Here is a potentially hot take from someone whose job it is to tell you exactly how long to roast a chicken: I think the best recipes are the ones that read like MadLibs. Yes, cooking method guidelines and timing suggestions are important, but in the ingredient department, nothing beats some wiggle room. Instead of a hard-and-fast list that sends me to the grocery store, I want an any-fruit galette, emphasis on the any, or a side of grilled vegetables featuring whatever I already have. Recipes that bend to accommodate my fridge, pantry, and preferences are king, and space to riff inevitably turns me into a repeat visitor as well-I'll come back again and again to try a new permutation once I've got the formula down. Sue me: I love to customize! And that is why the Any Way Ice Cream Icebox Cake is my song of the summer.
Icebox cakes are traditionally made with just two ingredients-whipped cream and wafer cookies, layered together either into a freestanding mound or inside a lined pan. While you go about your day, the freezer takes care of the hard work, transforming the cookies from crunchy to soft and cake-like and the whipped cream into a firm, sliceable spread. At go-time (in as little as a few hours, but it's best the next day), it's cool, creamy, and almost too delightful given how criminally easy it was to make. I rely on icebox cakes all summer long when I need something to bring to a party but can't bear to turn on my oven, or if I'm having people over but would rather helm the grill than worry about dessert. They're set-it-and-forget-it crowd-pleasers, which is a combination made in summer hosting heaven.
For the ultimate mix-and-match icebox cake, I add a pint of ice cream and a jar of jam into the mix-two big flavor moments that don't require any extra work from me. Ice cream isn't traditional, but I like a stripe of it right down the center of the cake for a novel texture and added creaminess. And while some icebox cakes feature jam as its own layer, I whip mine into the cream, which turns it a beautiful pastel color (no matter the jam choice) and imparts a fun, fruity flavor. This method gives you three blank slots to play with to find your ideal icebox cake lineup: the ice cream, the jam, and the cookie or cracker that will soften in the freezer. There are endless directions in which to take it, and the whole dessert is still as simple as whipping cream and letting ice cream go soft on the counter.
On Epicurious, you'll find three of my favorite ice cream icebox cake groupings, each of which would stun at your next backyard hang. First is a raspberry jam, pistachio ice cream, and Biscoff cookie combo, for a sweet-nutty-spiced situation that's as flavorful as it is pretty on the plate. For a Southern twist, try butter pecan ice cream, peach preserves, and Ritz crackers. (The additional bit of salt is next-level.) Or to keep things a bit more classic, chocolate ice cream, chocolate graham crackers, and blackberry jam can't be beat.
But again, those are just ideas; the magic of the formula is that it works with whatever you throw at it, and a quick scan down your grocery store's ice cream aisle or jam shelf is sure to spark some inspiration. Other pairings on my personal list to try include:
I could do this all day. And so could you! Think big, go wild, play Tetris with the flavors you like and what you've already got in your fridge, freezer, and pantry. In the end, it'll only take a few minutes to put together, and then you can rake in the compliments for something that looks like it took hours to make. (Did I mention the slices are really cute?) Plus, the next time you need a frozen treat, you can just run the recipe back-same formula, new combination, any way you like it.