Homemade Ice Cream Cake




About: Former Instructables employee. Living in San Francisco amidst the fog. I love getting my hands dirty by taking on new projects, developing unique skills and learning fun facts.

This recipe is a homemade version of the notoriously-delicious Carvel ice cream cake - chocolate crunchies and all. A summer birthday doesn't feel complete without an ice cream cake, and this one is incredibly easy to pull off. 

The key to making an ice cream cake is time. And a good freezer with plenty of space. You'll want to work with cold ingredients, and cold tools. I started this ice cream cake in the morning for an evening party. While it doesn't take a lot of time to assemble, you need to wait at least 2 hours between steps. Ideally, you want to start making the ice cream cake 24 hours before, to allow plenty of time for everything to set. 


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Step 1: Ingredients

I went the simple route, and just bought ice cream besides making it myself. If you're using homemade ice cream (you ambitious chef, you) be sure to use the final product, and not the pre-churned batter.

Because I'm making a Carvel cake, I bought vanilla and chocolate ice cream, but you can use whatever flavors you like! The whipped cream frosting is a neutral enough flavor that it pairs well with everything. Cream + sugar = delicious.

For this recipe you will need:
  • 1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream
  • 1/2 gallon chocolate ice cream
  • 1 box chocolate wafers or Oreos (to de-creme) if you can't find wafers
  • 1 bottle chocolate magic shell
  • 1 Tbs gelatin
  • 1 c whipping cream
  • 3 Tbs powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla 
  • Decorations to top! I used cherries and colorful sprinkles, but I imagine just about anything that you'd find on a sundae would go well with this essentially re-formatted sundae. 
You will also need a springform pan, a mixing bowl, and a power-mixer. Be sure to place these tools in the freezer well before you use them, so everything you're working with is nice and cold. 

Step 2: Prep First Layer

Your bottom layer of ice cream is likely still cold, so transfer it to a bowl and begin stirring until it just becomes soft. You don't want to work with entirely-melted ice cream because it will re-freeze differently. 

Spread your ice cream in the springform pan until the top is relatively flat. Clean off the sides with a bit of cool water... or your finger.

Cover, and place in the freezer next to those other supplies.

Step 3: Wait!

Give this bottom layer at least 2 hours to set. 

Step 4: Chocolate Cookie Crunchies

To kill some time (and maybe sneak a snack) while that layer's freezing, you can prep those chocolate crunchies. 

I wasn't able to find chocolate wafers a my supermarket, but I did find Oreos. I used a frosting spatula to separate the Oreos from their filling, but any flat device will work. Set centers aside, and/or offer them up to the masses. I'd love to see some Oreo-creme-based projects! Ideas?

Next, crush your chocolate cookies in either a food processor or in a Ziplock with a rolling pin. You don't want fine grain, or large chunks - shoot for something in the middle. 

Place crumbs in a bowl, and pour your Magic Shell chocolate fudge on top. BE SURE TO SHAKE WELL! It's coconut oil-based, which separates at room temp but hardens when slightly cooler (eg, on ice cream). You can also make your own magic shell for this step. 

Mix well, and set aside.

Step 5: Build Top Layer

After patiently waiting, it's time to build the next layer. 

Spread those chocolate crunchies in a uniform layer on top of the now-set chocolate ice cream base. 

Using those same techniques as before, soften your vanilla ice cream, and gently spread that on top of the crunchies layer. Be careful to not stir it too hard, and disrupt the center and bring it up. Smooth-out the top of the ice cream so it's flat.

Place back in the freezer.

Step 6: Wait Some More!

You've got at least another 2 hours to kill. Why not learn about the history of ice cream?

Step 7: Whipped Cream "frosting"

I don't know if you've ever frozen whipped cream, but I have and it comes out weird. It also melts really quickly We don't want either of these things to happen.

So, we're making some stabilized whipped cream using gelatin. Veggie friends out there, agar-agar works just as well. Other methods involve cornstarch and Whip It, but I'm using gelatin.

You will need:
  • 1 tsp unflavored gelatin
  • 1 Tbs cold water
  • 1 c cold heavy or whipping cream
  • 3 Tbs sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water, and let it sit for a minute or so until it's absorbed. Then, microwave the gelatin at high heat for 30 seconds so it can "bloom." It should finish clear, but not melted. 

In the now-cold mixing bowl, beat the cold cream with a cold whisk (sensing a theme here?) until it gets thick and starts to form peaks. 

Gradually add in your sugar. Confectioners sugar is best, but granulated sugar works fine, too.

While the mixer is still running, slowly pour in your gelatin mixer until it's incorporated. Add vanilla, and add whatever other flavors you'd like.

To get that authentic Carvel look, separate a bit of whipped cream, and fold in blue food coloring until you reach your desired hue. 

Put all of these things in the refrigerator until you're ready to decorate. 

Step 8: Frost

After the two hours have passed, take your unfrosted cake our of the freezer. Place some parchment paper (or some other disposable kitchen paper) on a flat surface. 

Remove your cake from the springform pan, and place on the parchment paper. It's okay if the edges look a little rough - that's what frosting is for! Keep the springform base underneath the cake for now.

Using your whipped cream frosting base, frost the cake! It's okay if it's messy at the base, because we'll be removing the parchment paper later.

Place back in the freezer to set for at least another hour or two. 

Step 9: Keep Waiting!

Yup, ice cream cakes take a long time to set. But, as you're already in the kitchen, here's some more recipes:

Ice Cream! 


Step 10: Decorate

Almost there! 

Remove your cake from the freezer, and place on your serving surface.  Use that same frosting spatula to clean off the edges.

