Yesterday Emma and I shared a little peek into my new cookbook, Bakeless Sweets, and today I'm going to give you the goods: a recipe! I had a hard time choosing which one to share with you (Pistachio pudding? No-bake creme brûlée? Raspberry yogurt squares? Tiramisu?) but I settled on this tart lemon icebox cake for a very particular reason.
A few years ago, I shared this No-Bake Strawberry Icebox Cake with you. I grew up with icebox cakes, a rather down-home, grandmotherly dessert made of graham crackers layered with whipped cream or pudding, then refrigerated for a few hours. Then a magic trick happens in the fridge: the crackers soften into tender, flaky cake-like layers, with creamy sweetness in between.
These sorts of cakes are easy, generously-sized, and an immense hit. And you seemed to think so too, because boy that strawberry icebox cake was a smash success here on the blog. It's been viewed over a million times and I love to think of summer picnics and Mother's Day dinners with this dessert that I learned from my own mother and grandmother.
Seeing how popular that cake was also sparked my imagination — why weren't there any cookbooks out there that focused on that sort of dessert? Also, pudding? Why no pudding cookbooks? And panna cotta, my favorite dessert? And that very quickly turned to the natural next step: Why not write one? So I did — and it all really started right here.
So I felt it was just right to give an icebox cake today, because that's really how this whole project began, and I'm so grateful to all of you for the spark of inspiration!
This lemon cake is super simple: Whip cream with fresh lemon zest and lemon juice, then layer it together with lemon curd (store-bought, or make it yourself), and yummy graham crackers. It's intensely lemon-flavored, with lots of pucker to balance the sweetness, and the nutty, browned-butter taste of the graham crackers supporting the brightness of the lemon. I hope you enjoy — it's my little thank you present to all of you!
Tender layers of nutty graham cracker, holding up lemon-spiked cream with swirls of intensely
tangy lemon curd—this cake’s vibrant lemon flavor never fails to delight. "This tastes just like
lemon!" is a common reaction.
1/4 cup (56 g) unsalted butter, very soft
3 cups (720 ml) cream
1/2 cup (50 g) powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large lemons, zested and juiced (about 2 tablespoons zest and 1/3 cup / 75 ml juice)
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a large bowl and a hand mixer), whip the butter until very soft. Gradually whip in the cream. When it has been smoothly combined with the butter, add the sugar, salt, and lemon zest. Whip until the cream forms firm peaks, then slowly beat in the lemon juice. Continue beating until completely combined. The cream should still hold soft peaks.
Smear a small spoonful of the lemon cream in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch (23-by-33-cm) baking dish. Lay down a layer of graham crackers and spoon 3/4 to 1 cup (180 to 240 ml) of the whipped cream over the top. Drizzle with 1/4 cup (60 ml) of the lemon curd. Repeat three more times, finishing with a top layer of whipped cream. (You will have four layers of graham crackers, and four layers of whipped cream.) Drizzle the final 1/4 cup (60 ml) lemon curd over the top of the cake in three straight lines, then draw a knife through these lines perpendicularly, creating a streaked checkerboard pattern.
Refrigerate the cake for at least 2 hours, until the crackers have softened to a cakelike texture (test this by inserting a thin knife along the side and bringing up a few crumbs). This can be made up to 24 hours ahead of time, but it is best consumed within a day or two, as it will get soggy if it sits too long.
(Images: Stacy Newgent for Bakeless Sweets; Faith Durand)