Decadent Vanilla Frozen Custard

Posted by johngl

Some might call it ice cream, but make no mistake, this is wa-a-a-y different than anything you can find at the grocery store. It is iced cream, that is for sure. You won’t find any milk or other substitutes in this stuff. The ingredients are simple: heavy cream, eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Let’s get to it.

While the ingredients are simple, the recipe took about a year to develop. Oddly, I wasn’t even working on a frozen custard; I was working out the kinks of my crème brûlée recipe.

A year to develop?

Yep, roughly. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t work on this like it was a job or anything. Over the course of a year, I made crème brûlée about once a month. Each time it was different. The most glorious one hated it. Yeah, right.

Okay, so one day, just after I decided I finally had the various components right, I was thinking (I do that on occasion)…hmmm…I wonder what this is like as ice cream. I tried it (the ice cream, not the crème brûlée) out on some friends (Well, it was a party of 20 or so). Instant hit. It was so successful, BigDMcC asked for the recipe. Well, he actually asked for the crème brûlée recipe. (I know, it’s a bit confusing). I invited him over and I made it for him. He asked about 1000 questions and took four pages of notes.

So then he makes it (the crème brûlée, not the ice cream) for a bunch of other friends. Thereafter, it has become known as Dustin’s Crème Brûlée.

Are you high?

I wish.

Now that you are thoroughly confused, let me just say that the base recipes for the frozen custard (ice cream) and the baked custard (crème brûlée) are identical. In fact, my recipe for crème anglaise is the same, too. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Back to the frozen custard.

Separate a dozen eggs. This doesn’t mean putting six on one end of the counter and six on the other end. It does mean to separate the yolks from the whites. If you don’t know how to do this yet, you’re hopeless. Go visit another blog.

Sadly, the whites usually get tossed because I don’t make wine any more (egg whites are great for clarifying wine — and meat stocks!) nor do I bake angel food cake (that just goes against my devil’s food ways).

Then, take 3/4 cup of sugar — not just any sugar, cane sugar (half white and half crystallized cane juice) — and mix it in with the egg yolks.

Whip it good (with a whisk).

Now, take three cups of organic heavy cream (I prefer Borden’s — the stuff that isn’t ultra-pasteurized — yet it is nearly impossible to find these days). Heat this up until it starts to boil. Remember, this isn’t milk, it won’t get all foamy, boil over (unless you totally space out), and attach itself to everything on the stove’s surface, never to be removed. It is heavy cream. Fat is good, but you still have to pay attention. Put that cell phone away!

Now add the innards of 1-1/2 vanilla beans. It makes the cream look a little funky.

Temper your eggs.

This means add a small amount of the now very hot cream and vanilla mixture to your whipped eggs and sugar (you are trying to NOT scramble the eggs):

The idea here is to use the hot cream to pasteurize those raw eggs. You wouldn’t want Sam and Ella to pay you a visit, would you? Yes, you could use those “pasteurized in the shell” eggs I suppose, but I won’t warrant the taste. I’ll take my chances with Sam and Ella.  I might change my tune if they show up at my door with a warrant for my arrest.

So now you have a problem. You are trying to make ice cream and what you have is hot cream mixed with eggs. What to do, what to do?

Luckily, we have technology and the brains to know how to use it.

You’ve all heard of a double boiler, right? This is just the opposite. You are using ice in the lower bowel (oops, that’s bowl) to chill the egg and cream mixture in the upper bowl. Cool.

Once the mix gets below about 50 degrees (preferably closer to 40), you are good to go. Strain out any goobers in the mix through a strainer. Goobers are those bits of cooked egg, large chunks of vanilla, or chunks of undissolved sugar crystals (this is sophisticated stuff). Mix in about 3/4 teaspoon of bourbon vanilla and about the same amount of Mexican vanilla. The triple vanilla (bean, bourbon, and Mexican if you lost count) makes it just pop.

Now, get out your ice cream freezer unit (please tell me you have one) and following the manufacturer’s instructions, get the ice cream a chillin.

Before you know it (actually, in about 20 minutes or so, depending on your unit), you have made some ice cream. Woo Hoo!

Turn off the unit, and quickly spoon it into plastic containers (don’t forget to lick the ice cream stuck to the agitator — or is that aerator? — assembly).  I use several small containers rather than one large one (smaller volume freezes faster). I also line the top with poly wrap so as not to get that funky air dried ice crystal thing on my wonderful homemade goodies.

Since this is to be served at an upcoming party, I won’t show it to you now. That first picture is all you get.

Custard or ice cream, whatever you call it, this may well be the richest stuff to cross your lips in a while. It even passes the Misha test:

She just goes nuts for this stuff. If you don’t have a cat, your right index finger is a great tool to help you clean the bowl 🙂


This entry was posted in Desserts, Techniques and tagged by johngl. Bookmark the permalink.

