The perfect summer dessert is ice cream smooshed between 1,000 calories of cookies. Here's how to make our favorite versions.
There are so many things to love about ice cream sandwiches. They’re portable(ish). They eliminate the impossible task of choosing between cookies and ice cream. You can use them as ice packs when you put together a picnic—and have them be perfectly soft by the time you’re ready for dessert. And as middle-aged, amateur athletes, we find they’re easy to identify with, since we, too, are firm on the outside but kinda soft around the middle.
Some of the ones that come out of a box are good, but making your own sandwiches opens up a new world of possibilities. You choose the ice cream flavor and the cookie type, and you can even add toppings, because life is hard and you deserve a treat. Plus, they’ll stay fresh for months if you wrap them securely with wax paper and keep them in the deepest depths of your freezer—although we doubt they’ll last that long.
We rounded up four of our favorite DIY ice cream sandwich recipes. A couple call for homemade ice cream. If you can spare the time, we urge you to churn your own. If you can’t, the store-bought type will always work.
The Easiest Ice Cream Sandwiches for a Crowd
I spent my high school summers working for a pastry chef at a local ice cream shop. We made two flavors of frozen custard—an extra-dense cousin of regular ice cream—per day. What didn’t sell by closing time was turned into ice cream sandwiches.
The easiest way to make a big batch of ice cream sandwiches is to bake two layers of sheet cake, allow them to cool, then smear a generous layer of softened ice cream across one, put the other layer of cake on top of that, and freeze it for 12 hours. We did this weekly with leftover custard, and the results are like a perfect, single-size serving of ice cream cake.
My favorite flavor combinations were strawberry ice cream on yellow cake, lemon cake with a vanilla middle, and chocolate cake with a rich coffee ice cream filling. But you do you. Pick the cake you love and a flavor of ice cream you think will mesh well, and go nuts.
- Parchment paper
- Two boxes of cake mix, any flavor
- Eggs, oil, and water as directed on the boxes
- Two gallons of the nicest ice cream you can afford, any flavor. Soften it a bit before you get started, otherwise it’s a real wrestling match to work with.
- Whatever toppings your heart desires. Sometimes we’d drizzle caramel on the coffee-and-chocolate sandwiches and marshmallow sauce on the strawberry option.
Line two half-sheet pans (18 by 13 inches) with parchment paper, and grease them well. Make sure the parchment comes up and over at least two of the sides, which will make it easier to get out when it’s done. Mix your batter according to package directions, then pour it into the prepared pans. Because most cake mixes are intended for a 13-by-9-inch pan, the cake you’re baking will be thinner than normal, and it means you need to adjust your cooking time accordingly—I usually start peeking at mine after half the time listed on the box. Pull them out when a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans. Then smear your softened ice cream over one. You must be extremely gentle spreading it, otherwise you’ll tear the cake. If your ice cream is too hard, walk away and come back in 15 minutes. Turn the top cake over onto the bottom cake. I prefer to leave both in their pans, just to give the whole thing some structure. Freeze for at least 12 hours.
Once it’s solid, pull the whole thing out, remove it from the baking sheets, free it from the wax paper, and trim the edges. Then cut it into three-to-four-inch squares for your sandwiches, depending on your level of gluttony. Wrap each in wax paper, and return them to the freezer for safekeeping. When you want one, it’s best to give them 10 to 15 minutes to thaw a bit before diving in.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Doughnut Ice Cream Sandwich
Crank and Boom, in Lexington, Kentucky, started as an offshoot of founder Toa Green’s Thai restaurant. When patrons began coming in just to buy coconut ice cream, she and her husband, Mike Green, wondered if this could be its own thing. Now they have two locations, take their pop-up to countless weddings every year, and sell their ice cream in local grocery stores.
These sandwiches are a popular request at weddings. “The combination is perfect, because the ice cream makes the inside part of the doughnuts a little soft, though not quite soggy, but the rest of the doughnut stays perfectly doughnutty,” explains Toa Green.
