge for a few hours for the cookies to hydrate then freeze it. Cover the top so that it doesn’t get freezer burnt. Set it in the fridge a few hours before serving so it can soften. Top with meringue before serving.
Nope, absolutely not. There’s quite a lot of ‘cream’ in this so it’s not necessary. I just like a beautiful cake topper!
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