Pumpkin Icebox Cake

published Nov 17, 2023
Pumpkin Icebox Cake Recipe

Layered with graham crackers and pumpkin whipped cream, this no-bake dessert will impress everyone this fall.

Serves8

Prep1 hour 15 minutes

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Head on shot of the whole icebox cake with the first slice cut and resting in front of it, on a marble surface.
Credit: Photographer: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Ben Weiner

One of my most favorite Southern desserts is an icebox cake. Having moved to Virginia from Bombay, my first interaction with an icebox cake, 16 some years ago, is still very memorable. I was very confused by the term “icebox” — aren’t cakes baked in an oven? After learning exactly what it is (a cake made with pre-made cookies, layered with a creamy filling, and set in the fridge to chill and set up), I was hooked. 

Ever since, I’ve made hundreds of icebox cakes over the years, with many different spins and iterations. This fall-inspired riff, made with pumpkin purée, is perhaps my second favorite (peppermint bark icebox cake being the first!). I love the juxtaposition of the warm spices and cool textures. It’s also pretty forgiving. You don’t have to be precise in the way you sandwich the cookies and the filling. The end result will always be delicious and stunning. 

The graham crackers are store-bought and the filling is fast to make. But the best part? You can assemble it a few days ahead! My favorite way to assemble an icebox cake is in a loaf pan lined with plastic wrap. Once chilled completely it’s very simple to flip the cake and easily pull it out of the pan. Cut the cake to reveal the intricate layers of cookies and people will think you spent hours and hours making this complex cake. But don’t worry your secret’s safe with me. 

Credit: Photographer: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Ben Weiner

Pumpkin Icebox Cake Recipe

Layered with graham crackers and pumpkin whipped cream, this no-bake dessert will impress everyone this fall.

Prep time 1 hour 15 minutes

Serves 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the pumpkin filling and cake:

  • 2 1/4 cups

    cold heavy cream

  • 1/3 cup

    pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling)

  • 1/4 cup

    sweetened condensed milk

  • 1/4 cup

    powdered sugar

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground cardamom

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    pumpkin pie spice

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    almond extract (optional)

  • 1 (14.4-ounce) box

    graham crackers

For the whipped cream topping:

  • 2 cups

    cold heavy cream

  • 1/4 cup

    powdered sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    vanilla or almond extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    pumpkin pie spice, plus more if desired

Instructions

Make the pumpkin filling and cake:

  1. Place 2 1/4 cups cold heavy cream,1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk, 1/3 cup pumpkin purée, 1/4 cup powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer or whisking by hand). Beat with the whisk attachment, starting at low speed and gradually going up to high speed, until soft peaks form, 2 to 5 minutes.

  2. Assemble the icebox cake: Line the bottom and all four sides of an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, making sure to have about 3 inches of overhang over all four sides for easier removal of the frozen cake. Spread 1/4-inch layer of the whipped cream mixture (about 3/4 cup) onto the bottom of the loaf pan.

  3. Split 16 graham cracker sheets along the lines into quarters. Spread about 1/4-inch thick layer of the whipped cream mixture onto 2 pieces, then stack them on top of each other. Repeat until you have a stack of 9 crackers. Place the stack vertically against a short end of the loaf pan (you should be able to see all the layers). Repeat with the remaining crackers and filling until you have 7 stacks of crackers arranged side-by-side in the loaf pan. Dollop the remaining filling over the crackers and spread into an even layer.

  4. Fold the excess overhanging plastic wrap over to cover the cake. Freeze for at least 5 hours, preferably overnight.

Make the whipped cream topping:

  1. When ready to serve, grasp the excess plastic wrap and remove the icebox cake from the loaf pan. Unwrap the top, invert onto a serving plate, and remove the remaining plastic wrap.

  2. Place 2 cups cold heavy cream, 1/4 cup powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla or extract, and 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice in a clean, dry stand mixer bowl (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer or whisking by hand). Beat with the whisk attachment on medium speed until medium peaks form, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.

  3. Dollop the whipped cream over the icebox cake. Use an offset spatula or butter knife to evenly spread all over the sides and top of the cake, completely covering the cake. Use the tip of the spatula or knife to create peaks and swirls on top if desired. Dust the top with more pumpkin pie spice if desired. Serve immediately. For the cleanest slices, cut the icebox cake crosswise with a knife run under hot water and wiped dry before each cut.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The cake can be prepared and frozen up to 1 day in advance.

Storage: Freeze leftovers in an airtight container for up to 1 week.