close up of chocolate icebox cake with bite taken out

Chocolate Cold Treats

Chocolate Icebox Cake

August 25, 2021

This post is brought to you in partnership with Half & Half Magazine. As always, all thoughts and opinions are […]

This post is brought to you in partnership with Half & Half Magazine. As always, all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Browned Butter Blondie possible. 

This easy and delicious make ahead icebox cake is the ultimate no-bake dessert. Made with layers of chocolate graham cracker, rich and creamy mocha chocolate custard and fluffy vanilla whipped cream, this cake is the perfect treat on a hot summer day. No need to turn on your oven during the hottest days of the year. This irresistible layered cake is served straight from the fridge and you’re going to LOVE it!

Mmmkay, so let’s chat about seasons for a sec. Everyone {and I mean everyone} over on the gram is already deep diving into all things Fall. I’m not even ready to dip my pinky toe into apple cider doughnuts and it’s a regular pumpkin-palooza over on my Insta feed. Honestly, I can’t handle it. I’m not ready for it and I’m digging my heals in hard. I’m living by the “it’s not over till it’s over” motto for the foreseeable future. If you need me I’ll just be over here channeling all the endless summer vibes. Fall, I see you but we’ve still got some summering to do. Starting with this chocolate icebox cake. It’s layered with chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. Oh, and a fluffy cloud of homemade whipped cream. What more could you want? It’s heavenly!

What is icebox cake?

If you’ve never had icebox cake, let’s just say you’ve been missing out! Icebox cake is a classic, no fuss, no bake dessert that you definitely need to add to your summer dessert repertoire. Like STAT. Icebox cakes are kept in the fridge and made with just a handful of ingredients and minimal effort. They’re the perfect lazy girl treat that is sure to be a hit all summer long. No need to worry about heating up your house by turning on the oven – this no bake cake will be real crowd pleaser on a hot summer day. 

Icebox cakes are the perfect dessert for all of your warm weather cake eating occasions. This easy chocolate icebox cake is light and simple, sweet but not too sweet and it packs the perfect punch of mocha flavor that keeps me coming back for a second slice. It’s my favorite combination of flavors and every bite is rich, creamy, chocolatey perfection. Irresistible, I tell you.

Ingredients you need for chocolate icebox cake

Traditional icebox cake is made with layers of whipped cream and chocolate cookies or wafers. Left to chill overnight in the fridge, the cookies soften and take on the texture of cake but keep all the flavor of a cookie. This recipe ups the anty by adding a third decadent layer of mocha chocolate custard that is sure to impress even the most discerning chocolate lovers. Just layer these simple ingredients for an easy no-fuss summertime favorite!

Chocolate graham crackers – Graham crackers form a nice, neat base for our chocolate icebox cake. You can usually find them in the cookie and cracker aisle right next to regular graham crackers. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can always make a batch of chocolate graham crackers from scratch. I love this recipe from King Arthur Baking. 

Sugar – We’ll use granulated sugar and confectioners sugar to add sweetness and structure to both the custard and cream layers. I like to sift the confectioners sugar first for a smooth and silky whipped cream.

Eggs – Three egg yolks help make a thick, flavorful chocolate custard. Pro-tip: separating eggs is easier when the eggs are cold. 

Heavy cream – Skip the pre-made store-bought stuff and grab a large carton of heavy whipping cream instead. Making homemade whipped cream is so easy and once you make it from scratch, you’ll never go back. Be sure to keep the heavy cream chilled up until it’s time to use it. 

Espresso powder – Just a little bit goes a long way in this mocha chocolate icebox cake. While I find the espresso flavor is subtle and works to enhance the taste of the chocolate, I do think this cake would be equally decadent and delicious without it. Let your sweet tooth do the talking and scale the espresso powder up or down according to your preference. 

How to make the best chocolate icebox cake

Prep the ingredients ahead of time.

This cake is easy to make but I recommend prepping your ingredients in advance to be sure each layer is ready to go when it’s time to assemble the cake. Be sure to chill the cake completely before adding the final layer of mocha whipped cream. If it’s a warm day, freeze the cake for 30 minutes once it’s fully assembled but before slicing. 

Use real whipped cream.

Real whip cream is the only way to go here friends. Pass on the cool whip – you won’t be sorry! 

Chill overnight.  

All those pretty layers will fall apart fast if the cake is not chilled through. For picture perfect slices, use a large chef’s knife and wash it with warm water and a clean dishcloth in between each slice. 

Can I substitute ingredients?

Yes! The beauty of this easy make ahead icebox cake is that you can swap ingredients to suit your sweet tooth. Mixing up the flavors and toppings is half the fun! Get the kids in the kitchen too to help out – they’ll love stacking ingredients to make those showstopping layers. For the cookie base, feel free to swap chocolate wafers or Oreo cookies for the graham crackers. You can omit the espresso from the chocolate custard and opt for a wintery peppermint version instead. Top the cake with chocolate shavings, cookie crumbles, mini chips, or chopped nuts. I’m thinking mini peanut butter cups might just be my next move. The possibilities are endless!

