I love to bake. No, seriously, I do. I look at it as cathartic in some ways. One time my husband and I were going through a really rough patch, and I decided to bake a different cupcake every Sunday just to feel useful and appreciated.
Baking as therapy. You should try it sometime.
That being said, I hate to bake in the summer. The oven heats up my kitchen and I get all sticky and miserable. Believe me, no one wants that to happen.
Which leads me to this, my go-to dessert recipe for the summer months. Introducing the No Bake Strawberry Ice Box cake. Yes, you heard right. No bake cake.
First of all, strawberries. I mean, delicious, right?
Secondly, no bake. No heat in the kitchen means a happy mom. And you know what they say about a mom being happy.
And it’s even versatile! You can substitute any berries you want. We’ve tried blueberries and blackberries, but I always seem to come back to the strawberry. I even mixed strawberries and blueberries for the fourth of July (red, white and blue, doncha know?).
In a pinch, you can even substitute vanilla pudding mix for the cheesecake pudding mix. I learned this the other day, when our supermarket was out of cheesecake pudding mix. I used vanilla and I think I may have actually preferred it. My husband said it tasted the same to him, but I didn’t marry him for his palate. (He thinks Pepsi and Coke are interchangeable, so there you go.)
Anyway, without any further ado….
NO BAKE STRAWBERRY ICE BOX CAKE
2 pounds strawberries, cleaned and sliced
1 8 ounce bar of cream cheese, at room temperature
2 sleeves graham crackers (more or less)
1 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
2 4-serving boxes of cheesecake flavored instant pudding
3 cups milk
1 12 ounce carton of Cool Whip
Line the bottom of your 13×9 baking dish with graham crackers. For my dish, it took five full crackers vertically on top, then two horizontally below, like this:
In a mixing bowl, combine the softened cream cheese and the sweetened condensed milk until creamy.
I use a low setting on my mixer to do this. Then add your pudding and the milk. Continue mixing until it starts to thicken, usually around four minutes.
Measure out 2 cups of the Cool Whip and fold it into your pudding/cream cheese mixture until smooth.
Pour half of the mixture over the graham crackers and spread evenly. It will look something like this:
Take half of the sliced berries and arrange them in a single layer on the pudding mixture. Now, some people will meticulously arrange the berries but, to tell you the truth, there’s no point because NO ONE WILL SEE THESE BERRIES. It’s more important to make sure there is a berry in every bite. Your finished product will look like this:
Then you REPEAT the whole layering process, starting with the graham crackers. First the graham cracker layer, then the pudding layer, and finally the berries. Yum!
And now, the no bake cake part….
Then cover the whole thing (we use aluminum foil, though I’m sure plastic would work too) and refrigerate for 6-8 hours. We made it the night before, and didn’t have it until after dinner, and it was just fine. Sometimes the berries (especially the strawberries) get a bit watery, but you can soak it up with a paper towel or napkin before serving.
When you’re ready to serve, top with a layer of the remaining Cool Whip. Then you can decorate it anyway you want. We usually just add some whole berries and crushed graham crackers, but sometimes we just go with the whipped cream. My kids went a little wild over the Fourth of July weekend and decorated this one for the holiday:
And there you go. Hope you enjoy the recipe. Who knows? Maybe next time I’ll actually cook something!