Lemon Ice Box Cake

Lemon Ice Box Cake
  • Yield : 1
  • Servings : 10

Lemon Ice Box Cake

This classic lemon ice box cake recipe is so light and refreshing that you won’t want to put your fork down. The light lemon filling reminds me of a lemon meringue Yoplait yogurt whip but better. The taste and texture is a masterpiece for a spring or summer cake that can be made in advance making it perfect for your next entertaining event. I am not generally a cake fan but this cake gets 5 stars from me.

It is only recently that I actually was made aware that Lemon ice box cakes existed. The recipe we chose to make appeared in the most recent Fine Cooking magazine. It caught the eyes of the cooks in our house who love almost anything with lemons. Fine cooking mentions that it is a classic recipe that has been served up for years in a variety of forms. How could I have missed this? I searched through no less than 10 of my cookbooks dedicated to baking or with significant sections on baking with no recipes for Lemon ice box cake. Nor was it in the Three Meals a Day cookbook. Searching the web found several versions from simple to more complex but we stuck with the magazine and moved it to the top of our “to try” list.

I suggested we make this for a dinner where we were providing a main course and a dessert. The picture in the magazine looked simple and I sort of glanced at the instructions and asked my wife if she would make this one. I mean it is a classic so how hard can it be. Most of the original recipes in the Three Meals a Day cookbook were simple with simple ingredients. Simple is not what this recipe is about. From making angel food cake from scratch to the end product it took about 5 hours. Could we probably shave that time down a bit the next time we make it; yes I believe so, but cooling the angel food cake is the time killer. Was it worth it? Yes! The recipe follows with minor adaptations.


Angel Food Cake

1 cup sifted cake flour (3 ounces)
5 oz. (1-1/3 cups) confectioners’ sugar
1 cup sifted granulated sugar
12 large egg whites (1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons), at room temperature
1 tsp, cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. table salt
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
1 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1-1/2 Tbs. firmly packed finely grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)

Lemon Filling

1-1/2 Tbs. firmly packed finely grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
3/4 cup egg yolks (from 11 to 12 large eggs, from the angel food cake)
6 Tbs. granulated sugar
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
3 oz. (6 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and softened
Pinch table salt
1-1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled


2 tsp. powdered unflavored gelatin
1 cup plus 3 Tbs. granulated sugar
3/4 cup egg whites (from 5 to 6 large eggs)
3/4 tsp. cream of tartar

Making the Angel Food Cake

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Put the egg whites in the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer. Put the egg yolks in a small bowl. Set aside both bowls until the whites are slightly below room temperature, 60°F, about 1 hour.

Sift the cake flour, confectioners’ sugar, and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper. Stir together and set aside for later use.

Once the egg whites have reached near room temperature whip the whites on medium-low speed until frothy. Add the cream of tartar increasing the speed to medium and continue whipping until soft peaks form. In a slow, continuous stream, add the granulated sugar, whipping until the whites thicken and form soft, droopy peaks. Add the extracts and lemon zest near the end of the process. The mixture should be fluffy but not stiff.

Sprinkle one-quarter of the flour mixture over the whites and, using a rubber spatula, gently fold the dry ingredients into the whites. Continue folding in the flour mixture, at a rate of about one-quarter at a time. Carefully pour the batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan.

Bake in the bottom third of the oven until the top is light golden and the cake feels spongy, about 45 to 50 min. Invert the pan onto the neck of a bottle or a funnel and let cool completely before removing from the pan. This is about 3 hours.

Cooling Angel Food Cake

Cooling the angel food cake and putting the lemons to good use

Making the Lemon Filling

The time to do this part is while the angel food cake is cooking. Put the lemon zest in a large bowl and set a medium-mesh stainer on top. In a heavy-duty 4-quart saucepan, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until blended. Add the lemon juice, butter, and salt. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly making sure not to boil it. Cook until thickened enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon but still pourable, 4 to 5 minutes. Pass the thickened curd through the strainer and mix in the zest. Cool, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.

When the lemon curd has cooled, beat the cream with an electric mixer on medium speed just until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. With a large balloon whisk or silicone spatula, fold in the lemon curd. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate. (I love to use my Pyrex bowls
where ever possible because I have lids for them. It makes it super easy to stack things in the refrigerator. I lived for years not realizing you could get lids.)

