Make Ahead

Mrs. Owen's Unchurned Ice Cream Cake

December 18, 2013
3 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
Author Notes

As a child, I would beg my mother to make her "ice cream cake." You make a ridiculously simple faux ice cream base of cream cheese, sugar, and egg yolks, gently fold in billows of whipped cream and beaten egg white, and freeze it over a graham cracker crust for a luxuriously smooth and rich treat. I hadn't had it in, uh, a few decades, but never forgot it. Recently I unearthed the recipe: The cake is just luscious as ever. I reduced the sugar somewhat to appeal to adult tastes, and added a touch of crème fraîche (the original calls for all 8 ounces of cream cheese in place of the blend of the two). You could garnish this: It is beautiful with blueberries or raspberries, crystallized ginger, or even pretzels, but it is scrumptious served perfectly plain, allowing the tang of the cream cheese to shine. The crumb crust is adapted from The Joy of Cooking, 25th printing. I reduced the confectioners' sugar and left out the (optional) cinnamon. Note: This recipe includes raw eggs. —creamtea

Test Kitchen Notes

Basically a semifreddo on a graham cracker crust, this recipe is easy to make and hard to stop eating. The crème fraîche and cream cheese give it a nice tang, like a cheesecake without all the work. I’m not the plastic wrap whisperer creamtea is, so my presentation wasn’t perfect, but it was delicious and a few flat spots didn’t seem to matter to the tasters, who declared it delicious. I’m looking forward to trying this with all the variations.

My tasters and I all loved how it tasted. I served it without any toppings, since it’s not berry season, but I intend to try it with berries, with ginger (as suggested), with chocolate, and with rhubarb. I’m also thinking of making the recipe as is and dipping it in chocolate, or subbing treacle and molasses for part of the sugar (based on the Epicurious recipe for molasses ice cream).

The part to shout from the rooftops is the use of cream cheese and crème fraîche. I think all ice cream should include cream cheese! That said, I do plan to try it with just cream cheese, so that I don’t end up with three ounces of cream cheese and an ounce or so of crème fraîche that I need to find uses for. (I prefer not to have leftover ingredients that I don’t typically use.)

A suggestion: I would not use a food processor or blender to make the crumbs. This recipe uses a lot of bowls, and there’s no need to add another thing to wash. I also don’t really think it’s necessary to sift the powdered sugar—another thing to wash. I would recommend just using the rolling pin and mixing the crumbs, sugar, and butter in the pan you freeze it in. —Carla Fisher

  • Serves 8 to 10 or more (it's rich)
  • For the crust:
  • 1 1/2 cups honey-type graham cracker crumbs (from about 8 1/2 panes of graham crackers)
  • 2 tablespoons sifted confectioners' sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • For the filling:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 ounces cream cheese
  • 3 ounces crème fraîche
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch salt
  • Blueberries or raspberries, for garnish, if desired
In This Recipe
  1. For the crust:
  2. To crush the graham crackers, I place them in a sturdy ziplock bag, leaving the zipper open about 2 inches to allow air to escape, and crush the crackers with a rolling pin.
  3. Lightly grease an 8-inch square Pyrex pan (or line a metal pan with parchment paper so that it hangs over two of the sides). Place coarsely crushed cracker crumbs in a blender or food processor and process until finely ground. Re-measure to make sure you have 1 1/2 cups of crumbs.
  4. Add confectioners' sugar to container with crumbs and process until combined, then drizzle in butter and process further until combined. Empty into pan (reserve some crumbs for decorating the top of the cake, if desired).
  5. Pat crumbs into pan, tamping down edges. You can press the bottom of a metal measuring cup over the crust to smooth it further.
  1. For the filling:
  2. In a chilled bowl with chilled beaters and hand-held mixer, whip cream just until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat egg yolks until foamy; pour in sugar, beating to incorporate, then add cream cheese, crème fraîche, and vanilla and beat until well blended; .
  4. In a clean bowl with clean beaters, beat egg whites with salt just until stiff peaks form. Scrape egg whites and whipped cream into the bowl with the cream cheese. Gently fold with a rubber or silicone spatula until combined but still billowy.
  5. Scrape cream mixture into crumb crust. Swirl decoratively with spatula. Sprinkle with any reserved graham cracker crumbs, if desired. Stretch plastic wrap carefully over cake to avoid having it touch the filling (affix it firmly to far end of pan, stretch tightly up and over, then seal on near side and lateral sides). Cover plastic tightly with a sheet of aluminum foil, then place in freezer several hours or overnight.
  6. Remove from freezer a few minutes before serving to allow to soften slightly. Cut into squares with a sharp knife and serve on chilled plates, garnished with berries if desired.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • d wright downs
    d wright downs
  • LeBec Fin
    LeBec Fin
  • creamtea