Take out that blue whipped cream, and using a piping bag, test things out and find the right tip. 

If you're making a homemade Carvel-esque cake, frost the top and bottom edges with blue whipped cream. Stabilized whipped cream holds it's shape really well, so if you want to make something more ambitious, feel free!

Then top with whatever else you want :)

Step 11: Slice and Serve

If you're not serving for a bit, place back in the freezer. And if you are, enjoy! A knife warmed under hot water slices through cold cakes like this smoothly.


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27 Discussions


3 years ago

Does anyone know if a butter cream frosting would work on an ice cream cake? I think that could be a good use of Oreo cream if one has to go the route.

1 reply

Reply 3 years ago

I watched a video of a chef using butter cream frosting. I think it would be ok to add in oreo cream. Better than wasting it. Well, i would eat it by adding it too a few other oreos. Extra stuffed! Haha.


3 years ago

looks so good!!

yum yum yum

3 years ago

it is so yum try it ;-]


4 years ago

Why not make your own ice cream.


4 years ago

One idea for the Oreo middles is to use them to make your own magic shell For the crunchie filling. Not sure if the Oreo recipe is different here in Europe, but mine melted easily in a bain marie - I then mixed with chocolate and drizzled over a bit of ice cream to make sure it hardened to that perfect Magic Shell consistency and was surprised how much it tasted like the real thing - us American ex-pats have to get creative sometimes to get that taste of home :-)


5 years ago

Oh my! Oh my! Oh my! I want that so much, please!

Awesome! My husband wants an ice cream cake for his birthday, but I did not want to spend $50+ at Cold Stone! Haha. So, I read through some of the comments to see if you had already answered this question, but didn't read all of them, so, sorry if it's been asked, but do you think this method would work for making a layer of ice cream between two layers of cake? I have a springform pan, but I was thinking I could line it with parchment, or just give it a short warm-water bath to make the ice cream pop out so I can put it between two cake layers. Or has your experience told you that this would not work/would make the ice cream layer unmanageable? I'm thinking I would re-freeze the layer before trying to put it between the cake (and I'd probably freeze the cake, too).


5 years ago

Totally making!! Yum

My mom used to make ice cream cakes. We didn't have a spring pan, so she would line a round cake pan with plastic wrap, and spread the ice cream on it. She would do both layers, in 2 pans to save time. Then when frozen, use the plastic wrap to lift it out of the pan. This would halve the cake making time.
She frosted with cool whip. Your frosting looks much better.


5 years ago on Introduction

I've been making ice cream pies (a la Baskin Robbins, essentially the same idea but in a graham-cracker crust) for a month or two now and loving the results.

Just wondering if you have any tips on softening the ice cream without melting it completely. It's the only part I have consistent problems with. Left to itself to soften I end up with a chunk of hard ice cream in the center of a bath of melted ice cream. I've been trying various tricks to get a spreadable-but-not-all-liquid form for my ice cream and not succeeding too well. (Fortunately all the mistakes taste really good anyway. :)

Any ideas?

3 replies

Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

"Just wondering if you have any tips on softening the ice cream without melting it completely."

I find it is best to start with a fresh from the store, never been opened before, container of ice cream. For reasons I am not fully able to comprehend, the 'fresh' ice cream melts much slower and evenly than stuff that has been opened before--even just as recently as 24 hours prior. I believe this has something to do with the freezers at the stores, which store the food items at a much lower temp, and they do not cycle as much so the ice cream doesn't melt and refreeze... It also might be that it takes me about 20 minutes to get home and the ice cream melts a bit during that time... Like I said, I am not 100% sure on why it works--but all I do know is that I only make these things once, twice a year... So I go all out and make it the best I can.

Also I find that if I put it into my stand mixer with the paddle attachment (Not the dough hook, or the whisk) that I can whip a good bit more air into the mix, making the ice cream even easier to work with because of the extra air whipped into it. This does thin the flavor a bit, but not too much. I suggest getting a higher quality/heavier ice cream (No name brands, but higher quality ice creams weigh MUCH more than value brands!) so that you have more flavor to work with from the beginning. Only issue has been that carmel always ends up tasting funny once I do this.

My process is:

Put mixing bowl and paddle for stand mixer into freezer.

Go to store and buy fresh Ice Cream. (Better quality, rather than quantity.)

Come home, put bowl and paddle onto mixer, dump ice cream into mixer.

Begin slowly mixing the Ice Cream. SLOWLY! Lowest speed your mixer will go.

Increase speed SLOWLY until the ice cream is starting to really get fluid again.

Once your "ice" cream is liquid enough so that it looks like soft serve custard, turn your mixer to MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE!

When the tell-tale WHUP-WHUP-WHUP sounds get nice and deep, and your ice cream has 'fluffed' up to a nice amount, you can stop the beater, and begin to proceed as normal with the putting in a pan and putting in the freezer and whatnot.

I have found that using this method, I have great results. The texture is very smooth, and it is very easy to eat. I am a person who has to put his bowl of ice cream into the microwave for 15 seconds, and then make a 'soup' out of it... But I can eat this ice cream all day.

Oh, did I forget to mention there always seems to be some left over? Yeah... Bennies for the cook/chef.


Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

Ah, no stand mixer here. :(

I'll try the fresh-from-the-store plan one of these days, I think you're right about the different styles of freezers. And freeze the implements first. Thanks!


Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

Just to highlight what Spokenhedz said - definitely be sure to work with cold tools. If you put your mixing bowl and spoon/whisk/mixer-attachment into the freezer for at least 10 mins beforehand, then everything is the same temperature when you start. And, of course, working quickly, so it doesn't have enough time to melt.


5 years ago

Ditto PitstoP - Yum