About johngl

A bit of a wildman, John hails from the Midwest: A land of corn, cows, pigs, and a host of other healthfully meaty pursuits. Born on a dark and stormy night in late Fall, John grew up as the son of a meat cutter. There was always plenty of meat at hand. While not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, his family certainly ate well. According to his father, that was the whole point.

71 thoughts on “Decadent Vanilla Frozen Custard

  1. After tempering the eggs with the hot heavy cram mixture, there is no other cooking until it reaches a certain temperature or coats the back of a spoon ? Just go from tempering the eggs into a bowl over ice ? There are so many ways to make ice cream I understand but I am trying to find the best way to go about making ice cream. Thank you.

    • Yep Gary, you got it. Once the eggs are tempered, just mix in the hot heavy cream mixture and you are good to go! If you are concerned about food borne illness, make sure you use pasteurized eggs! They are available at most local grocers.

  2. Thanks for the blog!

    What quantity of frozen custard does this recipe make? About a quart?


  3. Thank you so much for putting this out there! I just got an ice-cream maker, and wanted to try a vanilla custard. I was daunted: 12 yolks to 3 cups of cream sounded incredibly decadent indeed. Plus I didn’t have vanilla beans. So, I added 1 tsp of regular vanilla extract + 1 tsp of Mexican vanilla, then grated about half of a nutmeg in there instead.

    WOW. My boyfriend thinks I’m some kind of a goddess now (smile.)

    Best recipe of 2013 for me. Thanks again.

  4. I hope you will! A few thoughts on the Alton Brown recipe before you start…
    1. I like a little more punch to the flavor so I use less sugar, depending on how I intend to use the finished lemon curd, sometimes by half. But then, I am just not a fan of over-sweet things.
    2. It always takes much longer to cook than it says in the recipe. Be patient, good things happen for those who wait!
    3. Use real butter and don’t skimp. Salted or unsalted, both work. I personally like the salt.
    4. Make at least a double batch. You will need it!
    5. Experiment with lime, pineapple, and raspberries. They all make awesome curd. Remember that fresh is always better but frozen will give good results.
    6. The recipe is very versatile. Just remember to strain out any kind of bits & pieces (seeds, rind, herb leaves, peppercorns, whatever…)

    Have fun and be sure to share with us!

    • You can bet I’ll give it a whirl at some point!

      Thanks for the tips. I’m not a “sweet” kinda guy (ask my friends) so I greatly appreciate your insights!

      Thank you for sharing!

  5. Wow!!! We lived in Oklahoma for 3 years and I found out about frozen custard. I am from California and had never heard of it. It became my most favorite frozen dessert. This is it!!!! Thank you so much for this recipe. I couldn’t wait to make it and I am so glad I did. Can’t wait to try your other recipes. You are hysterical to read. “Thanks again”

  6. After reading the blog and all the lovely comments I cannot wait to make this. It sounds just about like what I remember from my ’60’s childhood on the farm.

    But here is my query:

    I am wondering of anyone has tried to make frozen lemon custard starting from this recipe, and to what degree of success? I love lemon custard but all the commercial ones 1. taste fake and 2. have gross cookie, graham crackers, or other additives that I detest. Just looking for creamy lemony goodness. I am concerned about how adding lemon juice would affect the dairy products. Should I add lemon juice to the yolk mixture? Or should I make lemon curd and add that in just before freezing? Any suggestions?

    • I haven’t done the lemony thing myself, but I have done this with a pepper/lime mix. Yep. it was pretty wild.

      I chilled the lime juice until it was slushy, mixed it with some chile pequin pepper powder and added it right at the end of the churn. It worked fine.

      Sorry that I can’t help with the amount of juice. You’ll have to experiment on your own 🙂

      • Oh wow, that sounds amazing! What did you serve that chili lime concoction with? I am thinking it should follow a meal of grilled fish tacos. I am an adventurous foodie, & this flavor combo is one that I will keep up my sleeve until just the right moment. (I once made avocado ice cream to serve with gazpacho. Total awesomeness…)

        So the lime juice didn’t have any negative effect on the finished frozen product? I was afraid that adding citrus juice would to make lemon custard either freeze into hard ice droplets through the frozen custard or that it would curdle the milk. I think I will probably make a batch of lemon curd and add it into the mix late in the process

        • I don’t think I served it with anything. I was making sorbets and ice creams…just doing some experiments.

          Since there is no milk in my recipe, there is no milk to curdle. Lime juice in cream only thickens it (sort of like creme fraiche).

          As I recall, I also concentrated the fresh lime juice, reducing it by half (to limit water volume and punch up the flavor).

