Make Ahead

Coffee Cardamom Semifreddo

July 12, 2021
7 Ratings
Photo by Carolina Gelen
  • Prep time 6 hours 10 minutes
  • Cook time 10 minutes
  • makes 1 scant quart
Author Notes

This dessert is inspired by my favorite morning beverage, cardamom coffee. Whether I’m making espresso, cold brew, or an iced latte, I’ll always find a way to sneak in a couple of cardamom pods. There’s just something special about this combo.

Semifreddo—“half-frozen” in Italian—is a luscious dessert with a creamy-dreamy texture, often compared to a frozen mousse. Mine hinges on custard and whipped cream, and it takes less than 15 minutes to assemble. Once you understand the science behind it, you’ll easily be able to play around with your favorite flavors.

In most frozen desserts, air plays a huge role: Custard typically gets churned in an ice cream machine, which incorporates air and forms tiny ice crystals. The smaller the ice crystals, the creamier the frozen dessert. What makes semifreddo so special is the incorporation of air before the freezing process begins, thanks to whipped cream. Great news for us, since that means there won’t be any special equipment needed. Think of it like a no-churn ice cream, but even better.

Another thing we don’t need to worry about when it comes to semifreddo is iciness. A high water content will make any frozen dessert hard as a rock. Luckily, we’re working with two very rich elements: heavy cream and a yolk-based custard. Together, they create the most decadent, silky texture.

The semifreddo won’t need much time to thaw before serving—it should be scoopable as soon as it comes out of the freezer. If you plan on serving by the slice, gently warm up the sides of the loaf pan with warm water or a blowtorch, then it’ll slide right out. Serve on a cold or a frozen plate. —Carolina Gelen

What You'll Need
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, plus more for topping
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee
  • 8 cardamom pods, seeds ground, pods discarded (or 1 teaspoon ground cardamom)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup mini amaretti cookies, plus more for topping (optional)
  • Freshly ground coffee beans, for serving (optional)
  1. Place the cream in a large bowl and refrigerate. Prepare the serving container of choice: You can freeze this in individual glasses, a loaf tin lined with plastic wrap, or a quart container.
  2. Fill a small pot halfway with water, set over high heat, and bring to a boil. Drop the heat to low and let the water gently simmer.
  3. In a large, heatproof bowl, combine the egg yolks, sugar, instant coffee, cardamom, and salt. Place the bowl over the simmering water, making sure it doesn’t touch the water. Using an electric mixer or hand whisk, vigorously mix the ingredients until most of the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is fluffier and much lighter in color, 3 minutes. Remove the bowl from the heat and set aside in a cool place.
  4. Whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks. Test the temperature of the yolk mixture by dipping your finger in; it should have come to room temperature by now. If it’s too hot, give it a few more minutes to chill. Using a flexible spatula, gently fold the whipped cream into the yolk mixture. Fold in the amaretti (if using).
  5. Pour the mixture into your chosen container. Freeze for at least 6 hours or up to a few weeks. (If you’re using a loaf tin, make sure to serve the semifreddo on a frozen platter to prevent it from melting.)
  6. The dessert will be scoopable as soon as it comes out of the freeze; no need to let it soften at room temperature. If you froze it in a loaf tin and plan on serving it by slice, gently warm up the sides of the container using warm water or a blowtorch. The semifreddo will slip right out. I recommend serving it on frozen (or at least chilled) plates, as this will prevent the dessert from melting too fast. Top it off with more whipped cream, plus amaretti crumbs and freshly ground coffee beans, if you’re using them.

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Carolina is a resident at Food52. She's also one of the hosts of Choose Your Own Recipe Adventure, our YouTube show where our Food52 readers pick the ingredients and techniques for a brand new recipe. Carolina recently immigrated to the U.S. from Transylvania, a place she spent most of her life. She continues to get inspired by the classic Romanian and Hungarian foods she was raised on, creating approachable, colorful, and fun recipes. For more cooking ideas and candid moments, check out her Instagram @carolinagelen.

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