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Easy Homemade Ice Cream Cake (Semifreddo Vanilla & Chocolate)

Easy Homemade Ice Cream Cake (Semifreddo Vanilla & Chocolate)

This homemade ice cream cake is made with vanilla and chocolate semifreddo and a chocolate cookie crunch layer in the middle. No ice cream machine required!

This homemade ice cream cake is made with vanilla and chocolate semifreddo and a chocolate cookie crunch layer in the middle. No ice cream machine required!

What is semifreddo?

This ice cream cake is made from a vanilla semifreddo, a chocolate semifreddo, and a cookie crunch layer (just like the Carvel or Baskin Robbins). A semifreddo is a combination of cooked eggs (here, just the yolks) with sugar and whipped cream.

Fat (egg yolks, cream) and sugar don’t freeze completely solid. And the word “semifreddo” means just what you think it means: that this dessert freezes semi-solid. 

The egg yolk and sugar mixture is cooked gently over a double boiler until it becomes pale and thicker and then beaten until it doubles in volume. Whipped cream is whisked in, and then the whole big beautiful mixture is poured into a pan lined with plastic wrap. 

The consistency of the ice cream is similar to gelato. It’s a smooth, creamy ice cream cake that will hold whatever shape you like.

Semifreddo is lower in sugar than our no-churn vanilla ice cream or chocolate mousse ice cream, both of which are made without an ice cream machine and with sweetened condensed milk. Semifreddo is less sweet but still totally decadent.

This homemade ice cream cake is made with vanilla and chocolate semifreddo and a chocolate cookie crunch layer in the middle. No ice cream machine required!

Do I have to use homemade ice cream to make an ice cream cake?

In a word, no! You can use packaged ice cream to make nearly any ice cream treat, from ice cream sandwiches to a homemade Chipwich.

The advantage of making any of these ice cream treats with homemade ice cream is that you can shape it when it’s first made. If you use packaged ice cream, you need to soften it before you can shape it into a cake in a springform pan or a loaf pan.

This homemade ice cream cake is made with vanilla and chocolate semifreddo and a chocolate cookie crunch layer in the middle. No ice cream machine required!

What’s in that chocolate crunch layer?

When I first made a semifreddo ice cream cake, it was only vanilla and shaped in a standard loaf pan. But the smooth creaminess and reduced sweetness of semifreddo seem just right for a more dressed-up ice cream cake.

If you’re going to make a Carvel- or Baskin Robbins-style ice cream cake, you’re going to need a chocolate crunch layer. Some homemade ice cream cake recipes use crushed Oreos (or gluten free Joe Joes in our case) and hot fudge

I prefer to make the chocolate crunchy layer with crushed chocolate sandwich cookies (cream and all), that aren’t crushed into sandy crumbs. Crush them by hand just until they’re small chunks, and then add a mixture of melted chocolate and coconut oil. 

The mixture of melted chocolate and coconut oil is a homemade version of Magic Shell, the chocolate ice cream topping that hardens when it’s poured on cold ice cream. The melted chocolate mixture helps the cookie crumbs turn into perfect clusters.

Be sure to leave some gaps in the chocolate crunch layer when you spread it on top of the bottom layer of ice cream. Otherwise, you’ll have some difficulty slicing through that layer after the cake has set fully in the freezer.

This homemade ice cream cake is made with vanilla and chocolate semifreddo and a chocolate cookie crunch layer in the middle. No ice cream machine required!

Can I make a single layer ice cream cake?

Of course! This recipe is very adaptable. You can make a vanilla semifreddo and pour it into a plastic-lined loaf pan, cover it with plastic wrap and freeze then slice and serve. You can also do the same with the chocolate semifreddo. 

If you use a larger loaf pan, you can even layer in both vanilla and chocolate semifreddo. I recommend freezing the first layer while you make the second, so the mixtures don’t bleed into one another. 

