strawberry graham icebox cake

I have expressed in the past — oh, one, two, three, four, five, or perhaps 500 times — my adoration of cakes where the layers are thin and many and you have my word that one day, I will get to all of them so please tell me about your favorite here and now. For many years, I fiddled with ways to make cake layers thinner and thinner until I probably exasperated everyone, so it was just in the nick of time that I realized if I began with cookie-ish layers (say, soft macaroons or icebox cookies the size of cakes), and filled them with something fluffy that would soften them into “cakes” (whipped cream and its variants), it got easy enough that we could make them more often, which, after all, is the goal. Cookies aren’t limited by the number or size of your cake pans. Cookies can break and still stack into an excellent cake.

quick graham doughdivided into sixthsrolled thinwhile hot, trim into circle

trimmed!swoosh on the creamadd the berriesstacked

Thus, I don’t know how it took me so long to make this — a graham-cracker cookie cake filled with a lightly cheesecake-d filling and paper-thin layers of fresh strawberries, which soften quickly into the happiest summer thing. I’m not even sure it’s going to survive day two in our household (to be fair, we had guests last night, but to be honest, that only accounts for 6 slices) but this, too, might be for the best because if you’d like to go the fresh berry route with this, it’s really best in the first 24 to 36 hours — that is, once assembled. When it’s still just cookies, they in fact can last a week or longer in an airtight container, as most cookies do, and I know that because due to a busy week, that’s how long it took me to finish assembling this cake. If — and hey, I’m just thinking ahead here, I’m thinking of us — you were to go ahead and make two batches of these cookies, you could make this cake twice in the next couple weeks and I don’t mean to oversell it, but it’s definitely going to be one of the best decisions you’ve made, at least about summer weekend cakes.

strawberry graham icebox cake
strawberry graham icebox cake

P.S. Thank you for your overwhelming and cheerful response to Tuesday’s news! I can’t believe how lucky I am that I get to spend my days chatting about food with people like you.

Strawberry Graham Icebox Cake

We’re enlisting many of my favorite easy cookie tricks here — you can catch up here if you’re curious, or just follow along below, they’re all in there — to make this go quickly. I realize making 6 cake-sized cookies sounds like a spectacular amount of work, but it’s almost all there is to do besides whipping a cream cheese whipped cream and slicing strawberries very thin.

Let’s talk about the fruit: You want to slice your strawberries paper-thin so they act like a skinny layer of jam. Because fresh fruit imparts a lot more juices than jam, if you go this route, the cake is best in the first 24 hours before it might seem overly soft, which might not be everyone’s thing. You have two other options: 1. Use a thin layer of actual jam (instead of fresh fruit) applied directly to the cookie tops before swooshing the cream over. 2. Or to cook chopped berries into a light sauce as we did here, letting it fully cool, then dolloping it in tiny dabs on top of the cream throughout each layer. The first strawberries we brought home from the market were too sweet and beautiful to cook, though, I couldn’t bear it.

Skip the cinnamon if you’re not looking for a cinnamon-flavored graham.

This makes 1 6-thin-layer 7-inch round cake. If you’d like to double everything, it will make a 7-layer 9-inch cake.

  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (230 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup (125 grams) dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) honey
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams) unsalted butter, cold is fine if using a food processor, softened otherwise
  • 1 large egg
  • Cream and assembly
  • 6 tablespoons (75 grams) granulated sugar
  • Finely grated zest of half a lemon
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, very soft
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (355 ml) heavy or whipping cream
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups (to be safe) fresh strawberries, hulled

Make grahams in a food processor: Combine flour, salt, baking powder, spices and sugars in the work bowl of a food processor, running until mixed. The brown sugar will want to clump; just break it up with a spoon or spatula and keep running the machine until it gives up. Add butter and run machine until it is powdery. Add egg and honey and run machine until the dough begins to clump/ball together.

Make grahams without a food processor: Beat softened butter with sugars until combined. Add egg and honey, beat until smooth. Sprinkle mixture with spices, baking powder, and cinnamon and beat until very well combined. Add flour and mix only until it disappears. You’ll want to cool this dough slightly if it’s very soft before rolling it out; you absolutely don’t want it as cold and firm as a regular roll-out cooke dough but if it’s, say, as soft as frosting, it will be too mushy to roll easily.

Both methods: Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Get out 4 sheets of parchment paper and locate a bowl or plate with a 7-inch diameter. Divide dough into 6 balls. Roll out first ball between two sheets of parchment paper until it is slightly larger than the 7-inch rim. Do not trim. Remove the top sheet carefully (if it gives you any guff/sticking, just slide this dough sheet into the freezer for 2 to 3 minutes to firm up before trying again; I didn’t find this at all necessary).

Bake grahams: Slide graham round and the paper it is on onto a baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes, until it’s a shade darker on top and browned at the edges; don’t be afraid of a medium-brown color in places; it provides crisp.

The moment it comes out of the oven, place the 7-inch plate or bowl right on top of the hot cooking and use a sharp knife or pastry wheel to cut the cookie into a circle. Remove the bowl or plate, leave edges attached to cookie; they’ll remove easily once it has cooled for a minute or two. Slide parchment sheet with cookie on it onto cooling rack. In a couple minutes, it will be cool enough to remove the parchment sheet. Reuse it for other cookies.

