How to Make Lemon Icebox Cake

As refreshing as it is easy to make, this lemon icebox cake will become a family favorite.

Icebox cakes are a classic confection that comes together with just a few simple ingredients and with no oven required. This makes them the perfect sweet summer treat—and there’s nothing more summery than this no-bake lemon icebox cake.

This light, creamy, lemony layered cake uses fresh lemon juice, whipped topping and crunchy graham cracker cookies, and is chilled in the fridge overnight resulting in a refreshingly cool treat with a bright and tangy lemon flavor. It’s definitely one of our favorite no-bake lemon desserts!

Key Ingredients in Lemon Icebox Cake

Let’s talk about what ingredients—and more importantly, why these ingredients—make a lemon icebox cake great.

  • Whipped topping: A frozen whipped topping like Cool Whip is a key part of many icebox desserts. Make sure it’s softened before folding it into this recipe.
  • Instant pudding mix: This mix is the secret ingredient for providing flavor and the right creamy consistency for this icebox cake recipe. You’ll only need the powdered mix here (no need to pick up the extra ingredients called for on the side of the box).
  • Lemon: Fresh lemon is what’s really going to give this dessert (and all our favorite lemon desserts) its tangy flavor. Learn how to zest a lemon (even if you don’t have a zester).
  • Graham crackers: Crispy graham crackers are the perfect base for this dessert. They’ll soften up a bit as the filling sets to give this dessert a cake-like texture. If you don’t have any graham crackers on hand, you can also use shortbread cookies or Nilla wafers for this icebox dessert.

How to Make Lemon Icebox Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 package graham crackers
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 packages (3-1/3 ounces each) instant lemon pudding mix
  • 2-1/2 cups 2% milk
  • 1 carton (16 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest

Directions

Step 1: Create the Filling

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In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, pudding mix and 1 tablespoon of lemon zest until blended. Gradually beat in milk until smooth. A good hand mixer will make this job easy.

Remember: To make this filling super smooth and decadent (not to mention easier to mix), the cream cheese should be softened.

Step 2: Fold in the Whipped Topping

Lemon Icebox Cake whipped creamTMB Studio

Next, fold in the thawed whipped topping. This gentle mixing method will ensure that the filling is light and airy.

Step 3: Layer

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Arrange the crackers in an ungreased 13-by-9-inch dish. Make sure your pan is at least 2 inches deep to accommodate all the filling.

Then spread a third of the lemon mixture over the crackers and repeat twice more.

Step 4: Finish and Refrigerate

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As a finishing touch, sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of lemon zest. Refrigerate, covered, for, 8 hours or overnight. When you’re ready to serve, just slice and wait for the compliments!

Tips for Making Lemon Icebox Cake

Lemon Icebox CakeTMB Studio

Can you use other kinds of pudding to make lemon icebox cake?

The instant pudding mix is a key ingredient in this icebox cake. However, feel free to play with other instant pudding flavors like vanilla, white chocolate or coconut cream. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s the instant pudding mix.

How can you make this lemon icebox cake your own?

Once you’ve got the icebox cake basics, there’s no limit to ways to customize this confection.

Take the lemon flavor up a level, and add a layer of homemade lemon curd or mix some lemon juice in with the whipped cream. Bring more fruit into your cake with a layer of fresh slices of raspberries or blueberries in between. Or get creative with the cookies and swap the graham crackers for lemon Oreos, vanilla wafers, shortbread, ladyfingers, or even ginger snaps.

You can even swap out the lemon for lime if you’d like for a Key lime pie-inspired dessert.

How can you decorate a lemon icebox cake?

To give your icebox cake a flavorful final touch, try topping it with slices of citrus like lemons, blood oranges, or limes. For a pop of color, garnish it with an array of fresh berries or add a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of chopped nuts for a bit of sweetness and crunch.

How do I store a lemon icebox cake?

Any leftover lemon icebox cake can be kept in the fridge for up to 4 days. It can also be pre-sliced and frozen for up to 1 month. When ready to enjoy, simply grab a piece and let it thaw in the fridge to soften before serving.

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Lauren Paige Richeson
Lauren Paige Richeson is an author and artist specializing in written, visual, and edible content. She's an Editor at Allrecipes and her debut cookbook Avocado Obsession was published in 2020. As a food writer, she has contributed to Cherry Bombe Magazine, Eaten Magazine, Life & Thyme Magazine. She's covered health & wellness for Well + Good, mindbodygreen, Eat This Not That, Clean Plates, and developed recipes for Simply Recipes, LIVEKINDLY, Wide Open Eats, Whole30, and more. Lauren Paige is a Scorpio with a passion for the sea, scary stories, folklore, 19th-century art & fruits de mer.