You can make the entire cake in a springform pan as shown here, with or without the chocolate crunch layer. Or make it in a plastic-lined rectangular pan, slicing the cake into squares to serve. 

This homemade ice cream cake is made with vanilla and chocolate semifreddo and a chocolate cookie crunch layer in the middle. No ice cream machine required!

Do I need special equipment?

No, the “special equipment” in the form of a springform pan and an acetate collar is entirely optional. You will need a handheld mixer or a stand mixer with the whisk attachment to whip the heavy cream.

You’ll also need a small heat-safe bowl to place over a small pot of simmering water (not a fancy double boiler). Plus, a fine mesh sieve to strain the egg yolk and sugar mixture. 

A springform pan is great because it makes for a very clean edge when you unmold the cake. A simple acetate cake collar allows you to build the cake higher than the sides of your springform pan, but it’s absolutely not necessary.

Whatever you do, be sure to have fun with the whole thing. An ice cream cake makes for an instant celebration! 🎈

This homemade ice cream cake is made with vanilla and chocolate semifreddo and a chocolate cookie crunch layer in the middle. No ice cream machine required!

Ingredients and substitutions

Like all super simple recipes, semifreddo is not a great candidate for making ingredient substitutions. Here’s some information, maybe to prove it to you? 

Egg-free: You need to make this with egg yolks. There is no substitute, I’m afraid. 

Dairy-free: You might be able to replace the heavy whipping cream in this recipe with coconut cream. You’d follow the same general instructions for whipping cream, starting with it cold and whipping with a handheld mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Just be sure to use dairy-free chocolate in the chocolate variety.

 

Gluten Free Ice Cream Cake - No Machine Needed!This homemade ice cream cake is made with vanilla and chocolate semifreddo and a chocolate cookie crunch layer in the middle. No ice cream machine required!

Like this recipe?

Prep time: Cook time: Yield: Makes 1 9-inch cake

Ingredients

Vanilla semifreddo layer
4 egg yolks (100 g)

1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups (14 fluid ounces) heavy whipping cream, chilled

Cookie crunch layer
About 8 ounces gluten free chocolate sandwich cookies, broken into medium-sized chunks

4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

2 tablespoons (28 g) virgin coconut oil

Chocolate semifreddo layer
4 egg yolks (100 g)

1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar

4 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons (10 g) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-processed)

1 3/4 cups (14 fluid ounces) heavy whipping cream, chilled

Optional special tools/equipment/ingredients
9-inch nonstick springform pan

6-inch tall acetate cake collar (affiliate link)

Chocolate sour cream frosting, for decorating (one-quarter recipe is plenty)

Directions

  • Using plastic wrap, line the bottom of a 9-inch round springform pan, and then assemble the pan so the edges of the plastic wrap stick out of the sides of the pan. If you’re using an acetate cake collar, cut a piece of acetate that a bit longer than the circumference of the pan. Position the acetate collar in the pan, inside the pan, and along the perimeter. Staple the collar together where it overlaps itself. Set the pan aside.

  • For the vanilla semifreddo: In a small, heat-safe bowl, place the yolks and sugar, and place the bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the water does not touch the pan. Whisk the yolks and sugar together well. The mixture will be dark yellow and thick. Allow the mixture to cook indirectly in this manner for about 4 minutes, whisking frequently. The mixture will first thin as the sugar melts, and then will become paler yellow and thicken. Remove the bowl from the heat and strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium-size bowl. With a handheld mixer, beat until the mixture is nearly doubled in volume. Set the bowl aside to cool briefly.

  • In a large bowl with a handheld mixer or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the heavy whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add the cooled egg and sugar mixture, and the vanilla, and whisk with a separate handheld whisk until well-combined. The mixture will lose some, but not much, of its volume. Scrape the mixture into the prepared springform pan and smooth into an even layer with an offset spatula or dull, wide knife. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the semifreddo to prevent a skin from forming on top and put in the freezer while you make the cookie layer.