Meanwhile, use additional sheets of parchment to create an assembly line so that as soon as the first cookie round is baked, you can slide the next one in. (Or, if your oven is bigger, bake two at a time, lucky you.) Reuse all parchment rounds. Don’t forget to trim the cookies while they’re hot, it’s much easier this way. Once cookies are cool, you can stack them to save space.

To finish and assemble cake, ideally a few hours before you want to serve it: (No need to rest this overnight, as you would with other icebox cakes; it softens much faster.) Slice your strawberries paper thin with your sharpest knife. Set aside.

Place sugar in the bottom of a large bowl and sprinkle zest over it; rub zest into sugar with your fingertips so that it releases the most flavor. Add cream cheese and beat until combined, light, and fluffy. Add vanilla and salt and beat again. Add heavy or whipping cream just a spoonful at a time at first. You want to stretch the whipped cream cheese very slowly or it will take on a lumpy appearance. Once enough cream has been added that the mixture is liquid, add the rest. Beat cream and cream cheese together until it holds soft peaks.

Assemble cake: Place a small dab of whipped cream on the center of serving plate and place first cookie on top; in a few minutes, it will soften it enough that it doesn’t slide around so much. Scoop 1/6 of cream onto first cookie layer and spread it almost completely to edges. Arrange strawberry slices in a single layer, not so close that they touch, but so the top is as well-pebbled as you see in these pictures. Repeat 5 more times. Rest cake in fridge for 3 to 4 hours before serving.

Do ahead: Baked, cooled cookies keep for a week, if not longer, at room temperature in a tin or loosely wrapped. Cake with fresh berries, once assembled, is best in its first 24 to 36 hours. See suggestions up top for alternatives that might hold up longer.

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167 comments on strawberry graham icebox cake

  1. I love that summer weekend cakes is a thing, just like weekday afternoon cakes are a thing. Any idea if this would work well with “alternate flours?” (Ugh, and I hate that I’m now that person who has to seriously ask that question.)

    Congratulations on the new book. Hope your book tour takes you to Western Mass. Regardless, hopefully our little girls’ paths will cross now that we’re closer to NYC and deadlines aren’t looming. :)

    1. deb

      Thank you. I can’t be positive but it’s my hunch that these cookies will adapt well to a partial whole wheat swap and possibly (possibly!) a good gluten-free baking blend. The worst thing that happens is that you still have cookies, right? Just less perfect ones. Still delicious with cream and berries.

      1. If I make these grahams, I will use all-purpose whole wheat flour. It’s made by Daisy Flour and I swear by it for whole grain baking. It’s a blend of hard and soft wheat, so you don’t get the over-tenderness of whole wheat pastry flour (soft wheat) baked goods, nor the aggressive dry texture of high gluten (hard wheat) flour.

        1. Anna

          Best dessert ever. I’ve made twice. A bit of a labor of love, but absolutely worth it. Crowd pleaser and impresser. It’s even good 2-3 days out.

    2. JJ Harris

      I want to try this with Bob’s Red Mill One for One Gluten-Free Flour. It has worked well for me in other recipes including Deb’s Strawberry Summer Cake.

      1. Emily

        Bob’s Red Mill One for One works beautifully! Made this for my birthday cake last weekend – it was absolutely delicious and got rave reviews. It didn’t last long enough to tell how it’d keep past 24 hours. :)

    1. deb

      No, I absolutely debated doing more of a key lime or lemon curd “cheesecake.” I’d probably just dollop it on or maybe spread it very thinly under the cream.

  2. Christine

    FUN! I’m going to try to veganize it (sorry if that sounds like blasphemy). coconut cream, strawberries, graham…It’ll all workout after a few delicious educational failures. Thanks for the inspiration! Is there a trick to cutting it so perfectly?

    1. Denise

      If you veganize it, what would you use to replace the egg? I have a grandkid who’d love this but has an egg allergy. I have flax meal but is that enough of a binder? Thanks!

      1. Christine

        I’m a big fan of aquafaba (the liquid drained from a can of chickpeas (usually 1:1 replace for eggs works in many baked goods). I don’t like the powdered egg replacers personally since I think I can detect them in the finished product. Ground flax pre-mixed with warm water might work here since it hides in the graham flavors, but I think it can mess up the texture of cakes. These are flat cookies though, right? Good luck! If you beat me to trying this, post how it went!

        1. Christine

          Finally got around to making this, and it is SO worth it. It worked beautifully in a vegan version!! I used vegan “cream cheese” from Myoko’s creamery, whipped coconut cream, and aqaufaba as a cookie binder. I think my cookies were probably more crumbly, but with some care I managed to pull it all together and it was perfect after a short stay in the fridge.

  3. Beth

    I know this might change the cake totally, but, why not use cinnamon crepes? Or does this defeat the texture/taste that you are looking for. Also, why are you not slicing your strawberries with a egg slicer? mine does mushrooms, strawberries and, of course, eggs!

    1. deb

      You could, but I was going for a different texture. The cream might be a little heavy for crepes as written because it’s not going to absorb. I think crepes to better with more of a thicker pastry cream. Re, egg slicer, I actually want them thinner, and mine were from the market and already too soft to hold up.

  4. Janet

    Way, way back in the 1970s, I think, there was a recipe in one of the Chicago newspapers for Frosted Salerno Butter Cookies. The cookies were stacked with layers of buttercream in between then the entire stack was frosted. They had to sit overnight to soften up. I never made them or even tasted them – but I never forgot the idea of that recipe!

