Food & Drink

Jean and Jessie’s Icebox Cake

by Kristina Gill

I am always excited to read recipes for icebox cakes. I don’t know why, but they transport me back to my childhood. However, I think the only icebox cake we ever had in our house was a type of banana pudding, if that even counts! This week we have one of the most delicious-looking icebox cakes I’ve seen, called the Old School, by Jean Sagendorph and Jessie Sheehan. It’s a cake made up of whipped cream and chocolate wafers, topped with chocolate shavings, and it comes from their book Icebox Cakes: Recipes for the Coolest Cakes in Town. The recipe takes careful reading before you embark on making the cake (which is actually quite simple), and it will take some time to pull together, but the outcome is worth it. Kristina

Why Jean and Jessie love this recipe: What’s not to love about the Old School? The combo of thin, crispy, uber-chocolatey wafer cookies and billowy, vanilla-flavored whipped cream kind of can’t be beat. Once the cake has spent some time in the refrigerator, it’s like a moist chocolate layer cake with fluffy vanilla frosting. And the Old School truly is the quintessential icebox cake, the one that inspired us to write our book, Icebox Cakes, and the one we kind of think of as the gold standard.


Photography by Tara Donne

Old School
Yield: 9 to 12 Servings

This cake — aptly named Old School — is adapted from Nabisco’s original icebox cake recipe from the 1930s. It is the simplest and, arguably, one of the tastiest icebox cakes around, and is the perfect balance of chocolate and vanilla. We think it tastes like the world’s most exquisite Oreo cookie. (You’ll have extra wafers left over after assembling your cake — lucky you! Store them in a resealable plastic bag in the freezer and enjoy them for up to 1 month.)

You will need one 10-inch/25-centimeter oval or rectangular serving platter


Chocolate Wafers
Makes about sixty 2 1/4 inch/ 5.5-centimeter wafers

-1 1/4 cups / 170 grams all-purpose flour
-3/4 cup / 75 grams Dutch-process cocoa powder
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1 1/4 cups / 250 grams granulated sugar
-3/4 cup / 170 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
-2 tablespoons whole milk
-1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Vanilla Whipped Cream
Makes about 6 cups / 720 grams

-3 cups / 720 milliliters heavy cream
-1/3 cup / 45 grams confectioners’ sugar
-1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Chocolate shavings for decorating

Make the Wafers:

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

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the granulated sugar, butter, and vanilla on medium-low speed until slightly fluffy, about 2 minutes. Be careful not to overbeat. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

3. In a small bowl, whisk the milk and corn syrup to combine. Add the milk mixture to the butter-sugar mixture with the mixer on medium-low speed; beat until just combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl with the rubber spatula.

4. Add the flour mixture all at once to the mixer bowl. With the mixer on low speed, beat until the dough just begins to pull away from the bottom of the bowl and forms a cohesive mass. Scrape the sides of the bowl to fully incorporate all the ingredients.

5. Divide the dough in half and place each half on a sheet of plastic wrap. Loosely wrap the dough and form each half into a log about 2 inches / 5 centimeters wide. Roll the logs along the counter, still wrapped in plastic wrap, in order to shape into perfect cylinders. Tighten the plastic wrap around the logs and freeze them for at least 2 hours, or overnight. If you have trouble forming the soft dough into logs, form the dough into a disk (or loose log shape), wrap it in plastic wrap, and place in the freezer for about 20 minutes, just until it is cold enough to shape into the necessary log. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

6. Once frozen, unwrap one of the logs and use a sharp paring or chef’s knife to cut it into thin slices about 1/8 inch / 3 millimeters thick; rotate the log as you slice, or the side sitting on the cutting surface will flatten. Arrange the slices about 1 inch / 2.5 centimeters apart on one of the prepared baking sheets and place in the freezer for at least 10 minutes. Repeat with the second dough log and prepared baking sheet. If you need more room to fit all your dough slices, simply arrange them on additional sheets of parchment paper, layer the dough-covered papers one on top of the other on the second baking sheet in the freezer, and switch them out as you bake off each batch. (You can also wrap the baking sheets in plastic wrap and freeze the rounds for up to 1 week.)

7. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 F / 180 C.

8. Place one baking sheet of frozen dough rounds in the oven and bake until they appear dry, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through the baking time. Using a stiff metal or plastic spatula, immediately press down lightly on each cookie to flatten it. Let the wafers cool on the baking sheet for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. The wafers should be very crispy when cooled. If they are not, place them back in the 350 F / 180 C oven for 1 to 2 minutes more. Repeat to bake the additional sheets of frozen dough rounds.

