Your holiday celebrations call for a big bowl of gingerbread ice cream! This sweet treat is full of warm spices, rich molasses and crushed ginger snaps for an ice cream that’s perfect for any festive occasion. After one taste, this will surely be a new favorite Christmas dessert.
Why You Need to Make This Recipe
Who says ice cream is just for the summer? Not this lady. A creamy, dreamy custard never goes out of season whether it’s a sweltering 100-degree day or one that calls for a cozy spot by the fireplace.
And when that ice cream is full of gingerbread flavor? It’s the perfect seasonal spin to everyone’s favorite dessert, making for one crowd-pleasing treat. The custard is ultra creamy, the spice level offers just the right kick, and crisp ginger snaps add a wonderful crunch.
Plus, ice cream is great for making ahead of time. During the busy holiday season, make-ahead recipes always make life a little easier. This gingerbread-flavored ice cream has your back, so let's make a batch, shall we?
Let’s get organized. Here are all the ingredients we need for this festive Christmas ice cream.
- Heavy cream: Because ice cream requires the utmost decadence.
- Whole milk: See above.
- Dark brown sugar: I love the dark brown variety over light brown for the extra rich flavor. That said, you can substitute light brown sugar in a pinch.
- Molasses: This gives us that classic gingerbread flavor. Make sure you use the unsulphured variety, which is commonly found in the baking aisle or near breakfast syrups.
- Fresh ginger: I just adore the flavor fresh ginger adds. We peel the ginger, but don’t worry if there are small spots here and there. Sometimes it’s hard to get in between those crevices.
- Ground spices: These include cinnamon, allspice and cloves.
- Egg yolks: This gives us an extra luxurious, creamy texture.
- Vanilla extract or paste: I just love the flavor and sweetness it adds without being cloying.
- Salt: We just need a pinch to enhance the flavors.
- Fresh orange zest: With the molasses, brown sugar and spices, we have a lot of warm flavors. The orange adds some brightness.
- Kitchen tools: We need a saucepan, whisk, wooden spoon, large mixing bowl, plastic wrap and an ice cream maker. I especially love this Cuisinart ice cream maker.
Let’s walk through the process of how to make this festive gingerbread ice cream.
We begin by bringing the heavy cream, milk, brown sugar, molasses and fresh ginger to a simmer in a saucepan.
As it heats, we whisk together our egg yolks, ground spices and vanilla. I find a consistent three minutes of whisking does the trick.
Once the cream mixture comes to a simmer, we turn off the heat, ladle in a scoop of the mixture into our egg yolks, whisk constantly and repeat until we incorporate about half of the cream mixture, give or take.
We pour the cream-egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook again to allow our yolks to thicken the custard. The mixture is ready when it’s thick enough to cover a wooden spoon. This generally takes about six to 10 minutes for me.
Now we turn off the heat and stir in our fresh orange zest. We let the mixture steep for about 10 minutes and then pour the custard over a fine-mesh sieve into a large mixing bowl. We cover the custard with plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a film from forming, and then we refrigerate until it’s fully chilled.
After chilling, we pour the custard into the ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s directions. In the last few minutes of churning, we add crushed ginger snaps.
The mixture at this point will be like soft-serve ice cream, which you can certainly eat, but for more traditional ice cream, we pour it into an airtight container and freeze for a few hours.
How to Serve
This homemade gingerbread ice cream is delicious on its own. You won’t be disappointed with it unadorned. That said, a little bourbon caramel sauce takes it to a whole other level.
This holiday ice cream is also tasty on the side of so many baked goods. Pound cake is great because of its dense texture, so it soaks up the ice cream as it melts without falling apart. My buttermilk-pumpkin pound cake and carrot pound cake make scrumptious options. And, of course, it’s wonderful on a warm brownie. May I suggest my fudgy stout brownies?
Expert Tips and FAQs
- Scooping in a little bit of cream mixture into the egg yolks at a time is a critical step. This is called tempering, and it gently cooks the eggs. If you were to simply dump the eggs into the hot cream, you could end up with scrambled egg ice cream. No one wants that.
- While it’s tempting to pour the custard into the ice cream maker right away, it won’t set up unless it’s properly chilled, so don’t skip that step, thinking it’s not important.
- To zest the orange, I love using a microplane grater rather than a typical zester. I find it’s more efficient and gets better flavor.
- Ice cream takes a little time management because of the chilling and freezing. I usually make the ice cream base the night before serving, and then churn the next morning to give it time to freeze. If you can’t wait overnight, I recommend storing the custard in a stainless steel mixing bowl and chilling in an ice bath before refrigerating for at least four hours, but make sure it’s fully chilled before churning.
- The ice cream base will stay good in the refrigerator for three days and is best consumed within two to three weeks -- if it even lasts that long, which is doubtful.
- Storing in an airtight container is crucial. Air turns ice cream into an icy mess and can ruin the texture and flavor.
- While I recommend using fresh ginger for the best flavor, ground ginger still yields a tasty ice cream. Use 2 teaspoons if you use the ground variety.
- To turn into gingerbread cookie ice cream sandwiches, spoon softened ice cream in between two cookies. Either eat right away or cover in plastic wrap and freeze in an airtight container. My ginger-maple cookies are great for this.
Looking for a good beer pairing? I love a bold barley wine. This beer is big and sweet enough to match that rich custard, and its caramel and brown sugar notes are wonderful with our holiday spices. An imperial stout, such as the famous Hardywood Brewery Gingerbread Stout, or a Baltic porter also make great pairings.
For wine, I always love a tawny port with gingerbread-flavored desserts. Tawny port shows off caramel, toffee and dried fruit notes, which are perfect with our dark brown sugar, molasses and spices. I especially love the tawny ports from Graham’s.
For a fun and festive holiday dessert, I hope you try this gingerbread ice cream. Please let me know how you enjoyed this recipe in the comment section and don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter. You can also catch me on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.
Love Gingerbread-Flavored Treats?
- Gingerbread pudding
- Gingerbread simple syrup
- Soft gingerbread cookies
- Gingerbread toffee
- Gingerbread latte
Gingerbread Ice Cream
- 2 cups heavy cream cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 cups whole milk
- ¾ cup dark brown sugar packed
- ¼ cup unsulphured molasses
- 1 cup peeled fresh ginger cut into 1-inch pieces
- 7 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract or paste
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
- 1 cup crushed ginger snaps
- Whisk together the heavy cream, whole milk, sugar and molasses in a saucepan. Add the ginger. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Continue to whisk periodically to help dissolve the sugar. Once it simmers, turn off heat. Do not bring to a boil as this can cause the milk to separate.
- Whisk egg yolks, vanilla, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and salt constantly for about three minutes. Add about ¼ to ½ cup of the warm cream mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. This tempers the eggs to gently cook. Repeat this a few times.
- Add tempered egg-cream mixture back to the saucepan with the rest of the cream. Whisk constantly over medium heat and bring back to a simmer. Again, do not boil. Cook until mixture thickens and covers the back of a wooden spoon, about six to 10 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in orange zest. Allow to steep for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent a film from forming.
- Pour the mixture over a fine-mesh sieve into a large mixing bowl and place plastic wrap directly on top of the custard's surface. Refrigerate until cold, preferably overnight to ensure it's cold enough to churn properly.
- Pour custard into an ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer’s directors. In the last couple minutes of churning, add the crushed ginger snaps. Pour into an airtight container and freeze for a few hours. Enjoy!
- For full tips, please see blog post.
- Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.