    1. MtnNewf

      I realize this is almost exactly 6 years late, but I’m also from Chicago and my mom made Nabisco Famous Wafers layered with whipped cream for Christmas every year. Everyone got 2 stacks! Anyway, I still make these, altho I have to make or find a replacement for Famous Wafers. I also switch it up: in the summer I layer gingersnaps with peach ice cream (I guess more of an ice cream sandwich) and for Thanksgiving, I use a smear of pumpkin butter and whipped cream flavored with pumpkin spice.

  5. Ashley

    This reminds me of an Appalachian stack cake. My mother in law requested one for her birthday a few years ago (she remembered them from childhood in Tennessee) and I discovered a recipe in Vintage Cakes that matched her description — thin cake layers + jam between each layer. If you have two cake pans, it’s quite quick and easy…you just bake 2 very thin cake layers at a time (less than 15 minutes). It’s not my personal favorite, but I figured you’d want to know. They also have a charming backstory (per Vintage Cakes) – wedding guests would each bring a layer to add to the cake, making it huge or small.

  6. Courtney

    Do you think the filling could be tweaked to incorporate chocolate (like a s’more!) or nutella?

    A devote chocolate lover

    1. deb

      You should make this chocolate icebox cake, you can use that filling or this one or another. Btw, this shaping technique is simpler (because I learn something new each time), cutting it after you bake it rather than before (harder because you’re working with a soft dough).

  7. bea

    Do you know Millefoglie (literally, “a thousand leaves”)? It’s a quite popular italian dessert made (I think!) with the thinnest possible layers of puff pastry and a chantilly cream (or whatever you call crème patissiere + whipped cream) with chocolate drops. It has to be eaten shortly after it’s assembled and…. well let’s just say it has it’s fans!

      1. SLB

        My family has long made a version of icebox cake with graham crackers, applesauce, and whipped cream. (We stacked in squares, and make mini cakes.) I think this recipe would be okay with regular graham. Maybe not as delicious and amazing as the homemade, but still good.

        1. Nicole

          I made it today with Trader Joe’s Cinnamon Grahams (they are the best!!). Layered crackers, cream, strawberries and jam twice; final layer just cream, strawberries and crumbs. It was beautiful and delicious – my kids raved! I know baking it from scratch would be better, but with 3 teens and sports this is more my reality!

          1. Suzanne

            Nicole, so what was the order of your layers? Crackers, then cream, then strawberries, THEN jam? I’m trying to follow as I think perhaps jam would be needed if using store-bought grahams.

  8. JP

    One edit: “the moment it comes out of the oven…on top of the hot cooking”. It will be one hot cookie! Neat recipe…reminds me a little bit of Cook’s Country’s strawberry stack cake. I know there is an apple version too. Thank you for all your hard work and looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of your new book! Congratulations!

  9. Michelle

    My husband raves about his great grandmother’s Apple Stack Cake. As far as I can tell, it’s super thin layers of cake and apple butter in between. If you ever attempt it,I’d love a recipe!

  10. Looks wonderful, anything cream+strawberries + crisp layers can´t go wrong! I´m German, so Graham crackers are something I have read about many times, but never tried, and this recipe is tempting enough I think I should !

    As of your question, totally different, but thin layers, too: Baumkuchen (“tree cake”). You bake spoonfuls of dough, spread to thin layers, at a time, on on top of the other, resulting in a cake that when sliced has multiple layers reminding of the year rings of a tree.

    1. Alev

      I was just going to ask about what else can be used instead of cream cheese. I do not like cream cheese. Would mascarpone work here?

      1. I’d be careful with mascarpone – it curdles very easily when whipped even a second past desired consistency. (I may have learned this from experience recently when I had to toss an entire batch of mascarpone mocha buttercream….). I just made this tonight and the mixer runs for a while in the cream cheese mixture. But Deb probably has better input!

  11. Can this be made with other summer fruits e.g. Mango/peaches/nectarines? I’m in Israel and strawberries are almost gone by now – but this looks so delicious!

    1. Yael

      Ha, I was just looking through the comments because I was wondering the same thing – also being in Israel. I suspect this could work with any fruit, as long as it’s sliced thin (or there’s the jam and sauce routes sugested in the note).

  12. As a child in England we used to put whipped cream between Ginger Nuts ( a hard biscuit not a cookie) to form a log which was then covered in the cream. Eaten once the biscuits had softened but it was difficult to wait for that! I even remember making it for a bistro I worked in when the staff could make pudding suggestions and the customers loved it!

  13. Sion Jesse

    How do you always inspire me to do a massive amount of work?

    As soon as we eat our way to some freezer space (might take 2 weeks), I’m making this exactly as you wrote it for my partner. He will love it.

    Then, I think I want to draft a vegan version of this for my roommate. I am pretty comfortable with veganizing cookie recipes at this point, but I think the filling could be tough. I already add fresh lemon juice whenever I buy a premade vegan cream cheese product because I think it imparts a bit more of that flavor we love in cream cheese (tho I can never get it to be perfect–probably not possible). I became allergic to dairy in my tweens (the hives and throat-closing kind, not lactose intolerance, or else I’d just eat a bunch of lactaid tablets and go to town), so I’ve learned to get creative in the kitchen to compensate. I somehow still vividly remember how awesome cream cheese is, which I’ll blame on all the red velvet cakes I made with my father when I was little. My roommate loves food but doesn’t like cooking or baking, so I think he’ll be super appreciative if I can pull it off.

