As much as I love baking desserts, in the summertime, I’m veer towards sweets that don’t require me to fire up the oven. Any excuse to stay cool and still satisfy my sweet tooth is a major win. Enter the icebox cake. If you’ve never entered the world of icebox cakes before, welcome. We’re happy to have you.
Similar to a trifle, an icebox cake involves layering together some form of cream, cookies, and fillings that are set together in the fridge. The result is a layered dessert that resembles a layer cake when sliced. Except, no baking is required!
I decided to play around with a few of my favorite flavors to create the ultimate summer treat. If I do say so myself, it might be one of my most favorite things I’ve ever made.
I love mangos—I did grow up on mango lassi’s after all—and my craving for the sweet summer fruit is basically a year-round love affair. (See also: mango salad and mango kheer parfaits.) So when I thought about a fresh icebox cake flavor that wouldn’t be so overwhelmingly sweet, obviously I wanted to use the sunshine fruit.
The layers in this particular icebox cake are as follows: mango puree, cardamom cream, biscuits, and salty pistachio crumble.
So let’s chat about mangos. You want really ripe and fresh mangos here to really play up the sweet flavor of the fruit. I used Kent mangos from the Indian grocery store, and I swear they are different from the mangos you get at other grocery stores. Some people prefer Ataulfo mangos, but you just want to make sure the mangos are ripe and not fibrous so you get that really luscious and smooth texture from the puree. All you have to do for this layer is blend up the fruit in a blender with some lime juice and a pinch of salt. I store the leftover puree in a mason jar and keep it in the fridge. To be honest, I eat it straight out of the jar with a spoon!
Next up is our cardamom cream—another layer that I also ate right off the spoon. Because I don’t like super sweet desserts, I wanted this layer to have a bit of tang and bite to it, so I folded some softened cream cheese into the whipped cream which gave it a nice bite that paired well with the mangos. The kicker here is the fresh ground cardamom that gives the cream a nice sweet and floral aroma that is just so good. It’s one of my favorite flavors and I highly recommend using fresh ground cardamom over the pre-ground jarred option. Fresh cardamom is literal magic and it really makes a huge difference here!
The layer that keeps everything standing is our biscuits. I’ve seen so many varieties of icebox cakes that use graham crackers, and while I love a graham cracker, I used what I already had in the pantry which are these Marie biscuits that I grew up eating with cups of chai. The biscuits soften up nicely in the cream without falling apart, but feel free to use graham crackers here.
And lastly, for some crunch and texture, I created a little salty pistachio crumble to top everything off. All I did here was chop up some roasted pistachios, crumbled up some of the leftover biscuits, and threw in a pinch of Maldon salt to create the topping. It gives the cake a nice crunch and a bit of salt to cut through the sweetness.
All the layers together are truly a match made in heaven that had me eating straight out of the tin.
The best part of an icebox cake is that it’s supposed to look rustic. There’s no need to be neat and perfect about everything—and isn’t that kind of the vibe these days? No one wants some fancy dessert they have to make absolutely perfect, I much prefer something casual that tastes delicious!
If you care a little bit more about presentation, I have a tip for you. After you remove the icebox cake from the plastic wrap and place it on your serving tray, you can use an offset spatula to spread over an extra layer of whipped cream around the sides of the cake to neaten it up a bit before you add on the crumble.
Get your tins ready, it’s time for dessert!
- graham crackers or biscuits of choice for assembly
for the mango layer:
- 2 ripe mangoes, peeled and cubed
- juice of 1/2 lime
- pinch of salt
for the cardamom cream:
- 1 pint of heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 scant cup powdered sugar, adjust to taste
- pinch of salt
- 8 ounces of cream cheese, room temperature
- 4 cardamom pods, freshly ground
for the pistachio crumble:
- 1/4 cup roasted pistachios, chopped
- 2 graham crackers, crumbled
- pinch of sea salt
- 1/2 pint of heavy whipping cream
- 4 tbsp of powdered sugar
- 2 cardamom pods, freshly ground
- pinch of salt
- Line a loaf tin with plastic wrap and set aside.
- Make the mango puree by adding the mango, lime juice, and pinch of salt to a blender. Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust as needed. Pour into a mason jar and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the 1 pint of heavy whipping cream and whip on high speed. Add the powdered sugar 1 tbsp at a time and the pinch of salt, and continue whipping until you get stiff peaks. Set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, add the softened cream cheese and ground cardamom. Beat with a spatula until soft. A little at a time, fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese, being careful not to deflate the cream. The cream should be soft and airy.
- To assemble, start with a small layer of the cardamom cream at the bottom of the loaf tin. Add a layer of biscuits, then a layer of cream, then mango puree. Build the layers as desired until the loaf tin is filled - I like at least three - four layers of biscuits in this cake. Cover with plastic wrap and set overnight in the fridge.
- Before serving, place tin in the freezer for 1 hour.
- While the cake is chilling, make the pistachio crumble and remaining whipped cream. Mix the chopped pistachios, crumbled biscuits, and a pinch of salt, set aside. Whip up remaining 1/2 pint of whipping cream with powdered sugar, cardamom, and pinch of salt until you get stiff peaks. Set aside.
- To serve, flip tin over onto a serving tray and remove plastic wrap. Using an offset spatula, smooth the whipped cream over the cake. Sprinkle the top with pistachios.
- Slice and serve. Enjoy!