  • For the cookie crunch layer: In a medium-sized bowl, place the chocolate sandwich cookie crumbles. In a separate, small bowl, place the chopped chocolate and coconut oil and melt in the microwave in short, 30-second bursts until melted and smooth. Pour the melted chocolate and coconut oil mixture over the top of the cookie crumbles, mix to combine, and set aside.

  • For the chocolate semifreddo: Just like the vanilla layer, in a small, heat-safe bowl, place the yolks and sugar, and place the bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the water does not touch the pan. Whisk the yolks and sugar together well. The mixture will be dark yellow and thick. Allow the mixture to cook indirectly in this manner for about 4 minutes, whisking frequently. The mixture will first thin as the sugar melts, and then will become paler yellow and thicken. Remove the bowl from the heat and strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium-size bowl with the chopped chocolate already in the bowl, and mix until the chocolate is melted and smooth. The mixture will be thick and relatively sticky. With a handheld mixer, beat until the mixture is nearly doubled in volume. Set the bowl aside to cool briefly.

  • In a large bowl with a handheld mixer or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the heavy whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add the cooled egg, sugar, and chocolate mixture, and the vanilla, and whisk with a separate handheld whisk until well-combined. Add the cocoa powder, and whisk again until combined. The mixture will lose some, but not much, of its volume.

  • Assemble the rest of the cake: Remove the pan from the freezer and remove the plastic wrap. Place the chocolate crunch layer on top, and spread into an even layer, leaving some gaps in the crunch pieces to make the final cake easier to cut. Pour the chocolate semifreddo mixture on top and smooth the top. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer until firm (about 6 hours). Decorate with the optional frosting, then slice and serve frozen.

  • Originally published on the blog in 2013. Chocolate variation and layer cake option added, most photos and video all new; basic semifreddo recipe unchanged.

Love,
Nicole

  • Amber
    June 14, 2019 at 2:50 PM

    Do you think we could use a sugar substitute like Swerve here and still have it turn out?

    • Nicole Hunn
      June 14, 2019 at 4:06 PM

      I’m afraid I don’t think that you can cook Swerve in any way similar to how you can cook sugar, Amber. I’m working on a low carb ice cream recipe, though, that will use sugar substitutes (probably monkfruit and erythritol). Stay tuned!

  • Sandra Mosolgo
    June 14, 2019 at 10:41 AM

    I used store bought ice-cream w a layer of crushed Butterfingers for husbands birthday.

    • Nicole Hunn
      June 14, 2019 at 4:05 PM

      Sounds lovely, Sandra!

  • BiteMeMore
    July 12, 2013 at 9:09 AM

    Now way! Gluten-free Ice Cream cake?! Love this recipe… I honestly didn’t think this was possible and now am so inspired to try it. Thanks so much for this must-try summer treat :)

  • Julia
    July 10, 2013 at 2:07 PM

    Sigh….now I have to make the crushed cookie center…layer…top with whipped cream frosting and possibly find a good shaped pan to make it fancy….I’m gonna weigh 400lbs if you keep this up lady!!!!! But I’ll be smiling and full of GF Goodness! I have both your books & pre-ordered the 3rd. My family bows to your greatness!

  • Brianna Hobbs
    July 10, 2013 at 11:12 AM

    I’ve always wanted to try making semifreddo. Thanks for the recipe!

  • Jennifer Sasse
    July 10, 2013 at 9:52 AM

    OMG – every day it just gets better and better. Love this recipe. Thank you, thank you for sharing it with us! :)

  • Mish
    July 10, 2013 at 1:50 PM

    I had no idea this could be done!!! Unfortunately, I am also lactose intolerant, but I will be trying this with coconut cream rather than whipping cream… I’ll let you know how it goes. Fingers crossed :) If it doesn’t work at least my family will be able to eat the original version. Looks so great!

  • July 10, 2013 at 8:57 AM

    I love you <3

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