    I know a raw food chef here in Philly who makes raw vegan cheesecakes out of nuts and other things. They have no right to be as incredible as they are–she is a genius (she’s also the one who invented all of the recipes for those Brad’s raw kale chips you see at Whole Foods). I think if she’ll tell me some secrets, going full homemade-from-scratch for a dessert cream cheese alternative might be the ticket to nailing a perfect vegan version of this recipe.

  14. Sherry

    I wonder if you could use food processed matzos. They also make a gluten free version. Blank slate for almost any flavor, including perhaps a shortcake type flavor for the strawberry/cream cheese perfection. They are certainly absorbent. Maybe too much? I am alway looking for new things to do with leftover matzo. Thanks.

  15. Melissa

    I was looking for a birthday cake to make for a friend at work next week – this is perfect. I think it will be easier to bring the components to the office and assemble there. Can I make the cream cheese whipped cream the night before and put in the refigerator?

    1. deb

      So, here’s my trick for this whipped cream: If you want to get a lead on it, get the cream cheese very soft and proceed as written with adding the cream slowly, but then stop short of whipping it. You can keep this thick but loose mixture in the fridge until needed (I actually had 4+ days before I got to it). Then, when you’re ready to put everything together, finish whipping it and assemble away.

  16. Grace

    As a Brit, I’m puzzled by the term “icebox” in front of certain cakes. Does it mean you have to keep them in the fridge?

  17. Judy

    I am SO pumped about the new book-would you include the Hartford area as part of a tour? there is a very cool independent bookstore in West Hartford where I think you would have lines out the door.

    keep breathing, and keep having fun!

    1. Carol Martucci

      I am also curious to where you are referring? Brick Walk Bookshop? I thought the only independent book stores in the area sold used and/or antique books. The only one traditional independent bookshop in West Hartford I recall was the Bookworm, which is now closed.

      I figured that’s why the CT stops on book tours always seemed to be at RJ Julia in Madison, which is lovely but a long and traffic-filled drive from the Hartford area.

  18. Suzi

    Seriously Deb, just when I think you can’t top yourself, you do! The amazing depth of your cooking/food prep analysis and communication style keeps me a rabid fan. Thank you! Oh, BTW, your recipes are pretty good too. ;)

  19. Tanya Katz

    When we saw this on the website yesterday, my eleven-year-old daughter canceled all plans and made this instead. Fantastic! We are a huge fan of the very thin layer cakes. My daughter has made the hazelnut macaroon cake not only for Passover, but it has been requested for many friends’ birthday parties as well. This cake is as fabulous as that one, just the right flavor combinations, and it came together just as described. Five stars!

  20. carolyn

    I’m not a fan of cheesecake, but this would be so easy to adjust. I was just thinking how amazing it would be with a gingersnap cookie, whipped cream and lemon curd…

  21. Deb Allmeyer

    I, too, was thrilled to read about the new book! My son called this week to pick my brain for birthday gifts (tomorrow is the big 66!) Happily, I told him I wanted your new book. Happy son, happy happy Mom! Can’t wait!

  22. Carissa

    So a little bit back I bought a bag of graham flour for making your graham crumbles (which are always a hit!) and somehow I ended up buying 3 bags…I’m still not sure how I did that…so much graham flour…anyhoo…

    Do you think I could sub out the AP flour for graham? And do you think it should be a 100% sub or just a partial? Always looking for options for the graham flour…so much graham flour.

  23. Lauren

    Yum and yum again! This is a great looking springtime cake. Will happen this week for sure. Can’t wait to sneak a little lemon in there too. Sorry that the curlyhead prefers dad to you just now, but it is typical, it means you both have been doing your job. He has been his own version of “smitten” for nearly 2 years now, right? He should revel in his new popularity! This, BTW, will allow *someone* to still communicate with Anna when she is in eighth grade…you will be glad to pass that duty on to him by then, believe me.

  24. I made this yesterday for my birthday party, and it was FABULOUS! And I used my mandolin slicer (with the guard!) to cut the strawberries into very very thin slices, and it ended up sitting in the fridge for about 7 hours before we ate it. Pure summer perfection!

    1. Susan

      I was coming to suggest this very thing. Apparently, the Smith Islanders can make a cake in an hour. A lot of the ladies use those little foil pans. They really are good, especially if you like frosting (which I do)!

  25. Courtney

    I was struck by the need for an afternoon baking project and this beauty is now doing its requisite 3-4 hour chill in the fridge. I can’t wait to share at the BBQ we are headed to this afternoon. The cake had a number of steps but went together beautifully and fairly quickly. It’s nice that each step can be done ahead of time. Thanks for a great recipe, Deb!

  26. Sarah

    I made this for a brunch this morning. Finished assembling it around 7am, served around 1 and it was perfect. I burned the edges of some of the cookies, but I’ll be sure to pay better attention next time. There will definitely be a next time, this was a hit.

  27. Kat

    This was delicious and I can see it being very flexible. It was a hit at our first BBQ. I can also see why you wouldn’t make it ahead. The graham cookies really do get soggy like the crust of a cheese cake would. Heaven!

  28. Kathleen

    Do you think that it would work as individuals, cutting thin slabs of cookie into smaller circles or any other shape that your heart desires? Hearts or Stars for example?

  29. Meredith

    Baumkuchen! A German marmelade-marzipan cake of 20+ layers. Usually made on a spit to create the appearance of tree rings, but in a springform under oven grill very good.

