Pumpkin icebox cake is an easy, no-bake dessert to make this fall. Made with fluffy pumpkin mousse and layers of softened graham crackers.
Make a pumpkin icebox cake for your next fall celebration - it's easy to assemble and there's no cooking involved! This no-bake pumpkin cake is assembled in minutes and refrigerated until ready to serve.
Homemade whipped cream is blended with pumpkin puree and spices to make a fluffy pumpkin mousse. Your icebox cake is assembled with layers of graham crackers and refrigerated for up to 3 hours. Resting the cake before serving turns the graham crackers into soft, cake-like layers.
Live in a warmer climate? Pumpkin icebox cake makes the perfect warm weather fall dessert. Light, not too sweet, and filled with big fall flavor!
Ingredients and substitutions
Pumpkin puree is the main ingredient needed for your icebox cake. Not to be confused with pumpkin pie filling - these two products are different. You're looking for plain, canned pumpkin puree.
To make your whipped cream layer, you'll need heavy cream or heavy whipping cream. Anything with a lower fat percentage (light cream, half & half, or whole milk) will not whip up into whipped cream, and cannot be substituted.
The whipped cream layer can be substituted with 4 cups of Cool Whip. However, I highly recommend trying to make your own whipped cream from scratch - it tastes better and you'll know exactly what ingredients are in your homemade version.
Graham crackers can be substituted with vanilla wafers or vanilla sandwich cookies (like golden Oreo cookies). Thicker cookies will take longer to soften than graham crackers.
Confectioner's sugar is best for this recipe because it incorporates seamlessly into the pumpkin puree. Using granulated or brown sugar can make your mousse grainy (since we are not heating the ingredients to melt the sugar).
Vanilla extract and spices (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves) add flavor to your pumpkin mousse. The spices can be substituted with pumpkin pie spice if you have it on hand.
Does canned pumpkin need to be cooked?
No, canned pumpkin puree is already cooked. It is steamed and pureed before canning, therefore it is ready to eat straight from the can.
However, it tastes even better when added to a dessert recipe instead (like these pumpkin sugar cookies)!
Tips and tricks
- Making whipped cream - Never made whipped cream before? Check out my post on homemade whipped cream for even more details and step-by-step photos.
- Use very cold cream - Make sure your heavy cream is very cold and straight from the refrigerator. Even better, chill your bowl and whisk in the refrigerator for 10 minutes before starting.
- Use a hand mixer - When making whipped cream, use a hand mixer (or a stand mixer) with a whisk attachment. It speeds up the process significantly! Whipping by hand requires a lot of arm strength and extra time.
- Fold ingredients gently - when folding your pumpkin mixture into your whipped cream, use a spatula and fold slowly and gently, so as to not deflate your freshly whipped cream.
How long does an icebox cake need to be refrigerated?
Once your cake is assembled, cover and refrigerate for about three hours.
I found the texture was best at around three hours - this gives your graham crackers time to soften into a cake-like texture, but they aren't so soft that they become mushy.
If you'd like firmer graham cracker layers, I'd suggest serving it after one hour instead of three.
This cake can be assembled and chilled the day beforehand. Keep in mind that your graham crackers will continue to soften and lose texture the longer your cake sits. I recommend enjoying the entire cake (including leftovers) within about two days for best quality.
Or, prepare your pumpkin mousse the day beforehand and wait to assemble your cake until about 3 hours before serving.
Pumpkin icebox cake can be garnished with a variety of toppings. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Homemade whipped cream
- Cinnamon whipped cream
- Crumbled graham crackers
- Crumbled gingersnap cookies
- Dash of cinnamon
- Chopped pecans or walnuts
- Drizzle of caramel sauce
- Mini chocolate chips
Pumpkin Icebox Cake
- 2 cups (454 g) heavy cream, very cold
- 15 ounces (426 g) canned pumpkin puree
- 1 cup (114 g) confectioner's sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 12 graham crackers
- In a large bowl, add cold heavy cream. Whip with a hand mixer or stand mixer until medium peaks have formed (about 2 to 3 minutes). Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, add pumpkin puree, confectioner's sugar, vanilla extract, and spices. Stir until combined. Gently fold together your whipped cream and pumpkin mixtures until evenly incorporated.
- In an 8x8 square pan, add a thin layer of pumpkin mousse (this layer is not repeated). Top with a single layer of graham crackers. Top graham crackers with ⅓ of pumpkin mousse, spread into an even layer. Repeat these layers two more times, for a total of 3 layers each of graham crackers and pumpkin mousse.
- Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour for firm graham crackers, or 3 hours for a softer texture. Graham crackers will continue to soften over time and cake is best served within 24 hours.
- Slice and serve cold.
- Heavy cream, ¼ cup of confectioner's sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract can be substituted with 4 cups of Cool Whip.
- Graham crackers can be substituted with vanilla wafers or Oreo cookies. Thicker cookies take longer to soften, about 12-18 hours.
- Spices listed can be substituted with an equal amount of pumpkin pie spice.
- To make ahead: prepare pumpkin mousse, cover, and refrigerate overnight. Assemble cake as directed about 3 hours before serving.
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