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How to Make Picnic-Perfect Icebox Cakes

May 22, 2020

by Aravis Moore

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Lately we’re all trying to maximize our precious outdoor time, and nothing goes better with a healthy serving of sunshine than a delicious chilled refreshment. Enter icebox cakes: the fabulous retro dessert that’s a cool, creamy godsend on hot days when you’d rather forget you own an oven. Stack crispy cookies between scoops of freshly whipped cream, stick in the fridge and—sweet alchemy! In a few hours, the cookies transform into tender, cakey layers. 

I originally made these single-portioned grasshopper icebox cakes to solve a portability problem: how to make a treat I could tote to a birthday picnic. The humble canning jar provided the solution, and DIY-ing a flavored whipped cream lent a fresh, minty twist to the classic. Infusing cream is as easy as thinking ahead. You’ll need to chill your cream and mix-ins at least 12 hours for the best results, so it’s good to start a day in advance. Luckily, the hardest work is waiting—these individual mason-jar icebox cakes require just 20 minutes of hands-on prep time. Here’s how it’s done!

Mini Grasshopper Icebox Cakes

Using standard pint jars yields two ample portions, or you can split up the layers into half-pint jars for four smaller cakes. 

You will need:

  • 1 cup heavy cream (sometimes called whipping cream)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (or more, to taste)
  • 1 cup fresh mint, stems removed
  • Green food coloring (optional, for that authentically retro touch)
  • 1 package chocolate wafer cookies (like Nabisco Famous Wafers)
  • Plastic wrap
  • Strainer
  • Large bowl
  • Handheld mixer, stand mixer, or whisk
  • 2 pint-sized (or 4 half-pint) jars

Step 1: Infuse the cream

Aravis tearing fresh mint leaves and dropping them into a cup of heavy cream.
Aravis stirs the mint leaves to mix them into the heavy cream.
The mint-and-heavy-cream mixture, covered with plastic wrap to be chilled in the fridge.

Combine heavy cream with the chopped mint in a measuring cup or small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let chill overnight in the fridge.

Step 2: Strain and whip

Once they've been chilled overnight, Aravis strains the mint leaves out of the heavy cream.
Aravis whips the mixture using a stand mixer.
The finished whipped cream, fluffy and green in a bowl.

After the mixture has chilled, strain the cream into a large bowl. Add the sugar and a few drops of food coloring, if you’re using it. Whip the cream with a mixer, or use a whisk and put some old-fashioned muscle into it (if you want to skip arm day). Whip until soft peaks form.

Step 3: Assemble the cakes

Aravis adds a chocolate wafer cookie to alternating layers of cookies and cream in a jar.
Layers of cookies and whipped cream as seen from the side of a mason jar.
Finished mini icebox cakes styled on a tea towel.

Dollop a spoonful of cream in the bottom of the mason jar. Place a cookie on top, and press lightly to spread the cream. Add another layer of cream, and another cookie, pressing them each time to spread the cream evenly. 

Continue layering until you reach the top of the jar. Top with a final layer of cream and an optional mint sprig as garnish. Cover and chill for at least four hours, or up to overnight before serving.

Step 4: Complete your picnic preparations

A collage of picnic items available on Etsy
SHOP (clockwise from top left): Printable homemade treat labels from Prettiest Print Shop, $8; zero-waste utensil roll from The Made & Found, $37; herbs tea towel from Boyoun Kim, $10; picnic tray from Holtetajet, $80; pre-made cake jars from White Confetti Box, from $48 for 5

Make your outdoor eating area extra-cute and comfy with a few simple accessories. Then grab a spoon and enjoy!


Fan of flavored whipped cream? Here are three more inspired infusions to try.

A collage of coffees and teas available on Etsy
SHOP (clockwise from top left): Chamomile from Cassia Organics, $5 for 1 oz.; Earl Grey tea from Artful Tea, from $20 for 4 oz.; coffee sampler from Driftaway Coffee, from $16.50 for 8 oz.

Chamomile: A side of herbaceous infused cream complements peak-season strawberries. Maybe you place them atop pound cake or a cream scone, or maybe you eat the berries and cream right out of the bowl!

Earl Grey: A spoonful of fragrant, lightly bitter (in a good way) whipped cream makes a delicious counterpoint to a wedge of flourless chocolate cake.

Coffee: Whipped cream infused with whole coffee beans takes chocolate pudding (store bought or homemade) to the next level. For an easy twist on a Mudslide, add a splash of coffee liqueur to the mix.

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Recipe photographed by Aravis Moore.

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