Chocolate-Raspberry Icebox Cake

If there is any dessert worthy of the description “hot mess,” it’s the icebox cake. It is really difficult to go wrong with this cake. If you can pile whipped cream on top of cookie wafers until you’ve made a mountain of crazy, then stick the whole thing in the fridge, go to bed, and wake up the next day, then you can make an icebox cake. You leave all the work to time and your fridge, where crispy wafers become cream-softened cakey layers while you sleep. Having said that, there are a couple of ways things can go wrong, especially if you’re me, and you decide to take the easiest thing in the world and complicate it. Allow me to explain……

One morning a couple weeks back, as I was lying in bed trying to muster the courage to fling off the covers and sprint downstairs to the warmth of the wood stove, I started thinking about Valentine’s Day posts. Last year, there were savory things. So this year, I wanted to do something sweet. And simple. No candy making or chocolate tempering or anything fussy. Just some chocolate. And something pink. Then my mind wandered to ombre things. (Is the ombre craze over? I feel like I might be a little late to the party on this one, but I love it and I don’t care!) And then I had a vision of a towering pink ombre icebox cake. Which then quickly morphed into lots of tiny little pink ombre icebox cupcakes. And then it changed again, just slightly, to larger cupcakes. Mini cakes. Whoopie-pie sized. YES. I was psyched.

Since I wanted very specific sized chocolate wafers, I decided to make my own. The dough took a matter of minutes to whip up, and then I shaped it, rolled it up, and stuck it in the fridge and went to bed. And then I woke up the next morning, and things started to go wrong.

My first mistake occurred when I decided the dough wasn’t quite the right shape the next day. So I let it sit out for a little bit, and then I smushed it into a thinner, longer shape. As I did it, I thought to myself, “hmmm, I hope this doesn’t compromise the structural integrity.” Alas, it did. I started slicing the cookies later, and they just crumbled to bits. I had a moment of panic, but then I calmed down and realized I could make them the less-easy way, by rolling them out on parchment paper and cutting them with a circular cookie cutter. The wafers came out great and everything seemed back on track, until I realized that I didn’t really have all that many wafers — not enough to make lots of little mini cakes, anyway. I counted and recounted wafers, and calculated how many little cakes I could make with X number of layers of cream, but the answer always came out the same: not enough. (Stupid math.) At this point, I stood there in the middle of my kitchen — which was looking like a complete disaster — and just glared at everything. “FINE,” I said to the wafers. “You win. I’ll make you into one big cake.”

Despite how frustrated I was that my idea didn’t quite work out the way I had originally intended, I am now very happy with the result. I wanted cute little cakes. And they would have been cute, and they would have been tasty. But visually, they would have been no match for this cake, which is a glorious pile of chocolate and various shades of raspberry-tinted cream. It is, indeed, a hot mess. Which is exactly what it should be.

Chocolate-Raspberry Icebox Cake

(cake inspired by Smitten Kitchen / wafer recipe from Smitten Kitchen)

  • 2 cups of heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp powdered sugar
  • splash of vanilla extract
  • 1 8–10 oz bag of frozen raspberries, softened to room temp (fresh raspberries would also be great — I just wasn’t prepared to pay $8 for a pint of them!)
  • 2 packages of chocolate wafer cookies (or make your own, recipe follows)


Chocolate Wafers

  • 1 1/2 cups (6.75 ounces) of all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (2.4 ounces) of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 14 tbsp (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and slightly softened
  • 3 tbsp whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine flour, cocoa, sugar, salt, and baking soda in the bowl of your food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter to the bowl, and pulse several times until crumbly. Combine the milk and the vanilla together in a measuring cup. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the milk/vanilla. Let run until the mixture begins to clump together.

Shape the dough into a log about 14 inches long and 1 3/4 inches in diameter. Wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least one hour, or until needed. (Overnight, ideally.)

Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the log of dough into slices a little less than 1/4-inch thick (you can try to go thinner if you’re confident in your slicing skills) and place them one inch apart on the lined sheets (the cookies will spread). Bake for 12–15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. The cookies will puff up and deflate — they’re done about 1 1/2 minutes after they deflate.

Cool the cookies on the baking sheets on racks. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks or be frozen for up to two months.


Purée raspberries with a blender or food processor and set aside.

Combine heavy cream and vanilla in a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat mixture on medium speed. When the cream starts to get a bit of body to it, sift in powdered sugar. Continue beating until stiff peaks form.

Make the ombre whipped cream by mixing raspberry purée and whipped cream to form varying shades. (I did four different shades, two layers, of each, and a topped layer of plain whipped cream.) For darker shades, start with mostly raspberry purée and mix in cream. For lighter shades, start with mostly whipped cream and mix in the purée.

Arrange a layer of wafers on a serving plate, then spread a healthy layer of your darkest whipped cream over top. Repeat with another layer of wafers and the same color cream. Repeat with more wafers and the next shade of whipped cream, until the wafers or the cream are gone, or you’re satisfied with the height of the cake. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.


    • says

      Hehe! Oh, how this cake tried my patience (which seemed so wrong, since it’s usually the simplest thing ever). But now that the wafer mess is over and done with, I’m enjoying happily gazing at it until it’s ready to eat! :)

    • says

      YUM. That sounds awesome, Tim. I made icebox cupcakes with ginger wafers and lemon curd whipped cream a few years ago that were great, and this sounds even better. (I am a big fan of the Art in the Age liqueurs — Root especially. I love the idea of incorporating it into the whipped cream!)

