Also known as zebra cake, icebox cake was invented by ingenious housewives of the 1920s who acted as the almost-homemade avant garde. While you might think of boxed cake mixes and canned soups as a mid-twentieth century phenomenon, many of these convenience foods were actually first invented before World War II. This recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen.
Although traditional icebox cakes are made in logs, this can be tricky to do without practice. The 1920s recipe actually tells you to assemble the log upright, then lay it on its side. For most amateur chefs, attempting this is going to result in a Leaning Tower of Pisa and probably a mess. You can cheat by using a spring form pan. Pop out the bottom of your spring form pan and cover it with a sheet of wax paper. Put the bottom back into the top of the pan with the wax paper sticking out the sides of the bottom. Cut a long, narrow strip of wax paper to line the sides of your spring form pan.
In a large, cold, very clean mixing bowl, beat the cream, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer on high speed until peaks form. If you want to make a fancy icebox cake, you can add flavors to your whipped cream. For example, you could add cocoa, a bit of lemon or almond extract or even fresh fruit like strawberries or banana. If you want to make a really fancy icebox cake, mix in ricotta or mascarpone cheese and some honey.
Place a layer of cookies in the bottom layer of your spring form pan, arranging the cookies so that they are touching side by side but not overlapping. The original icebox cake recipe was invented by Nabisco in the 1920s and called for Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers. Nabisco still makes these, but they're hard to find. You might have to order them off Amazon. Otherwise, you could substitute any other kind of wafer cookie. You can use some other kind of chocolate wafer, or you could use spicy Moravian wafers or Nilla wafers if you don't want chocolate. You could also use graham crackers. You could even make your own wafers if you object to convenience. This recipe is very flexible.
Spread the cookies with about half a cup of your whipped cream. At this point, you could also add sliced strawberries or bananas if you are still looking for ways to dress your cake up. Repeat this process, filling your spring form pan with layers of cookies and cream until you reach the top of the pan. End in a cookie layer. You should have some cream left. Cover it up and put it in the fridge.
Cover the pan and place it in your icebox -- that's old timey for refrigerator -- for at least six hours and possibly overnight. When you are ready to serve your icebox cake, remove it from the refrigerator and very carefully release it from the spring form pan. Peel off the side wax paper. In all likelihood, you're not going to be able to get it off the bottom wax paper without messing it up, so just trim around the excess paper edges and put the cake on a plate. Stir up your leftover whipped cream and spread it on the top before serving.