June’s Baking Together recipe (our 45th!) is one of the easiest desserts we’ve made yet. No Bake Strawberry Cream Cheese Icebox Cake is a luscious, make-ahead masterpiece that requires minimal effort and zero oven time, resulting in a layered, mousse-like textured dessert that’s bursting with the flavor of the season: ruby-red strawberries. It’s an ideal summer dessert fit for beach picnics, rocking chair snacks, potluck parties, and every occasion in-between.

New to icebox-style cakes? At their most basic, they are a combination of sweetened whipped cream and crisp cookies that are assembled ahead of time to allow the cookies to absorb the cream and soften into a mousse-like consistency that is scooped or sliced for serving. Beyond that, there are as many flavor and cookie combinations as you can imagine. Some recipes add additional components to the whipped cream: here we are using cream cheese to help stabilize the cream and fruit to flavor it. We’re using strawberries to take full advantage of the season, while also sprinking in a few raspberries between layers.

Crisp cookies add the structural, layered component. They put the “cake” in the icebox cake-style dessert when sandwiched or combined with the whipped cream. Flavors and shapes of the cookies can vary; the only requirement is that they are crisp enough to absorb moisture from the cream mixture. In this recipe, we’re using crisp vanilla shortbread cookies - Pepperidge Farm Chessmen.

For the filling, whipping the softened cream cheese and sugar together until there are no lumps before adding the heavy cream gives the mixture a satiny, smooth consistency. As an added bonus, combining cream cheese and heavy cream allows the mixture to be whipped into very firm peaks so that you can stir in the berry puree and still have a lofty texture that’s just right for layering with the cookies.

Susie Middleton

The resulting cream-cookie combination is a decadent dessert with layers of softened cookies that meld effortlessly into the cream.

To assemble, you’ll use an 8-inch square pan and wind up with three layers of cookies, four layers of cream, and two layers of raspberries.

Stow the pan in the “icebox” (aka refrigerator) for at least 24 hours to allow the cookies to soften. It’s going to be hard to resist diving in, but for optimal texture, stick to the time table. For serving, I like to cut the cake into squares so the layers are discernable, but a more casual large spoonful in a pretty bowl will be equally delicious.

These next few weekend markets will be brimming with super ripe, fragrant strawberries and as the season is fleeting, you’ll want to take advantage and indulge in all things strawberry. If you need inspiration, here are a few of our Baking Together favorites from the strawberry files. Last summer’s Baking Together #34 celebrated strawberry season with a sumptuous Vanilla Cake with Whipped Strawberry Frosting and our Baking Together #16 recipe, Strawberry Hand Pies, was a big hit too, as was our Strawberry Short Cake Recipe from Baking Together #6. You should definitely make all of those again while the strawberry haul is at its peak.

Kitchen Notes

  • Vary the Cookie If You Like: A variety of crisp cookies can work with this recipe. Rectangular shapes, like graham crackers (any flavor) or another shortbread cookie, will work best in a square pan. Other round or oval shapes, like Oreo Thins (chocolate or lemon) or Pepperidge Farms sugar, chocolate chip or thin Milano cookies, will also work but will take a bit more work when assembling (think solving a jigsaw puzzle), but I encourage you to give them a try. The amount you’ll need will vary depending on the shape of cookie and the pan. Plan on having a few extra cookies on hand, and slightly overlap the cookies when necessary to create even layers. But don’t worry about covering every last bit of space; there will be gaps regardless of the cookie shape.
  • Whip the Cream to Stiff Peaks: For the best texture, make sure to whip the cream cheese-heavy cream mixture until it holds very stiff peaks. Unlike whipping heavy cream alone, adding cream cheese to the mix stabilizes the heavy cream which means that the mixture can be whipped up to firm peaks without running the risk of the heavy cream breaking into whey and curds.
  • Tap the Pan: Once the cake is assembled, it’s a good idea to gently tap the pan on the counter a few times to settle the layers. To protect the glass or porcelain pan, arrange a potholder or folded dish towel on the counter to create a cushioned landing.