    1. Charlotte in Toronto

      Marzipan and marmalade together really intrigues me. Would this be Saville marmalade or the stuff made from sweet oranges?

      1. Meredith

        I’ve made it both ways (depending on availability) and the Seville was better, but I tend to prefer a less-sweet cake (so do Germans, they make cheesecake with half the sugar)

  30. Joelle

    Deb, if you want to go lots of thin layers…you need to make Maida Heatther’s Merry Go Round cake.

    Maybe 12? vertical layers of cake. Assembled like an upright jellyroll, none of the stacking of the Dobos.

  31. caroline

    This reminds me of my favourite birthday cake when I was a kid – it’s a Swedish recipe, I believe. Huge, thin butter cookies stacked just like this, layered with canned peaches and cream. My mum would drizzle the top of each layer with a little of the syrup from the canned peaches, then chop the peaches small and fold them into whipped cream… sigh…. it’s even better the next day.

  32. Carrie

    Would this work with a certain chocolate hazlenut spread and marshmallow cream to make a smores flavored cake? I’m wondering how much the layers depend on absorbing the moisture from the filling, and if nutella and marshmallow cream would impart enough? Would I need to brush the layers with something to soften them up first instead?

    1. deb

      Believe me, I thought about this. I might use melted milk chocolate or a thick milk chocolate ganache right on the cookies, then a more marshmallow-y icing. I am concerned, however, that it might not be as wet at whipped cream, could take longer to soften, but not sure.

  33. This looks awesome! But I actually have a question about one of the recipes from your first book (which I love). I’ve made the pot pies several times and they are delicious. But my pastry always droops in the middle — and parts always fall off the edges onto the cookie sheet. Why is that happening and do you have any suggestions for how to prevent it in the future? Thanks!

  34. hahveeair


    Looks faaantastic. Will try very soon. Can you tell me where you got your white plate? I cannot find a plate like that for the life of me anywhere…

    1. deb

      Yes, I love this whole collection of thin, lightweight, inexpensive plates, called Mercer from Crate & Barrel. I ended up buying one in almost every shape and size before shooting a big spread for my new book and they immediately went into heavy rotation. This is the 12-inch round, I think.

  35. I made this yesterday for my sister and I- wow! Was absolutely delicious.

    This is the second meal I’ve tried cooking this month thanks to Smitten and both were just awesome. Please keep the tips coming :)

  36. Wife To An Amazing Cook

    My 11 year-old made this on Sunday and we loved every bite! It looked beautiful and tasted fantastic. I’m not a fan of strawberry shortcake (yes, I know, that’s heretical to say…) and this was the perfect spring/summer dessert to take its place. Definitely going to keep this in rotation all summer. Thanks Deb.

  37. Amy H

    This was very light and tasty– shocked at how “grahamy” the layers were despite the absence of graham flour. It’s also simple, though a bit time-consuming to bake layers individually. Directions for trimming and cooling were spot on (would expect nothing less!) I had the happy accident of rolling my cookie layers very thin and having an extra, which I promptly burned to a crisp :) Absolutely will make this again.

  38. Sarah

    I love a dacquoise just because of this layering crunch + cream texture but my supreme choice from a long life of cooking is my ex- mother in law’s Napoleon cake. She was Ukranian s and a WWII refugee aswell so everything she ever made once they were established here in South Australia involved the best of every ingredient. Her Napoleon Cake had 12 layers of thin biscuit like pastry layered with the most delicious custard and the pressed under a board for at least 24 hours. It ended up about 1 inch thick and absolutely heavenly to eat. She would moan as she described the effort it took to make.

    When I was young I asked her to give me the recipe which she did and my ex interpreted it as she explained it to me. So I id try to make it but was sure she had not given me the whole truth because mine was not like hers. Oh the arrogance of the young!

    She is dead now but I still have the recipe and have always wanted to achieve that delicious cake. Recently her cousin gave my daughter and my ex a demonstration of making that cake. I was extremely upset to not be included because watching has become essential to my learning. Anyway I got to try the result – not recognisable – and then ‘gratefully’ received a copy of the recipe. When it was compared to Mum’s there were so many differences. So, I’m going to gird my loins and try again soon while the weather is cold.


    1. deb

      This sounds a little bit like the Napoleon my husband’s (Ukranian) family has been pressing me to make for all 14 years I’ve known them. :)

      1. Sarah

        Deb, I imagine with your persistence and passion you might try your relations urging and make this cake but with them not just from the recipe. I have enjoyed lovely cakes all over the world but this is the tops. Leave out the moaning though. If you would like ‘my’ recipe I will sent it once I’ve had a successful go at it. Sarah xx

  39. Suzanne

    I can’t believe you didn’t reference your original Icebox Cake recipe from 2007! I first made it years ago, and it was mind blowing. I think I had to buy the cookies online though, as I could NOT find them in any store. I keep an eye out for them everywhere I go.

    On that note, since I really don’t foresee myself making those gorgeous graham layers myself, could I make this with store bought grahams? Either the (ideally) round variety of the same brand in your original Icebox Cake recipe, or make a square cake with (gasp) regular graham crackers? Maybe if I promise to one day make it from scratch? Like when I don’t have a toddler standing underneath me constantly?