  1. says

    Oooh, I love the ombre! And what a cute idea for Valentine’s Day. I DIED over those ravioli hearts you made last year…your creativity knows no bounds! The blog SugarHero posted red velvet mini icebox cakes last week. They were super cute, but I can’t even imagine how much work they were to put together! One big cake does the trick for me. I’m fascinated by the idea of an icebox cake; I gotta make one of these someday.

    Hope Nemo didn’t give you too much trouble!!

    • says

      Oooo, I just took a look at those SugarHero mini cakes, and they are adorable! But that assembly totally takes forever. (I made ginger wafer + lemon curd whipped cream mini icebox cakes a few years ago, and putting those stupid things together really tried my patience. I was so happy when I finally got to the bottom of the box of wafers!)

      I think we got somewhere between 6–8 inches of snow here. Nowhere near what you guys got out by you, though! I was gawking at all the snow pictures you posted yesterday — holy cow. :)

  2. says

    Well this just sounds like a dream cake – gorgeous and it pretty much makes itself, whilst you sleep?

    No way.

    Also, I’m totally still into ombre, don’t worry, plus I have a more permanent commitment to it (ombre hair…yep).

    One thing I’ve learned from baking, is that no matter how much I think my initial ideas will totally work, I’ll always end up giving in to whatever the heck the ingredients decide they want to do. It’s not really my decision at all to be honest. The chocolate,butter and cookie dough will always win the argument against me and maths. It’s the laws of the baking universe.

    • says

      Right?? It’s definitely way too easy (usually). I will say that it doesn’t taste as delicious as a big ol’ hunk of chocolate cake, but the ratio of effort to deliciousness is about equal. And in the summer, I am 100% into not turning on an oven and still getting to eat cake!

      That’s so true when it comes to the finicky nature of baking. I get these grand ideas sometimes, and they either wind up not going quite as a planned, or occasionally failing entirely. I’m starting to accept that I just need to learn how to roll with the punches. :)

  3. says

    Damn. That looks good. I’m impressed with your fortitude, and your ability to improve the ombre trend (sort of over, but yours is still very much IN!). And, as ever, your photos are simply stunning. Makes me want to both paint with your whipped cream, and eat them by spoonfuls in the appropriate ombre order. Hugs to your mom, and to you! xoxo

    • says

      Thank you, Kati! :) (I ate waaaaay too much of that whipped cream during the photoshoot — piling it on top of leftover wafers or just right off the spoons!)

  4. says

    Oh man, what a cute cake! I love what you ended up with, ombre and all (seriously, I’m going to have to give ombre a try, even if it is on the way out), I love the photo with all the different shades of pink (the deepest pink is so pretty!), and I love the fact that it’s not food coloring.

    I’ve never had icebox cake before, but the wafers kind of look like the exteriors of ice cream sandwiches. Mmm, could I replace the whipped raspberry cream with raspberry ice cream? That sounds lovely as well…

    • says

      Thanks, Linda! I was wondering how much I would be able to tint the whipped cream with the raspberry purée, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well all of the different layers came out.

      Oooo, I wonder how an ice cream version of this would be? The wafers are definitely very crumbly at first, but they soften up over time when they’re in contact with other things. Even if they didn’t get completely softened, I’m sure it would still be amazing. But if they did, could imagine the deliciousness?? It would be like a giant ice cream sandwich cake!

  5. Laura says

    SO glad you made this with real raspberries instead of artificial flavoring. The fabulous Anthony Bourdain taught me that artificial is made from beaver anal glands, so..yeah. Lol. GORGEOUS cake!!

    • says

      Ahahahaha, oh man, now I’m extra glad I used the raspberries! :D It really makes so much more sense to use natural colors and true flavors. I was worried the raspberries might not get the whipped cream as pink as I wanted it to be, and I was prepared to use a little beet juice if I had to. I’m not sure how that would have tasted, but it definitely would have been pink……

  6. says

    Oooohh! Carey it’s so beautiful!! I LOVE it!!! And I don’t think the ombre craze will ever be over, it just looks too darn pretty to ever come to an end. I honestly always thought an icebox cake was some kind of ice cream cake until I read this post, I am intrigued by these cooled and whipped cream-soaked layers! I’ll have to try making one sometime, it sounds really tasty; although I will admit the idea of making wafers does intimidate me. Whenever I think of wafers I think “brittle” and I don’t always have the gentlest touch (that’s why I enjoy kneading dough so much, it usually turns out better if you handle it a bit roughly) so I feel like I’d accidentally break them all trying to stack them into these beautiful delicate layers. And then I’d just get angry and then sad and eat all the broken wafers and cream. But that isn’t such a terrible ending, so perhaps I should give it a go after all!

    • says

      I agree! I don’t know how people could really be over something that indisputably pretty!

      I am a total lummox in the kitchen (and everywhere else), and I found the homemade chocolate wafers to be very sturdy and easy to work with. (I’ve broken a lot of boxed wafers, although I think that usually occurs when I’m trying to impatiently remove them from the box/packaging. This cake is totally worth a try! (And even if you do break some, you can just hide them towards the center and bury them in whipped cream.) :D

  7. says

    Absolutely gorgeous and I’ve seen Deb’s recipe for those wafers and was ironically on her site the other day for chocolate graham crackers…I was going to make those, but now I want the wafers. Beautiful! Pinning!

    • says

      Thank you, Averie!! :) The wafers and this cake are delicious, but I also highly recommend Deb’s graham crackers too! (I made them a year or so ago, and they were awesome.)


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