          I’ve never tried the lemon curd thing, but it sounds promising!

          • Well, it sure doesn’t take much to keep me happy. When life gives me lemons, I skip the lemonade and trade some of the fruit for eggs and butter and make lemon curd.

            I have taken that lemon curd and introduced it into my decadent vanilla/almond custard base. It is chilling now, and will be in the ice cream maker in the morning.

            Ahhh, the anticipation…. I’ll keep you posted, unless I die of sweet lemon custard oblivion in the meantime…

          • The lemony experiment turned out fantastic! Thanks for providing the inspiration!

            I made a double batch of your decadent vanilla frozen custard and a double batch of lemon curd (Alton Brown’s recipe). After tempering the egg mixture, I introduced the lemon curd to the still warm custard. The flavor was excellent but still needed a little more pop to it so I added another 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice. Bingo! Then I placed the lovely pale yellow mixture into my ice cream canister and chilled it in my spare refrigerator overnight. In the morning, it was ready for freezing. The results were outstanding and definitely worth the time investment. It was served during a family gathering along with homemade vanilla ice cream and homemade pistachio ice cream; and Angel Food cake (since I could not bear to throw away the egg whites! — now, what to do with the remaining quart of egg whites?!)

          • Thanks for the update Andrea! It sounds as though a good time was had by all: you on the creation side and your guests on the consumption side! Congratulations on a successful endeavor!

            So, you’re using Alton Brown’s recipe for lemon curd? I’ll have to give that a whirl!

            Oh, and just freeze the egg whites. You can use them for another cake on some future date.

  7. My husband requested frozen custard and I didn’t know where to start. When I found your website with the photos, great instructions and wit, I just had to try it. We just unveiled it with our neighbors, and we all LOVE it. My husband said it’s better than what he can get in STL…. that’s the ultimate compliment! I’m happy! Thank you!!

    • Hey there Staci! Thanks so much for coming by and leaving a comment about your experience with the recipe. I’m very pleased that it was a smash hit with your neighbors!

  8. I’ve made this on a couple of occasions. The taste has always been excellent right off the stove. The trouble I run into is when I put it into the ice cream machine. The first time it came out with buttery overtones. Good thing I like butter!!! The second, did the same, but a little less buttery. Do you have any suggestions?

    Also, I have attempted to bake this in individual ramekins, but can’t get the temp/timing right. For how long and at what temperature would you bake this? Would you use individual ramekins, or something like a pie plate?

    • Hmmm…haven’t heard that one before. So, since butter is made from over-whipped cream, it sounds like it’s spending too much time in whatever you’re using to churn the ice cream. If you think it is too creamy, you might try using Half & Half instead of heavy cream. You won’t get that ultra-richness that this recipe is noted for, but it might alleviate the buttery taste. Also, what kind of heavy cream are you using? That might have some affect as well.

      As for baking this recipe in a creme brulee, the temperature is 250F. Make sure you are using HOT (boiling) water in the bath coming at least halfway up the outside of your ramekins. I can’t tell you a time because 1) your oven is different than mine 2) I don’t know what size of ramekins you are using. Shallower wider ramekins are better than tall ones.

      Leave them in the oven until mostly set…it should still jiggle in the middle. Carry over heat from the water will finish it off. To test, give the pan a slight jiggle (being careful not to splash water into the creme brulee)…there should be a slight wavy motion to the brulee. If you pull them too early, it is easy to put them back in the oven.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Okay this sounds great, but how would it be converted, or could it be used in an ice cream maker ? Looking for a good culver like custard recipe.


    • This recipe will work in any ice cream maker be it an old-time hand-cranker or a new-fangled one with a built-in electric freezer.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      • Thanks, sounds great! My mom thinks she wants more sugar. What are your thoughts on adding extra? I just got the old fashioned ice cream maker for Mother’s day. Ready to break it in! Thanks again.

        • My thoughts on adding more sugar? Don’t do it. But then again, you aren’t making the ice cream for me. If she wants more sugar, have at it, just make sure it is completely dissolved.

          • Well, I didn’t add extra sugar, but told her I did. We live rural, so vanilla bean is hard to find on the fly, it requires an hour long trip to Whole Foods. It is churning now, I was rushed on the chilling by all the beggars. I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks. Oh, want to discuss the Big Green Egg another day, another thread.

          • I hope it works out for you. People have even used imitation vanilla and said it was great, so you should be fine. I hope churns out to be worth the effort!

            Oh, and any time you wish to chat about the Big Green Egg, just drop me a line

          • Ok. Well, all I can say is wow, incredible! I almost skipped dinner altogether. Exactly. So far off from ice cream. Worlds better.

  10. Just the advise I needed. Made creme brulee and was thinking, “this would be excellent frozen!” But wasn’t sure how I was gonna go about it.