  40. CB

    This looks absolutely beautiful! I’m thinking of subbing in dulce de leche for the strawberries for my husband’s birthday cake next week. Strawberries and cream cheese is my thing (hope someone makes this exactly as is for MY birthday!), but my husband prefers a caramel flavor profile. Is the cream cheese layer pretty sweet, or not so sweet? Should I alter anything to balance out the sweetness of the dulce de leche?

  41. andrei7even

    Man, this looks amazing and by looking on the ingredients, I bet it tastes even better. It’s one a clock in the morning right now, but tomorrow, I’ll try to replicate this recipe. Fingers crosed!

  42. Meghan

    Okay, I need help. I’ve tried to make the cream cheese/whipped cream twice now, and each time it ends up looking curdled (with some liquid) – not whipped cream-y at all. I tried making sure the cream cheese was very soft and added the heavy cream very slowly to incorporate. What am I doing wrong?

    1. Whip the cream cheese for a long time until it seems really smooth. Then slowly (really slowly) add the whipping cream a little at a time. It incorporates really slowly I found.

    2. Jennifer

      I found that this happened (despite going very slowly and the cream cheese being super soft). I’m suspicious that it was due to too much fat.

  43. I made this delicious cake and another gold star to Deb! Thoughts on process: I tried to make the dough well ahead of time but didn’t have time to cook so I ended up with a pile of parchment/rolled out circles in my fridge overnight. It wasn’t a great idea – the dough did stick to the parchment and I had to be very careful about pulling it apart. I kind of lost some of the dough in the process. In the end it turned out well still and I hid the uglier ones as the lower layers. The process for cutting the rounds after baking was perfect. I found that the filling did not become liquid until I poured in almost all of the whipping cream, so a warning to be patient. Last but not least, if you want a super pretty presentation, cut the strawberries on the top in the opposite direction that Deb shows above and layout around a circle like petals. Then cut a strawberry end off of a small strawberry and place in the middle.

  44. Maggie

    This was a lovely weekend cake! I swapped cardamom for the dry cinnamon, and added a dash of cinnamon-vanilla extract to the cookies, and tried the jam suggestion, on top of which I layered the whipped cream and then dollops of roasted strawberries, since my market berries got soft faster than anticipated. The syrup made a delicious, tart drizzle when serving. Thank you again!

  45. Sharon

    Deb do you think this can be done with graham crackers? I live in Florida and it’s just too hot to turn on the oven, but love the thought of this… Thanks in advance!

  46. Brooke

    How sturdy is this cake once it’s assembled? Do you think it would travel well? I’m thinking it would be perfect for my daughter’s birthday- her favorite foods are strawberries, cream cheese, and graham crackers (she’s two.) But I’d have to assemble it the morning of the party and then transport it about an hour away. After an incident years ago involving a homemade wedding cake and the back of my car, I now try to prep things ahead and assemble them on location, but we wouldn’t have time to do that with this since it needs a few hours to soften up.

    1. deb

      Oh my goodness, with the wedding cake, I cannot even imagine. I expect this to be less dramatic. I’d put it in a cooler on its plate and try to keep it from moving around and I think you’ll be fine. The cookies only take a few hours to soften, but I think in hindsight I was overly dramatic about it only being great on the first day because we loved it on the second and third days too. The cookies just have less structure, are fully in the cake zone. Good luck!

  47. Rachel

    I made this cake for Memorial Day. It turned out beautifully and I even managed to transport it across town without tipping it over! Deb’s hint to put a small amount of the whipped cream cheese filling on the plate before putting down the first layer was a huge help. I finished the leftovers off for breakfast yesterday :)

  48. Louise Megargee

    Made this over the long weekend and it was perfect! Loved the flavors and the method worked exactly as pictured. Thanks for all of your lovely recipes – I’ve made many and they have been spot on. Cheers, Louise

    1. deb

      I think it would be delicious, my only concern is that I find coconut whipped cream softer and it might collapse more between layers. But check out this comment — she also used vegan cream cheese and it sounds like it was a big hit.

  49. Steve

    I cannot get the frosting not to lump up and get liquid. Problem is that means you are screwed if you do all the work and then the frosting is like cottage cheese

    1. deb

      This happens usually when the cream cheese wasn’t soft enough (and sometimes with low-fat). I find cream cheese takes forever to get really mushy, I often give it a few hours. (Unlike butter, which might only need 30/45 minutes.) See if you leave it out a little bit so the cream cheese is very soft and can be whisked smooth with the cream. Even room temperature, it’s fine. Once totally smooth, chill the mixture again full (i.e. like cold cream), and whip it again. It should do the trick.

      1. Justicia

        This happened to me but the cream cheese was absolutely room temperature. It’s hot today in Philly, but only like 84 in my apartment. Do you think I should have let the cream come to room temp first too?

  50. Mandy

    My cream never solidified. It was a goop mess. A delicious, but goopy, mess. Had to pile it into a bowl. There is one other recipe I have trouble with like this- the mint cream frosting for the chocolate souflees. Would it be better to whip up the cream first before adding the additions? I never seem to have a problem whipping cream otherwise. Too bad I can’t post a photo, it would make you laugh.

    1. deb

      I’m not sure why it didn’t thicken, I’ve never had a problem, but yes, whipping both separately is an option. Trickier would be then getting the cream cheese back into the whipped cream without deflating it. I’d try maybe just a spoonful at a time.

    2. Carmen

      I had the same problem and did as Deb suggested with a second try on the cream. Make sure the bowl and whisk you use to whip the cream is VERY cold (I had mine kept in the freezer for 15 minutes and put it in the fridge between layers when assembling!) It’s now sitting in my fridge waiting to be eaten! Thanks, Deb!

