What Makes An Icebox Cake Unique?

Who doesn't love cake? Of all the sweet desserts we can choose to indulge in after a satisfying meal, a cake is certainly one of the most delicious. Offering a hit of indulgence contained in a small — or sometimes not so small — slice, a slice of cake can be the perfect pick-me-up when we're feeling low, or a way to festively celebrate someone's birthday, anniversary, or graduation.

Perhaps one of the reasons it's so widely beloved is that the dessert is made in so many varieties, with a type and flavor to please every palate. There are sky-high, frosted layer cakes, moderately sweet loaf cakes, veggie-packed carrot cakes, streusel-topped coffee cakes, and so many more. And if frozen desserts are more your thing, you'll definitely want to check out another type of cake called icebox cake, a now-classic freezer cake that, as its name indicates, first rose to popularity with the invention of the icebox, the non-electric predecessor to the modern refrigerator (via Allrecipes).

Icebox cake combines layers of cookies with cool, creamy filling

If you like cold, creamy desserts like ice cream cake, you'll certainly love icebox cake. According to Allrecipes, the dessert, which alternates layers of cookies or graham crackers with whipped cream or custard, was created by American cooks in the late 1800s, when an increasing number of families had acquired an icebox. These early "appliances" — basically an insulated cabinet into which blocks of ice were placed, then replaced as they melted — allowed folks to stock perishable items before electric refrigeration became economically accessible to the masses (via Mr. Appliance).

Home bakers would have discovered the delights of icebox cake, whose two primary ingredients — cookies and cream — meld into a surprisingly cake-like effect as the dessert sits in the icebox (or, these days, refrigerator) overnight. As the moisture in the cream or custard seeps into the crispy cookies or graham crackers, according to Kitchn, the latter softens, creating a texture reminiscent of an eclair or a dacquoise.

Though many recipes for icebox cake call for canned whipped cream or even Cool Whip, it's nice to go the extra mile with a quick homemade whipped cream or pastry custard. And though the dessert often calls for just those two basic elements, you can also layer in thin slices of fruit, chopped nuts, or chocolate shavings. After a few hours of chilling, these layered desserts will be ready to enjoy on any occasion that calls for cake.