Making the meringue

In a small glass bowl, pour in 3 Tbs. water and sprinkle the gelatin over it; let soften for at least 5 minutes. Microwave on high to melt the gelatin, 15 to 30 seconds.

Next in a heavy-duty nonstick 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, combine 1 cup of the sugar and 6 Tbs. water and stir constantly until the syrup is bubbling, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until foamy, or about 45 seconds. Add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form, 30 seconds. Gradually beat in the remaining 3 Tbs. sugar until stiff peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes.

Select a 2-cup or larger heatproof liquid measure and put aside. Return the 2-quart pan of syrup to medium-high heat and boil until a candy thermometer registers 248°F. Pour the syrup into the measure to stop the cooking and then immediately pour a small amount of syrup over the whites with the mixer off. Immediately beat at high speed for about 5 seconds. Stop the mixer and add a larger amount of syrup. Beat at high speed for another 5 seconds. Continue with the remaining syrup. Lower the speed to medium, add the gelatin mixture, and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Decrease the speed to low and continue beating until the bottom of the bowl is no longer warm to the touch, about 10 minutes.

Use a large silicone spatula to fold one-third of the meringue into the lemon cream. Repeat twice more until all of the meringue is folded into the uniform lemon cream.

The Cake Layers

First we need to the angel food cake out of the pan once cooled. To remove the cake from the pan, run a knife along the interior of the pan. Tilt the pan on its side and gently tap the bottom against the counter to loosen the cake further. Rotate the pan, tapping a few more times as you turn it, until the cake comes free from the sides of the pan. Invert the cake onto a plastic cutting board and then turn it back over so that the top is facing up. I know it can be sticky.

Place long strips of wax paper on your counter or four flexible plastic cutting boards if you have them. Using a long serrated knife, remove and discard the brown top crust. Flip the cake back over and cut into four even layers. After cutting each layer, use two spatulas or slide in a flexible cutting board to lift a layer off the cake and put it on the waxed paper. Keep the layers in order for the reassembly process.

Assembling the cake

Lightly oil the inside of a clean 10-inch (16-cup) 2-piece metal tube pan. (I only have one so I had to clean mine so it might be time to buy another.)

Spread one-quarter of the filling on the bottom of the pan. I find that using ladles and a spatula works best. Place the smallest cake ring on top of the filling. Spread about one-third of the remaining lemon filling on top. Top with the next cake layer. Spread on half of the remaining filling. Repeat with the third cake layer and remaining filling. Top with the last cake layer and lightly press it down. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or overnight. (I recommend you do this overnight and as long as possible as the cake will setup better.)

Now it is time to unmold the cake and yes it looks like it might all fall apart. Take a kitchen towel and run it under very hot water and then wring out the excess. Wipe the sides and bottom of the pan to help release the cake smoothly. (The home improvement method would be to use a plumbers torch but that might be excessive and dangerous. So just be patient and do it the slow way. Remember this is all going to taste great.)

Set the pan on top of a cylinder (canister) that’s smaller than the pan’s removable bottom and higher than the pan’s sides ( I used a plastic storage container from the pantry. If it looks like it might fall, get another set of hands to help). Now gently press down on the sides of the pan. If it doesn’t slide down easily, apply more heat to the sides.

Run a long offset spatula between the bottom of the cake and the pan. Run a wire cake tester or wooden skewer around the inner tube. Invert the cake onto a serving plate and remove the tube portion of the pan. Voila, there is your masterpiece. Slice and serve the cake chilled.

I can’t thank the folks at Fine Cooking enough for sharing this recipe. It is clearly a five star version of the cake. They also have a new version of the classic which will be next on my list to try.

Some final notes:

As the photo indicates, we rushed this off for transport so unfortunately I do not have any pictures of a slice of the cake. Will add that next time we make it.

Special thanks to my wife for the time it took to make this wonderful dessert. She even had to admit that the taste was worth the time and effort.

You can see from the photo that some of the cake was showing through on the sides. Suggest that more attention be taken in the process to make sure the filling gets into the sides more evenly.

Feel free to use which ever angel food cake recipe you like. Just add the lemon ingredients as noted above to your recipe. Of course if you want to do it the Sandra Lee way, buy a store bought angel food cake and start from there.

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Comment (1)

  1. posted by Heather Lee on May 21, 2010

    Looks delicious!


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