    3. Rachael

      This happened to me as well! It was a very hot day when I was putting this together and not sure if that had something to do with it. I tried getting everything very cold once the cream had been added to cream cheese mixture (which I do think was mushy and warm enough) but it did not work. Ultimately, I started over and scrapped the cream cheese and added powdered sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla to whipping cream and beat until soft peaks formed and used this instead. It was delightful and although I was sad to not have any cream cheese tang, not a one person who enjoyed the cake complained and everyone had rave reviews.

  51. Rachel

    I was curious about how a half recipe would work – we are leaving for our honeymoon tomorrow so didn’t want to leave too many leftovers. It worked great! I used a 5 inch diameter bowl, a small egg instead of a large one, and most of a plastic clamshell of strawberries. I also added some lemon to the cream at the end which drew out more of the cream cheese tartness. Thank you for the glorious recipe!

  52. Rebecca

    I made this and it turned out nicely! Cookie baking definitely the most time consuming part. The end result was a little too sweet for my tastes, but it was eagerly consumed at a potluck!

  53. Shannon

    This was delicious! I made it for my son’s birthday. I made the cookies the night before and assembled everything the next day. It was a great summer dessert. Thanks Deb!

  54. For the record! I was making this for a crowd, 15-20 people, and I doubled the recipe and made 8 x 9″ layers (my only reasonable plates were 9″ anyway). It turned out excellent! The layers needed about an extra minute to crisp up, but it’s a stunning cake and much applauded by everyone. Thank you so much for another amazing recipe!

  55. Natalie

    Made this yesterday and it was wonderful, although maybe a tad on the sweet side. I doubled the cookie dough recipe, went up to 7″ circles , and got 8 cookies, which made for a nice tall cake. The lemon cream filling was perfect. Would I make it again? Perhaps. The cookies were a lot of work and the assembly line to roll, bake, trim, and cool the circles took up every inch of space I had.

  56. Bev

    Hi! I love this cake and make it without the cream cheese. I’m wondering if anyone has the same experience that I do with the cake having a weird taste after a couple of days in the fridge. The strawberries seem to be the culprit – they almost metallic. is this some weird chemical reaction between the whipped cream, berries and graham cracker? I wish I could explain the weird taste better.

  57. Jess

    If you’re into layered cakes you MUST try the Hungarian cake called Dobos Torta. I never preferred layered cakes myself, nor am I a chocolate fan, but this cake is melt in your mouth good and a birthday delicacy in my house. It is step-intensive and random-baking-ingredient-intensive but soooo worth the outcome! (we use this recipe and it turns out just like the bakeries although if Google translate doesn’t do a good job you might just want to try finding one in English 😅)

  58. larissa

    My mom sometimes used to make icebox cakes with Anna’s Swedish Ginger cookies instead of chocolate wafer cookies. Those were good!

  59. Cassie

    I made this for father’s day and it was incredible! I was worried that the cookies weren’t crispy enough but it didn’t matter at all. I put it together in the morning and we had it for dinner so it was in the fridge all day and was perfect. You don’t need to change a thing with this recipe. Thank you for posting it!

  60. Rachel

    I made a double recipe of this using a 10” springform pan for a double birthday this weekend. I’ve been holding on to this recipe for a reason and am happy after doing so. It was a big hit at the party.

    It was a tad sweeter than I would have liked. I found amazing strawberries at the store, and wish they would have been a bit more prevalent, but they were a bit overpowered by the sugar in the grahams and cream. Next time, I’ll reduce the sugar in the cream/cream cheese mixture to let the berries shine a bit more.

    A shortcut that I will take instead of meticulously placing each berry slice is to place the petty rings on the top layer and edges, but then to do a bit more of a rough chop on the berries that go in the middles/centers.

    Also, may try this as individual cakes using cookie cutters to avoid the soggy leftovers.

    Loved it and will make it again.

  61. I made this cake a few months ago, so yummy. Then I needed a Graham cracker crust and had no Graham crackers, so I made this dough and rolled it out for 2 9″pie pans as crust baked about 12 min and filled 1 with peanutbutter pie filling and the other with chocolate marshmallow pie filling. Super yum!

  62. Sandra Bautista

    This was delicious. Next time I will roll my grahams thinner so they will be crispier. They did soften a lot within three hours of assembling when we ate it.
    To cut the graham layers I inverted a scalloped tart pan. It unfortunately didn’t cut all the way through very easily but it did leave a pretty scalloped indentation on the edges that you could see peeking out in between the layers.

  63. CM

    This cake was great. Made the cookies ahead of time and then just assembled the whipped cream and berries. Everyone loved it… but the only idea was, could there somehow be chocolate? I was thinking of trying this again with the chocolate cookies from the chocolate peanut butter ice box cake, but still with the berries and lemon/cream cheese/whipped cream. Thoughts? Think it needs a longer rest time?

  64. Katie

    I made this for my dad’s bday! It was a hit from the 2 y/o to 62 y/o. When I am in a rush in the future, I will make the graham in a sheet pan, crumble it and layer it with the strawberries and whipped cream as a trifle. Though if I find the time again, I would love to make the cake again.

  65. Jay

    I really want to make this cake for someone with an egg allergy, any ideas for an egg substitute that wouldn’t change the structural integrity too much?