9. Store the wafers in an airtight container as soon as they have cooled. They will remain crispy at room temperature, tightly sealed, for about 24 hours. Freezing the baked wafers in a resealable plastic bag also works well, for up to 1 month. There is no need to defrost the wafers before assembling your cake.

Make the Whipped Cream

1. Refrigerate the bowl of a stand mixer and the whisk attachment (or a medium metal bowl and beaters from a hand mixer) until quite cold, about 15 minutes.

2. Once chilled, remove the bowl and whisk from the refrigerator, add the cream, and whip it on medium speed until just thickened.

3. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and, on medium-high speed, whip the cream until it holds stiff peaks that stand upright when the whisk is raised (the stiffer the cream, the more support it will provide the wafers in your cake). Use it immediately.

4. Have the serving platter ready. Using a small spatula or butter knife, spread about 1 tablespoon of the whipped cream on the domed (top) side of eight of the wafers. Stack the coated wafers, and then set them aside. Repeat with the remaining wafers until you have five stacks of eight wafers each. You may want fewer layers depending on the thickness of your wafers.

5. On the platter, carefully place the stacks on their sides and gently press them together end to end forming a log. Cover the entire log with a thick later of whipped cream. Gently cover the cake with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 24 hours.

6. Peel the plastic wrap from the cake and decorate the top of the cake with chocolate shavings. Serve it directly from the platter, using a knife to cut the cake into slices diagonally.

About Jean and Jessie: A literary and licensing agent, Jean Sagendorph has worked with Food Network and Iron Chef America, among others. She is an icebox cake obsessive. Jessie Sheehan is a baker, recipe developer and blogger living in Red Hook, Brooklyn. She blogs about the trials and tribulations of developing recipes for all things sweet at jessiesheehanbakes.com. She is totally in love with icebox cakes, but if you follow her on InstagramPinterest and Facebook, you’ll see lots of other treats she’s awfully fond of, too. Jessie has worked on all of the Baked cookbooks by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. Icebox Cakes is her first book.



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  • My friend Mary just made the most beautiful ice box cake I have ever seen for a party we had on Monday night! I just added the photo to my instagram account for you all to see!
    What a lovely surprise to see this here!

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this recipe! My Mema used to make a cake like this all the time, but then the recipe was lost. I cannot wait to try it. I’m certain it will bring back so many memories.

  • This cake brings back lovely childhood memories! Thank you for sharing. Also delicious with uber thin gingersnap cookies.

    • yes it is! we have a cake in the book called the “chai ginger” that calls for homemade ginger wafers layered with chai flavored whipped cream and caramel . . . extremely yummy.

  • My friend Lizzy’s Mom used to make this cake for her half birthday I loved it and the concept of actually celebrating a half birthday with a mini party.

  • “Zebra Cake!” This was a regular feature of my childhood, made with store-bought chocolate wafers (makes the whole thing so quick and easy!), and my sister’s favorite. Can’t imaging taking the trouble to make the wafers from scratch; I’m a big fan of from-scratch but making something so delicious and fun the easy way will always be a big part of the appeal of Zebra Cake to me. (Now where’s that grocery list? Must add chocolate wafer cookies and cream…)

  • Now, I’m going to date myself here, but this was “our” cake growing up. Every special occasion, every birthday. My Mom wasn’t much of a baker so she’d buy the chocolate wafers that came in a box with a cellophane wrapper. I forget the brand but when we saw the package, we knew there was ice box cake in the offing. I still make it occasionally, and still love it. Brought back nice memories to see it here. Thanks!

  • My family loves that cake! My grandparents have made is since forever and it’s a classic in my family. We call it “cookie cake” though and they definitely buy the wafers instead of make them, I used to sneak some from the fridge when I was a kid, but making the wafers may be even better. It’s so delicious and will forever remind me of my grandparents, glad to see it getting some love.

  • this is so very cool. I am going to have to try and test out this recipe for an upcoming getogther that I have having with some friends and family. such a very cool recipe and it must taste absolutely amazing

  • Hi Kristina, my daughter loves icebox cakes and it’s a pleasure to read this recipe. Thanks a lot, you made my day. :)

  • We LOVE icebox cakes, so this book looks especially intriguing. We love how easy they are to make and that they are perfect for entertaining because they can be made ahead of time. Thanks for sharing this amazing looking recipe and even more amazing looking book!