Icebox Cake (homemade chocolate wafers with caramel cream)

icebox cake

Icebox cake, is really not a cake at all; it’s layers of chocolate wafer cookies and whip cream. So, what’s up with the name? Once the cookies and the cream have a chance to sit together, in their little rows, the cookies soften and in a blind taste test you’d never know you weren’t eating cake. I am sure the version I ate as a child was made with Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers, which are still available, and Cool Whip. I loved it as a kid, but now my taste buds crave more flavor and a LOT less sweet. I added burnt sugar to the fresh whipping cream and baked my own bittersweet chocolate wafers. The homemade chocolate wafers make all the difference. They are intensely chocolate and less sweet, which gives the cake so much more personality. Something old is new again and much tastier.

When you slice into the cake you reveal the beautiful stripes of caramel and chocolate. You can simply spread the top with the caramel whip cream, but for Easter or other holidays you might want to use a pastry bag and pipe a fancier design. As you can see I went a little Downton Abbey with my decorating, but either way this is one of the easiest and tastiest desserts I have ever made.

Chocolate Caramel Icebox Cake

Makes: 12 servings

Prep Time: 45 hour

Refrigerating Time:  3+ hours

Level: multiple steps, but all of them are easy

Homemade Chocolate Wafer Cookies:

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup sugar

½ cup dark brown sugar, well packed

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup cocoa powder (Dutch processed)

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup milk

Caramel Whip Cream:

¾ cup sugar

¼ cup water

1 teaspoon corn syrup

3 cups heavy whipping cream


To make the ice box cake:

To make the caramel whip cream:


In a large sauce pan put the sugar in a mound in the center of the pan, be sure it doesn’t hit the sides. Gently add the water and corn syrup, making sure the sugar doesn’t splash up on the sides of the pan.


If any of the sugar is not dissolved, very gently stir, but make sure none of the sugar hits the sides of the pan. (All of this care to keep the sugar off the side of the pan will prevent your sugar from crystallizing while it cooks.)

Cook over high heat, without stirring.


When the sugar starts to color on the edges, gently stir the sugar.


Until it is quite dark, it will smoke a bit. I like my caramel very dark, with an almost bitter edge.


Once the caramel is dark in color, reduce the heat and add half the cream. The caramel will sputter and seize up, which is normal. Gently whisk the caramel until the caramelized sugar dissolves. Add the remaining cream and stir.


Strain the caramel cream into a shallow container. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least an hour. Can be made the day ahead.

To make the chocolate wafer cookies:



Cream together the butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla until light, about 2 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix just to combine. Add the milk and mix just to combined.

Form the dough into two 1½-inch-thick logs. Wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

To bake: Preheat oven to 350°F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment.

Slice the log of cookie dough into 1/8-inch-thick coins.

Arrange on the cookie sheets with about 1½ inches between the cookies. Bake for 8 minutes and then rotate the trays back to front and switch from top to bottom racks. Bake for another 2 minutes or until they are dry looking and firm. Because the cookies are so dark, you can’t go by color on these. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Line an 8×4-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, set aside.

Using a whisk or stand mixer whip 2/3 of  the chilled caramel cream until soft peaks. Be sure not to whip the cream in a plastic bowl or it may not whip properly. Reserve the remaining 1/3 of the cream for topping the cake. The best way to whip cream is to do it on a lower speed for a longer time. If you whip the cream on medium-high, instead of high, you will have a smaller air bubble and the cream will have more stability. This will also prevent some over whipping.


icebox cake

Coat the bottom of the prepared pan with about a ¼-inch-thick layer of the cream. Line the outside of the pan with the cookies.

icebox cake

Spread a layer of the cream on each cookie and layer them together in the pan.

You should end up with about 3 rows of cookies and cream. This may vary slightly depending on how large your cookies are.

icebox cake

Cover the top with more of the cream, so the cookies are completely covered.  Refrigerate the cake for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Invert the cake onto a serving platter.

icebox cake

Whip the remaining 1/3 of the cream and decorate the cake as you wish.