  66. Martha

    Soy question: should I use the whisk or paddle attachment for the icing?
    I just tried it with the paddle and looked smooth one minute then completely curdled the next.
    The cookie base is amazing, really hoping I can get the whipped cream part right 🙃

  67. Shauna

    I make so many of your recipes and everyone thinks I’m a baking genius! When I made the filling I followed the directions to a tee, but it never came together and stayed liquidy. I even tried putting in the freezer, but nothing helped. What could have gone wrong?

    1. deb

      For the filling, do you mean that the cream never whipped? Or the strawberries let off too much liquid? (They need to be sliced very, very thin.) Or was it just that the cookies got soft — which, of course, they’re supposed to in icebox cakes but this may not have been abundantly clear.

  68. Melaura

    This is delicious, and not as difficult as you think. I made the cookie layers the day before, separating them with wax paper out of an abundance of caution (though I doubt they would have stuck together, as the little container of trimmings didn’t). I used mixed fruit preserves directly on the cookie layer, swooshing the cream on top as advised in the note. I zested a whole lemon and was happy with that scent/tang in the cream. Eating it 4-5 hours after assembling this way was plenty of time, there was still some texture but it sliced beautifully. With a couple of second helpings there was only one piece left (5 people)!

  69. Elaine H. Fritz

    I have a better idea for a hot summer day, (forgive me): Buy one box of graham crackers, mix cream filling and slice strawberries.
    Prepare a rectangular pan,line it with parchment paper (for lifting), layer graham crackers from their box with the cream filling, top with sliced berries and chill.
    Allow to “mellow” in fridge 3 or 4 hours. To serve – lift from pan with parchment and cut to serve – or spoon to serve, whichever is appropriate.
    No fussing or baking, it’s summer!

  70. Claire

    One of the best desserts I’ve made. I baked off two graham layers at a time using two quarter sheet pans in my (I think) standard sized oven. Was using my half sheet pans for something else, otherwise could likely have done four at a time. I did have a good amount of cream left — probably 1.5 cups or so — and didn’t skimp on the layers. I’d probably scale to 2/3 or 3/4 next time. I made this about 6 hours before serving and it was perfect. Will definitely be a repeat.


    This cake is as pretty as it is delicious! There are just two things I did diffrently. First, I rolled out the circles to the size and left it uncut after baking, so the imperfect edges only enhenced the look, by allowing strawberries to peak out on the sides. Second, I beat cream cheese and whipping cream seperatly and careffuly combined the two on a low speed. I served the cake after about 3 hours in the fridge and it was perfect, easy to cut with a slight crunch to the bite.

    1. Erin W

      This was a big hit for my son’s birthday. Like others, I had trouble whipping the cream/cream cheese mixture and think my cream cheese was too soft. Luckily I had a lot of heavy cream on hand, so I whipped another 2 pints and folded in gently, which improved the results but with lots leftover [darn ;)]. Next time I will avoid oversoftening the cream cheese and/or whip the cream separately and fold in.

  72. Danielle Silverman

    My husband made this for me for my birthday yesterday at my request and it was soooooooo tasty! He made the cookies and whipped cream the night before and then cut the strawberries and assembled the next morning. Was enjoyed with family that evening. Did get a bit mushy after maybe 8 hours or so in fridge so maybe we’d do even less in advance next time but flavor was still amazing and plate was literally licked clean. I wish we made two because one slice was not enough for this 8 month pregnant birthday girl! Your cakes never disapoint and our family loves finding new favorites for every occasion!

  73. Celeste

    I had this cake bookmarked for a party this weekend but when I went to the fruit stand there stood in the center display in all their glory the first Georgia peaches of the season. So I made exactly as written except swapped out strawberries for very thinly sliced peaches and it turned out wonderful! I think next time I may try also swapping the vanilla for a tablespoon of bourbon in the filling ;)

  74. Brittany

    I made this for a Memorial Day lunch and it was absolutely delicious! I made the cookies a few days before and then the cream the day of. The instructions were perfect and everyone was pleased with the result! I loved snacking on the little extra bits. I removed them while they were warm and they dried in whatever placement I left them in. It could be fun to make cute little curlicues and put them on top of cupcakes or something…I’m sure there’s a great use for them, in addition to snacking!

  75. Becky

    My child happened by the computer while I was looking up “strawberry cake” recipes for her birthday. She was immediately fixated by this cake and wanted it for her 4th birthday, but with chocolate frosting and strawberries on the outside only, not on the inside. I ended up doing the chocolate wafers from the chocolate peanut butter icebox cake, cream cheese frosting from this recipe (sans lemon, and with 1/2C cocoa powder for a 1.5x recipe), and strawberry jam between the layers. It was so good and so, so rich! This was by FAR the most successful cake I’ve had in a long time – it goes especially well with port!

  76. Kathleen

    Has anyone tried freezing the leftovers? Would it work? I made this for my small family for Memorial Day, and I’m not sure we can all finish it by the end of the 36 hours.

  77. M

    I am in the process of making these. I opted for making smaller cookies, to make them easier to store (I don’t have such large boxes) and bake (more fit on a tray). The dough was really sticky, even when freezing, and since I didn’t have enough parchment paper, I made do with a lot of flour. That worked out, especially since smaller cookies can be transferred to the baking tray more easily and the resulting cookies are yummy, so I don’t think it affected the taste too much. Am looking forward to trying the filling today or tomorrow, but the cookies by themselves are very eatable already.