- 1 glazed doughnut
- Crank and Boom’s super-fudge ice cream (or another dark-chocolate ice cream)
- 1 tablespoon cooked bacon bits
- 1 tablespoon Reese’s Pieces
Slice the glazed doughnut in half horizontally to create your bun. Scoop the ice cream onto the bottom half (how much you use is totally up to you—we won’t judge). Top with bacon bits and Reese’s Pieces candies. Add the top half of the doughnut.
Nutella Ice Cream Sandwiches on Orange-Semolina Cookies
We’re about to get fussy, but it’s worth it.
This recipe is courtesy of Chi Phan, the pastry chef at Washington, D.C.’s Urbana, an upscale Italian eatery in Hotel Palomar. Semolina flour makes for crumbly, almost shortbread-like cookies, and orange pairs beautifully with chocolate. The whole combo is the most adult ice cream sandwich you’ll ever eat. FYI: this recipe takes at least two days to make from start to finish, so think ahead.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup semolina flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 ounces butter, unsalted and softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- Zest and juice of one orange
- 2 tablespoons mandarinetto or orange liqueur
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Additional sugar for rolling
Directions for the Cookies
Whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and olive oil until very light. If you don’t have a stand mixer, egg beaters will work. Add the egg and the egg yolk, then add the orange zest, juice, mandarinetto, and vanilla. Mix to combine. Gradually add the dry ingredients, with your mixer on low speed. Then remove the dough, and flatten it into a disk. Wrap it in plastic, and chill for at least one hour. Portion the dough into one-inch balls, then roll each ball in sugar and flatten into a disk. Bake at 300 degrees on parchment paper or a Silpat mat for eight to ten minutes. Allow the cookies to cool completely before assembling sandwiches.
Nutella Ice Cream
- 1 quart whole milk
- 8 ounces granulated sugar
- 12 egg yolks
- 16 ounces Nutella
- 1 cup whole milk (not a mistake—you’ll use this bit of milk at a different step)
- 1 quart heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Directions for the Ice Cream
Bring the quart of milk and sugar to a boil, and temper it into the yolks. (Tempering is the process of adding a small amount of hot milk, then stirring well to incorporate it. Basically, you want to bring the temperature of the yolks up slowly, otherwise you’ll cook them and have ice cream with bits of scrambled eggs in it.) Stir in the Nutella and the additional cup of milk, then put the mixture in the fridge to chill overnight. Finally, let it thaw slightly, stir in the heavy cream and vanilla, and freeze it overnight again before assembling sandwiches.
To Build the Sandwiches
Remove the ice cream from the freezer, and let it soften slightly at room temperature. Use a scoop to place the ice cream on the bottom side of one cookie. Sandwich it between two cookies, and press them together until the ice cream comes to the edges. Wrap each individual sandwich in plastic wrap, and place back the freezer to set.
Birthday-Cake Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches
These cookies are full of sweet birthday-cake flavors, thanks to the addition of Lucky Charms marshmallows, rainbow sprinkles, and white-chocolate chunks. Will it send your blood sugar through the roof? Absolutely. But that’s kind of the point. Chef Robert Ash of the Fairmont Banff Springs in Canada fills his sandwiches with vanilla ice cream. Nothing, however, is stopping you from choosing whatever flavor your little heart desires.
- 1/2 cup butter, unsalted
- 1/3 cup and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1/2 cup Lucky Charms marshmallows
- 1/2 cup rainbow sprinkles
- 1/2 cup white-chocolate chunks
Cream the butter, sugars, salt, vanilla, baking soda, and baking powder; scrape the bowl as needed to keep the batter smooth and everything incorporated. Add the egg and mix to combine; scrape bowl again. Add the flour, and mix just enough to bring ingredients together, scraping the bowl as needed. Add the milk and combine. Gently fold in the final ingredients. You’ll want to do this by hand—if you mix them too much, all the color will swirl off the sprinkles. Scoop the cookies onto a cookie sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes in a preheated 350-degree oven. Once the cookies are completely cool, place a scoop of softened vanilla ice cream in between two cookies. Push gently on the top cookie to distribute the ice cream. Roll the ice cream sandwich in additional rainbow sprinkles. Put on your party hat, and enjoy.