Craving a cool, light, old-fashioned dessert? Try this wonderful lemon Icebox Cake recipe on for size – it’s a great way to cool down on a hot summer day!
It is officially summer, people! And you know what that means?
No-bake dessert season!!!
Yep, who the heck wants to turn on their ovens in heat like this?? Matter of fact, I’d much rather just open my fridge and find something tasty to eat while the cool, artificial air washes over me.
Luckily, I found the perfect summer dessert for that sort of occasion…in Great-Grandma’s Old Recipe Box!
An Icebox Cake Recipe!
Say it ain’t so – that’s just the thing to cool you down after a hot afternoon outdoors!
After reading over the card and making some notes on the seemingly easy recipe, I grabbed my ingredients and got to work, excited to have a nice, cool slice of lemony cake the next afternoon – I admit, the 24 hour chill time did bum me out a bit, but I was looking on the bright side.
I set up my soft ladyfingers in my favorite round cake pan (lined with plastic wrap for easy removal!), fitting the tiny cut-off pieces in between the cookies on the bottom to prevent the filling from leaking out (genius!), and whipped my egg whites in my KitchenAid stand mixer while combining my other ingredients with my KitchenAid hand mixer (what can I say, I love me some KitchenAid.)
When it came time to fold the egg whites in, I was momentarily excited! And then…the whole mixture curdled on me. The fluffy egg white unfluffed, the butter and lemon juice seemed to almost melt some of it – I could see liquid at the bottom of my very slippery mixing bowl.
Much like the egg whites, I felt deflated.
I was determined to have a piece of cake, though, so I started over again (less excited this time), using a little less lemon juice and whipping my egg whites a little bit longer, on the off-chance that I hadn’t gotten them stiff enough.
When all was said and done, everything looked exactly the same as the first time: a curdled mess, with a small pool of liquid on the bottom of the bowl. It tasted great, but it was just so ugly and unappetizing, I couldn’t bear to waste my ladyfinger crust.
After moping around for a while, I did a bit of research on what would cause something like that to happen.
I found nothing! No answers!! Everything I read referred to cooked egg custards, and I hadn’t cooked any of it!
Which got me to thinking…Great-Grandma’s recipe consisted of 5 completely raw eggs, the only cooking done by a little lemon juice! Back in her day, that wouldn’t have mattered, but now? With Salmonella and e.coli being so much more present, unless you use pasteurized eggs, you’re better off cooking your egg yolks.
A little more research later, and I found an icebox cake recipe very similar to the old recipe box version, only this one had me make a creme anglaise out of the egg yolks, sugar, milk, and a little cornstarch.
My spirits rose again as I set out to make this dessert for the third time.
I felt better about eating it myself, feeding it to my family, and sharing it with you. Sorry, Granny – I guess they can’t all be winners!
This final version (with a few slight adaptations by yours truly) of the lemon Icebox Cake came together much easier than Great-Grandmother’s, too! It did involve a tiny bit of cooking, but it helped the egg yolks thicken up nicely in to a loose custard, and the cornstarch kept it from curdling. Also, creaming the butter with confectioner’s sugar instead of granulated sugar kept it creamy instead of gritty – another problem I had with Granny’s recipe.
I did add the vanilla and almond extracts Granny used in her recipe, and they added a lovely accent to the lemon flavor of the cake.
In spite of my kitchen flubs (that I still can’t explain), this cake was totally worth the effort! It’s light, fluffy, perfectly sweet, and absolutely hits the spot if you’re in need of some cooling down. Just don’t eat the whole thing at once!
Note: the egg whites in this filling are not cooked. Raw eggs can present a health hazard for pregnant women, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems. If you’ll be serving this cake to any of the people listed above, please use pasteurized egg whites, just add a few drops of lemon juice to help them stabilize.
Here’s your handy dandy printable Icebox Cake recipe card!
- 2 7 ounce packages ladyfingers
- 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 3 eggs separated
- 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 lemon juiced and zested
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter room temperature,
- 1 cup confectioner's sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 cup heavy cream whipped
- Line the sides and bottom of a 9-inch cake pan with plastic wrap. Cut ladyfingers so they sit flush against the bottom of the pan, reserving the cut pieces. Arrange the ladyfingers around the sides of the pan and across the bottom, using the cut pieces to fill in any gaps, to prevent the filling from oozing out. Set aside.
- In a measuring cup, dissolve the cornstarch into milk. In a bowl set over a medium saucepan with an inch of water in it, combine yolks, 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, and cornstarch-milk mixture, and cook about 5 minutes over simmering water, until thick and smooth. Be sure your heat is on low, unless you want sweet scrambled eggs!
- Remove from heat and add lemon juice and zest, and allow to cool.
- In a large bowl, cream butter and powdered sugar with an electric mixer, then add extracts. Mix in lemon/egg mixture until smooth and pale yellow.
- In a separate bowl (or stand mixer), whip egg whites to soft peaks, streaming the remaining granulated sugar in on the side of the bowl (so you don't deflate them!); continue whipping until you reach the stiff peak stage.
- Fold the egg whites carefully into the butter-lemon mixture. Don't overmix!
- Pour half of the filling in the bottom of the pan, then cover with remaining ladyfingers (theres should be just enough left for a nice full layer.) Cover with the remaining filling, cover with a layer of plastic wrap, and freeze or refrigerate overnight.
- When ready to serve, top with whipped cream and garnish with a lemon slice, removing the cake from the pan and setting on a platter.
So fluffy and cold and I’m gonna go have some more…
If you love to cook, try these out!