Lemon Icebox Cake from Valerie Bertinelli

by Dorothy Reinhold on May 7, 2020

Print This Post Print This Post Lemon Icebox Cake: Actress Valerie Bertinelli shares her recipe for this creamy, tangy, lemony comfort dessert with no baking involved. Just layer, refrigerate and voila!

Lemon Icebox Cake: A creamy, tangy, lemony comfort dessert with no baking involved. Just layer vanilla wafers, lemon curd and enriched whipped cream, refrigerate and voila! Lemon curd lovers will rejoice over this easy recipe, because it puts the delicious spread to great use in a homey, old-fashioned, easy icebox “cake.”

If you’re a member of the Lemon Lovers Society like I am (I might be president. Just sayin’), this Lemon Icebox Cake is for you. You’ll pucker up, but then you’ll be soothed by the creamy layer, and charmed by the old-fashioned vanilla wafers that hold it all together. A little rest in the refrigerator brings it all together, and then you can serve it and take a bow.

It’s perfect for springtime — Mother’s Day, graduations, Father’s Day — for warm summer months because it is no-bake, but I make it all year around. I made it for family Thanksgiving and everyone loved it, inhaled it, and left me with only a tiny bit to satisfy my own lemon cravings. This is a good thing.

1920s ice box photo from the National Museum of American HistoryWhat’s an icebox?

But first, what’s an icebox? It’s a chilled box or cupboard for keeping something cold, especially food. So, in the olden days of the 19th and early 20th centuries, before electric refrigerators, people had a cupboard or chest into which they would put a large block of ice, to keep their food cold. FYI, ice was sold by the pound and delivered by an iceman. You would place a number card into one of your front windows at home to indicate how many pounds you wanted on delivery day (usually 25, 50, 75, or 100 pounds). But the ice box had some failings…

  • You couldn’t open the icebox door very often or the ice would melt too fast.
  • Ice boxes were hard to clean, because ice cut from lakes and ponds in the early days of the ice industry often had natural sediment in it, which would be released into the box as it melted.
  • If the smell of any food permeated the wood inside and got into the insulation, the whole thing became worthless.
  • If you kept the wrong products together in an ice box (butter and fish, for example) one would end up smelling like the other.

Thus, icebox! (And in case you really want to win Jeopardy, the first successful electric household refrigerator debuted in 1915, with a huge growth spurt in the industry in 1920, when producers uniformly began using Freon as a refrigerant and improved the mechanics of it so it was reliable and quiet enough for inside a house.)

yellow box of Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers with wafers showing through the clear plastic on topWhat’s an icebox cake?

Back to our regularly scheduled programming…And how do you make a “cake” in the refrigerator? By layering cookies and whipped cream, and maybe some other flavoring if you want. Icebox cakes are not baked, but meld together as they cookies soften into the whipped cream. It’s very comforting and rustic. The most famous version is Nabisco’s Famous Chocolate Wafers layered with sweetened whipped cream flavored with vanilla. You can see a picture of it on the cookie package.

Again, I am digressing…but back to the lemon, perhaps my most favorite flavor. Nothing’s fresher, more lively, more zingy than a lemon dessert, and this Lemon Icebox Cake doesn’t disappoint!

Valerie’s Home Cooking

It’s from a new cookbook by actress, now Food TV host, Valerie Bertinelli. Her new cookbook, “Valerie’s Home Cooking,” made my Cookbook Gift Guide this year. It’s fun, approachable, and Valerie has the kind of personality that draws you close, onscreen and in print.

Piece of Lemon Icebox Cake on a white plate with a fork in the background on ShockinglyDelicious.comHere’s what  Valerie says about this recipe:

Valerie Bertinelli in the kitchen“I’ll give you the top three reasons I repeatedly turn to this cake. I love lemon curd. I love vanilla wafers. And I love how easy this is to make. In my house, this is a summertime cake when it’s hot outside and I don’t want to turn on the oven. After all the ingredients have been combined, the cake is refrigerated instead of baked, and I like that as much as I do the lemony tang of the curd and the cream cheese. If you’re inclined, make your own lemon curd, but a store-bought jar is a perfect first option, as well as the kind of time-saver that makes this icebox cake super simple and satisfying. You can even whip this up a day or two ahead of time. Make it for a picnic, a potluck, or a chilled, refreshing treat for yourself.”

I made my own Microwave Meyer Lemon Curd for this because I had lemons on the tree but actually couldn’t find lemon curd in my store. But feel free to use jarred curd; it will be fine.

Lemon Icebox Cake

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: Serves 10-12

Lemon Icebox Cake

Lemon Icebox Cake: A creamy, tangy, lemony comfort dessert with no baking involved. Just layer, refrigerate and voila!


  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (11-ounce) package vanilla wafers
  • 1 cup Lemon Curd or 1 (11.5-ounce) jar lemon curd {Dorothy's note: I probably used twice this much.}


  1. Beat the cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until blended and smooth, 1-2 minutes. Add the cream, lemon zest, and vanilla; beat at medium-high speed just until stiff peaks form.
  2. Arrange half of the cookies in a single layer on the bottom of a 13- x 9-inch baking dish, fitting in as many as possible without overlapping. Spoon half of the cream cheese mixture on top, and spread evenly with an offset spatula.
  3. Dollop 1/2 cup of the lemon curd by spoonfuls about 2 inches apart over the cream cheese mixture. Use a butter knife to swirl the curd into the cream cheese mixture. Top with remaining cookies and remaining cream cheese mixture. Dollop and swirl remaining lemon curd over the cream mixture.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until the cookies soften, at least 3 hours. Can be made a day ahead.


Recipe source: Excerpted from "Valerie’s Home Cooking" by Valerie Bertinelli. Copyright © 2017 Oxmoor House. Reprinted with permission from Time Inc. Books, a division of Time Inc. New York, NY. All rights reserved.


areyoupinningPin the image below for Lemon Icebox Cake to your Pinterest board to save this recipe

Pinterest collage of Lemon Icebox Cake by Valerie Bertinelli on ShockinglyDelicious.com

 This is a really fun cookbook!
Want to see a few more of her recipes?

There’s BLT Pasta…

BLT Pasta on a blue plate from Valerie's Home Cooking cookbook

Arugula Apple Fennel Salad…

leafy arugula apple fennel salad on a white plate with wooden tongs and slices of bread alongside

Hamburger Helpa. That’s right…Helpa!

Blue skillet full of macaroni and meat set on a wooden board -- Hamburger-Helpa-from-Valeries-Home-Cooking

And pick up a copy of the book for yourself or a cooking / foodie friend!

Disclosure: The publisher sent a copy of the book for review.

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This post was originally published Dec. 6, 2017 and has been refreshed and republished today.

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