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Small Strawberry Shortcake Icebox Cake

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When it’s too hot to turn on the oven, but you want cake – make this small strawberry shortcake icebox cake!  A beautifully layered no-bake cake showcasing fresh strawberries, marshmallow thickened whipped cream, and vanilla wafers that turn cake-like when chilled overnight.  A easy summer dessert that is certain to be a showstopper!

Pretty side view of all the layers in a small strawberry icebox cake on a white platter.

An Easy No-Bake Strawberry Shortcake Cake

Raise your hand if you love a beautiful no-bake cake!  I am especially fond of easy no-bake desserts once the temperature soars above 85F degrees – strawberry s’mores parfaits, blackberry mousse, strawberry pudding lemonade granita, and my all-time favorite, dairy free strawberry ice cream!

But this strawberry shortcake icebox cake has put all those desserts on notice for its beautiful simplicity.  With only 8 simple ingredients and 3 stunning layers, the lush dessert will have you diving in spoonful after spoonful.

  • Vanilla Wafers create the cake part of this dessert.  As they chill in the refrigerator they become soft and tender – like a shortcake cake – from the whipped cream and strawberries. 
  • Whipped Cream is thickend, sweetened, and stabilized with marshmallow cream.  Plus a small pinch of salt to balance the sweetness.
  • Sweet Strawberries provide bright and juicy flavor, beautiful fruit texture, and quite a stunning presentation.

What may be even more incredible about this cake (if there is anything else!) – it is completely adaptable to whatever fruit, cookie, cracker, and whipped cream flavor you desire.  Because the rules are simple:  3 components make up an icebox cake – a creamy layer, a cookie base (which includes sweet or salty crackers), and fruit.  

Layered inside of a strawberry icebox cake on a white platter.

What Is An Icebox Cake

The icebox cake got its name from being stored in an actual icebox – a non-mechanical chest that used blocks of ice to keep its contents cold. 

It is said that the icebox cake itself came from the printed recipe on a box of Nabisco wafers.  Talk about marketing genius to promote different uses of your sweet little cookie!  And what I love about this recipe is that we celebrate its origniation by using Nabisco Vanilla Wafers.  

Ingredient Notes

Ingredients for no-bake summer strawberry cake in bowls on a table.
  • Strawberries – I’m going to encourage you to use fresh strawberries for their vibrant flavor and texture.  Frozen strawberries would need to be thawed, and at that point, they can become too mushy.
  • Vanilla Wafers – To keep the strawberry shortcake flavor, Vanilla Wafers are ideal.  Though you can certainly swap in an almost infinite selection of cookies or crackers.  I did in my lime icebox pie, mango icebox cake and s’mores peanut butter icebox cake!
  • Heavy Cream – Heavy cream is required to make a light and fluffy whipped cream.  You can substitute whipped coconut cream if you prefer.
  • Marshmallow Cream – I’m on a bit of kick right now using marshmallow cream to stabilize my whipped cream.  Plus, it gives you the sweetness you need and a fun flavor.  I like to add a little pinch of salt to balance the sweetness of the marshmallow cream.
  • Lemon Zest – This will help to brighten the strawberries.  Not required, but recommended.
  • Honey – To add the slightest sweetness and floral notes to the strawberries.  Again not required, but delicious.
  • Vanilla – A little splash of vanilla for another layer of flavor.

That’s it.  7 ingredients to make the easiest icebox cake.  8 if you count the salt!

How To Make A Small Strawberry Shortcake Icebox Cake

 1.  Prepare the strawberries – Chop, slice, or both.  Then toss with the honey, lemon zest, and vanilla.

2.  Make the whipped cream – Add the cold heavy cream and marshmallow cream to your mixing bowl.  Start on low until it starts to thicken – this will avoid splatter – then turn up to high and beat until you have stiff peaks.

3.  Line the springform pan – This isn’t necessary, but I like to do it because I transfer my cake to a serving plate.  Otherwise, the cake will be next to impossible to get off the removable pan bottom.  But, you can always just serve it off that if you don’t want to line the pan.

4.  Arrange your first layer of wafers – Fit the wafers as snug as possible in the first layer since this is the base of the strawberry shortcake icebox cake.  It is ok if they overlap a little.

5.  Dollop on the whipped cream layer – Take 1/3 of the cream and spread evenly over the wafers and to the edge of the pan.

6.  Pile on the strawberries – I start with some strawberry chunks then top those with strawberry slices.  Gives me assurance that I will get strawberry in every bite – it is a strawberry shortcake icebox cake after all!

7.  Repeat your layers 2 more times – I like to finish my wafer layer by crusing them up.  For great distritbution at the top, and a slightly thinner layer.  You could even do this with the second layer of wafers.

8.  Finish with the remaining 1/3 of whipped cream – And smooth the final layer nice and even.  After all, this will be the top of your cake!

9.  Chill the cake overnight – Cover the cake with plastic and refrigerate for at least 8 hours (overnight).  This gives the whipped cream time to set and the wafers time to soften – like a cake!

10.  Garnish the cake – Add a little more beauty to your icebox creation and top the strawberry shortcake cake with more strawberry slices.

Small strawberry icebox cake from the top covered in fresh strawberry slices.

Helpful Tips

  • Line the pan if you don’t want to serve the icebox can from the pan – This simply makes getting the cake out of the pan and onto a serving platter easy.
  • Don’t stress about the layers – Yes, we want defined layers in the cake.  However, some may intermingle while chilling, and that is ok.
  • But make sure the first cookie layer is tight – As it serves as the base of the strawberry shortcake icebox cake.  It also all the rest of the ingredinets up – especially that sneaky whipped cream.
  • Clean your knife after each slice – This will make each slice pretty and defined, but it is also easier to slice with a clean knife.
Perfect slice of strawberry icebox cake on a white plate.

