it's officially October and everywhere I look there is pumpkin! for many, fall isn't really fall without pumpkin. I am not one of those people. absolutely nothing against this orange winter squash. but, im more into the warming spices of the season. this pumpkin gingersnap icebox cake is just the right amount of each. pumpkin + spice and everything so nice.
short + sweet ingredient list
this icebox cake comes together in less than 10 minutes. add in some chill time and you've got the easiest dessert possible! here's what you need:
- heavy whipping cream
- pumpkin puree
- pumpkin spice
- confectioner's sugar
- vanilla extract
- gingersnaps or other spiced cookie
- salted caramel sauce
what is an icebox cake?
an icebox cake is a no bake dessert that requires absolutely no cooking or baking. therefore, its super easy to assemble and requires minimal prep time. just some chill time in the fridge. the waiting is always the hardest part!
most icebox cakes are made of a few basic ingredients:
- thin sweet crackers such as graham, wafers or gingersnaps
- sweetened cream
- seasonal fruit
assembly is similarly easy to do. first, layer the container with cookies, next, fill each layer with sweetened cream and seasonal fruit. finally it's time to chill the cake in the fridge. as a result of the chill time, the crackers turn into delicious cake like layers. the result is a no bake dessert that tastes like a creamy, dreamy cake.
as you can imagine, this dessert is very popular in the warmer months of the year. the whole no bake thing is very appealing when its hot and humid. but, why keep this fabulously easy dessert away in the colder months? i am here to make icebox cakes a year round dessert! minimal prep, a handful of ingredients and perfect to make ahead? sign me up.
how to make icebox cake for each season
this is where you get creative! all you need is cookies, cream and something seasonally appropriate. mix and match popular flavors for the season. for example this pumpkin gingersnap icebox cake has:
- thin cookies: gingersnaps
- ginger pairs really well with pumpkin
- sweetened cream: add in pumpkin spice and vanilla bean paste
- warming spices are instant autumn vibes
- vanilla pairs really well with ginger and pumpkin
- seasonal fruit: pumpkin
- technically its a fruit! instead of chunks of pumpkin, this is pureed and incorporated into the cream
- fun seasonal add-in: salted caramel
- this is optional but brings even more flavor
- helps to soften the gingersnaps
- pairs well with all the other flavors in the icebox cake
substitutions + add-ins for this icebox cake
the thing I love most about this no bake dessert is how versatile it is! seriously, you can use anything you have on hand. here are my favorite substitutions and flavor add-ins for this recipe:
- thin cookies: chocolate wafers, cinnamon flavored graham crackers, butter or almond cookies
- cream: use 1/2 heavy cream and 1/2 mascarpone or cream cheese
- seasonal fruit: skip with sugar in the cream and use seasonal fruit butter in its place. apple butter, pumpkin butter, maple butter are all cool options. go really creative and use nutella or cookie butter!
- seasonal add-ins: finely chopped nuts are a nice flavor and texture contrast. for a boozy option, add 2-4 tbsp dark alcohol like bourbon or rum into the whipped cream.
no loaf pan? no problem!
this recipe makes enough to nicely fill a 9X5 loaf pan. as an alternative, you can make this in:
- 4-6 glass cups or jars
- 8" square or round baking pan
- 9" square or round baking pan (this recipe will not fill it about 3/4 capacity)
follow the recipe as written for all the containers. the only change would be if using individual cups or jars. no freeze time is needed for those. the freezing time is intended to make plating, slicing and serving easier.
more sweet pumpkin inspiration
pumpkin gingersnap icebox cake
- 9X5 loaf pan
- parchment paper
- stand or electric mixer with whisks and paddle attachment or beaters
- plastic wrap
- 2 c heavy whipping cream
- 1 c (125g) powdered sugar, divided
- 2/3 c canned pumpkin puree
- 1 tsp pumpkin spice
- 2 tsp vanilla bean paste sub with vanilla extract
- 36-40 small gingersnaps this may vary on the type of gingersnap
- 1/2-1 c salted caramel sauce store bought or homemade
- Line a 9X5 loaf pan with parchment paper leaving 1-2" overhang on the long sides of the pan. This helps to remove the loaf for easy slicing and serving. Set aside. Measure out pumpkin puree into a bowl or plate lined with a layer of paper towels. This helps absorb some of the excess water from the pumpkin. The cream is smoother when this step is done. Skip if you'd like or don't mind a more textured cream.
- In a mixing bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment (or electric mixer with beaters), beat heavy cream and 1/2 c powdered sugar on low speed for 1 minute. Increase to medium high speed and beat to medium peaks. Scoop cream into another bowl and set aside.
- In the same mixing bowl used to whip the heavy cream (no need to clean in between), pour pumpkin puree, remaining 1/2 powdered sugar, pumpkin spice and vanilla bean paste. Beat on low speed until fully combined and smooth.
- Switch to the paddle attachment if using a stand mixer (or by hand or using electric beaters). Fold in 1/2 of the whipped cream into the sweetened pumpkin puree. Mix on low until about 1/2 of the whipped is combined. Add remaining 1/2 of the whipped cream. Mix or fold on low until smooth and well combined.
- Line the bottom of the lined loaf pan with gingersnaps. Break the cookies if needed to make sure to fully line the bottom with cookies. Drizzle caramel sauce on top of the cookies (about 1/4-1/3 c per layer). Scoop 1/3 of the sweetened pumpkin cream on top of the caramel drizzle. Smooth into the corners and into an even layer. Repeat: cookies, caramel drizzle, sweetened pumpkin cream two more times, ending with the pumpkin cream. Smooth the final top layer.
- Gently fold the excess parchment onto the top layer of cream. Wrap the whole loaf pan with plastic cling wrap (or other eco friendly alternative). Chill in the fridge for at least 6-8 hours and up to overnight. About an hour before serving, move the loaf pan (still wrapped) into the freezer. This helps solidify the layers and makes serving easier. When ready to serve, remove the chilled loaf pan from the fridge (or freezer). Unwrap the loaf pan, lift up the parchment overhangs. Run a butter knife along the unlined edges of the pan. Gently lift the icebox cake from the loaf pan, on to a serving plate or cutting board. Top with more caramel drizzle if desired. Slice and serve. Keep leftover in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.
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