How to store icebox cake

Icebox cakes definitely get better with time which is why I recommend chilling it overnight for the best taste and texture. Store any leftover cake tightly covered in the refrigerator. After about 3 days, the layers will taste a bit soggy. Something tells me it won’t last nearly that long. To freeze the cake, chill it first for the full 12 hours and then wrap it tightly in a layer of plastic wrap followed by a layer of aluminum foil. You can freeze the cake for up to one month. Defrost it in the refrigerator before serving. Or if you just can’t wait, eat it frozen! 

I hope you’ll make time for this chocolate icebox cake before summer slips us by. It’s super easy to make and I can’t wait for you to try it for yourself!

Before you go….I’d like to give thanks to my friends over at Half & Half Magazine for sponsoring this delicious dessert. This recipe for this sweet make ahead dessert comes straight from the pages of the summer issue of their beautiful quarterly magazine created by Dairy Farmers of America. It’s full of simple and delicious seasonal recipes from sweet to savory and everything in between. I love baking my way through their magazine filled with comforting recipes for all occasions along with heartwarming stories celebrating dairy and those that make it. I’m honored to partner with a publication that I trust and admire and I hope you will welcome Half & Half into your kitchens too! You can subscribe to their magazine here. There’s something for everyone in each issue and it’s the perfect gift for all of your favorite bakers and cooks. 

If you love this Chocolate Icebox Cake, you’ll love these cold treats too:

Brookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

Brownie Mint Chip Ice Cream Sandwiches

Boxed Brownie Mousse Cake

Key Lime Pie Bars

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close up of chocolate icebox cake with bite taken out

Chocolate Icebox Cake

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  • Author: Heather Mubarak
  • Prep Time: 90 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Yield: 12 slices 1x
  • Category: Cold Treats
  • Method: Cook
  • Cuisine: American


This easy chocolate icebox cake is the ultimate no-bake dessert. Made with layers of chocolate graham cracker, rich and creamy mocha chocolate custard and fluffy vanilla whipped cream, it’s the perfect treat on a hot summer day!


Units Scale

For chocolate custard layer

  • 1 1/4 cups half + half
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners sugar

For vanilla whipped cream layer

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

To assemble the icebox cake

  • 1 package chocolate graham crackers
  • chopped semi-sweet or dark chocolate for garnish

For mocha whipped cream

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons freshly brewed espresso, cooled


For chocolate custard

  1. Pour half and half into a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. In a medium glass bowl, whisk together sugar, egg yolks, cornstarch and salt until thick and creamy, about 2 minutes.
  2. When half & half begins to steam, pour a thin stream into the sugar and egg mixture. Whisk constantly to temper the egg yolks.
  3. Continue to whisk until smooth before pouring the mixture back into the saucepan. Add the chopped chocolate and espresso powder. Whisk to combine.
  4. Stirring constantly, cook the custard over medium-low heat until the mixture is thick enough to hold the outline of a figure 8 made with the backside of a spoon. Remove the custard from heat and immediately whisk in the butter and vanilla extract.
  5. Pour the custard into a clean glass bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Cool to room temperature.
  6. When the custard reaches room temperature, beat the heavy cream and confectioners sugar on medium high speed with a hand mixer until it forms medium peaks.
  7. Use a large spatula to gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled custard. Set aside.

For vanilla whipped cream layer

  1. In a medium bowl, use a hand held mixer to whip the heavy cream, confectioners sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

To assemble the icebox cake

  1. Line a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with plastic wrap on all sides. Be sure to cover the bottom and sides of the pan, allowing the plastic wrap to hang over the sides of the pan by about 6 inches to wrap the top of the cake once assembled.
  2. Place a layer of graham crackers on the bottom of the pan, cutting the crackers as needed to fit them in an even layer.
  3. Top with a layer of chocolate custard (about 1 1/2 cups). Spread evenly with an offset spatula.
  4. Add a layer of vanilla whipped cream, again spreading with a clean offset spatula.
  5. Repeat the process of layering the graham crackers, chocolate custard and vanilla whipped cream one more time. Top with a final layer of custard and finish with a layer of graham crackers.
  6. Use the excess plastic wrap to cover the top of the icebox cake. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours.
  7. When ready to serve the cake, make the mocha whipped cream by beating together the heavy cream, confectioners sugar, vanilla and espresso on high speed until thickened and spreadable.
  8. Carefully unwrap the cake and invert the pan onto a serving platter or cutting board.
  9. Remove the pan along with the plastic wrap. Use an off set spatula or knife to cover the cake on the top and sides with the mocha whipped cream. Sprinkle the top with chopped chocolate if desired.
  10. Cake should be chilled before slicing. For best results, use a large, sharp knife to slice the cake. Wash the knife with warm water and dry it completely in between slices.


Serve cold. May be frozen.

Recipe from Half & Half Magazine, Summer 2021



  • Reply
    April 12, 2024 at 2:27 am

    what is the half + half in the chocolate custard layer recipe?

  • Reply
    February 14, 2022 at 11:05 pm

    what can i sub for brewed espresso?

    • Reply
      Heather Mubarak
      February 16, 2022 at 7:15 am

      Hi Mary, you can just omit the espresso in the whipped cream if you prefer. Enjoy!

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