FAQ – Strawberry Shortcake Icebox Cake

Can I use Cool Whip instead of the homemade whipped cream?

Yes!

Is there a gluten free option for this recipe?

Yes, you can easily make this strawberry icebox cake gluten free. Swap the Vanilla Wafers with a crunchy gluten free cookie or graham cracker. You will also want to double check the ingredients on your marshmallow cream.

Will oreo cookies work as the cookie base in the icebox cake?

Yes, and they would be delicious! Use classic oreos for a strawberry + chocolate flavor. Or the golden oreos to keep with the strawberry shortcake flavor.

How about ladyfingers – can I use those as the cookie layer?

I think ladyfingers would work great as well. They will absorb the juices of the strawberries, while still giving the shortcake flavor.

How should I store the icebox cake?

Cover and keep the cake in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Beyond that and it may start to loosen.

Can I freeze the icebox cake?

Yes! I recommend covering and freezing in the pan for up to 2 months, then thaw in the refrigerator. You could also enjoy slices slightly frozen – just watch out for frozen strawberries!

A pretty white bowl full of fresh strawberries.

Recipe

Pretty side view of all the layers in a small strawberry icebox cake on a white platter.
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5 from 1 review

Small Strawberry Icebox Cake

Yield: 6 Servings
When it's too hot to turn on the oven, but you want cake – make this small strawberry shortcake icebox cake!  A beautifully layered no-bake cake showcasing fresh strawberries, marshmallow thickened whipped cream, and vanilla wafers that turn cake-like when chilled overnight.  A easy summer dessert that is certain to be a showstopper!
Prep30 minutes
Chill8 hours
Total8 hours 30 minutes

Ingredients
 

  • 10 ounces fresh strawberries (chopped or sliced)
  • 1 tablespoon honey (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream, cold
  • 1 ½ cups marshmallow cream
  • 1 pinch salt (optional)
  • 30 vanilla wafers

Instructions

  • Line a 6-inch springform pan with a sheet of plastic wrap. This will keep the bottom of the cake from sticking to the removable bottom of the pan. If you are going to serve directly from the pan, you don't have to line it. Alternatively, you can use a 6-inch square or 6-inch round cake pan and either line it with plastic, or serve directly from it.
  • Prepare the strawberries – Either slice the strawberries or chop them into 1/4 inch chunks. I did a mixture of both. Add the cut strawberries to a medium mixing bowl. Add the honey, lemon zest, and vanilla and stir to coat the strawberries. Set aside.
  • Prepare the whipped cream – In a medium mixing bowl, add the heavy cream, marshmallow, and salt. Using a hand held mixer with whisk attachments, beat on high until stiff peaks form. Tip – start the mixer on low speed and slowly increase as the cream thickens – otherwise, you may splatter cream everywhere!
  • Assemble the cake – Line the bottom of the pan with a layer of vanilla wafers. For a 6-inch pan, you can fit at least 12 wafers. Dollop on 1/3 of the whipped cream and spread evenly to all sides of the pan. Then, spoon on a layer of strawberries. It is ok to have some of the juice. Repeat 2 more times, ending with a layer of whipped cream. Note – for my last layer of vanilla wafers, I crushed them to get different texture and a thinner layer.
  • Cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. This will allow the whipped cream to firm so the cake is easy to slice, and the vanilla wafers to soften to a cake-like texture.
  • To serve – Remove the springform ring. Use a large spatula (or two) to carefully transfer the cake to a serving dish, or serve straight from the springform pan bottom. Garnish with more strawberries (optional). To get clean slices, wipe the knife clean after each slice.
  • Store the cake covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Beyond that, and it may start to loosen. You can also freeze the icebox cake in the pan for up to 2 months. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and thaw in the refrigerator.
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RECIPE NOTES

  • Serving Size – This is a small batch cake recipe that is easily doubled.  I recommend an 8-inch pan to make a larger cake.
  • Yield – As written, you can easily get 4 to 6 slices of cake.
  • Cake Pans – The icebox cake is extremely versatile and you can use just about any pan or dish.  Just keep in mind the small batch recipe and the pan/dish should be smaller.
  • Serving – You can serve the icebox cake straight from the pan/dish.
  • Sweetened Strawberries – I like add a little honey and lemon to give the strawberries a bright flavor.  You can omit if you like.
  • Whipped Cream – I add marshmallow cream to my whipped cream to make it stable.  You can swap for powdered sugar for a lighter whipped cream.
  • Wafers – Substitute any hardy or crunchy wafer, cracker, or cookies you like. 
  • Gluten Free Option – This recipe is easily made gluten free with the substitution of gluten free vanilla wafers or gluten free graham crackers.  You will also want to double check ingredients in the marshmallow cream.
  • Storage – Cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days.  The icebox cake can also be frozen for up to 2 months.  I recommend freezing in the pan, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap.  Thaw in the refrigerator or serve frozen.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Erin Cernich

NUTRITION ESTIMATES

Calories: 465kcal | Carbohydrates: 57g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 68mg | Sodium: 144mg | Potassium: 156mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 36g | Vitamin A: 880IU | Vitamin C: 28mg | Calcium: 47mg | Iron: 0.3mg
Nutrition information is calculated by a third-party and should only be considered an estimate and not a guarantee.
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about the author ...

I'm Erin and I'm all about desserts - and a little bit of butter!

I've tested, written, and photographed hundreds of recipes on my website. Here you'll find the tastiest small batch gluten free and traditional desserts - all homemade, all simple, and all for you! Click here to learn more about me!

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