  11. I googled a frozen custard and came across this recipe. Oh wow! I super yummy!!!! Thank you for this, next time I am baking this little gem.

  12. My daughter and I are lactose intolerant. I can’t find good lactose free ice cream anywhere. I thought I would make my own by using this receipe (best I’ve found) and treating the heavy cream first (24 hours with lactaid drops). Do you the texture will be compromised? It may also make it sweeter so should I cut back on the sugar?

    • The fat is what gives this custard its velvety texture so I doubt the lactaid will affect that part of it. The sweetness can probably be countered by dropping the sugar content by a tablespoon or so.

      Thanks for visiting and I hope this works out for you!

  13. Just got an ice cream maker for Christmas. Your was the first attempt of frozen treats I have ever made. We also just got back from visiting family in Wisconsin. My wife (biggest critic) said my custard from your recipe was by far better than anything around here in Virginia. She said it may be even better than the custard we had in Wisconsin. And this was only my first attempt, I also added crunched up Heath Bars. And unfortunately for time restraints I only had the vanilla extract, and pasteurized heavy cream. It sill came out very good. Thanks!

    • Excellent! Very happy to hear of your success! The fact that you hail from Wisconsin, where you have your choice of outstanding dairy products, makes this even more special.

      Thank you for reading and commenting!

  14. Looks like an excellent recipe. I am going through a phase of getting out all of our hidden small appliances and making use of them; bread maker, quesdilla maker and the ice cream machine.

    I have had a particular hankering for peppermint stick ice cream. And here in Madison, Wisconsin, we not only have the world renown Babcock Ice Cream (through the University of Wisconsin’s Agriculture department,) but a local place has been cranking out awesome frozen custard for almost thirty years.

    I wanted frozen custard.

    Your recipe is composed of quality gourmet ingredients which puts it miles ahead of the rank and file web recipes I found.

    I look forward to trying out your basic recipe, then using it as a base for all my other favorite flavors!


  15. Just made this after I couldn’t find the right recipe on Allrecipes. This is awesome and came out perfect. Thanks

  16. Hello

    I really like your recipe and love your sense of humour!

    I am English so I know about custard, but have been living in France for 2 years so I know about the whole creme b sitch.

    Frozen is new so I am trying it out tonight.

    Happy New Year

  17. Would this recipe work as a cooked custard? I want something decadent and vanilla-and-bourbon laden as a base for a gingerbread bread pudding. Thoughts, please?

    • Actually, this recipe originated as a cooked custard recipe. For the frozen version, I have just amped up the vanilla because the cold tends to mute flavors a little. For a bread pudding though, you may just want to leave the vanilla as is.

      Go for it. 🙂

  18. I was intimidated by this recipe but eager to try it. While it pained me to opt for the non-organic white eggs instead of my much preferred organic and cage free brown eggs, I chose the pasteurized eggs because I was making this recipe for my boyfriend’s family. Other than that and using ultra-pasteurized heavy cream, I followed this recipe to a tee. To my surprise, it was way easier than I anticipated and absolutely delicious! This has become the only vanilla ice cream recipe that I will use. It is being used for the fresh baked apple pie I am also making.

    Thanks for sharing!

  19. This looks perfect, but I think I’m confused. After you temper the eggs do you eventually add the rest of the cream? Do you cool the cream before adding it to the tempered eggs? Thanks for sharing!

    • In order of your questions, yes, the rest of the cream gets added and no, the cream isn’t cooled. Once the eggs are tempered properly, just slowly add the rest of the cream!

      Thanks for reading!

  20. Just tried this recipe, and it is definitely the best I have ever tried. So rich and creamy ~ the whole family loved it.

    Which brings me to my next statement. The whole family, including me, is on our third day of sam and ella. I bought the eggs from Trader Joes and did everything right. No I am not blaming the author, just wish I had never given it to my family ~ went against my better judgment. Needless to say, the next time I make this recipe I will be cooking the mix before I freeze it.

    I would highly recommend that for anyone who wants to serve this to children. Save yourself the agony from an unwanted guest.

  21. Just a bit of advice from your friendly not-so-local pastry chef. In-shell pasteurized eggs taste no different than regular eggs. The only difference is the whites do not whip up as quickly as non-pasteurized eggs. If your giving this frozen custard to either very old or young people it would be wise to opt for the pasteurized. Also, putting some water in your ice-bath will conduct the cold better making your mixture cool quicker.

  22. Pingback: frozen custard recipes

  23. I’m thinking I either didn’t follow your recipe or you left something out. I have made this twice and followed the recipe exactly. Both times, the mixture would not thicken. Finally, after reviewing other recipes, it became clear that after tempering the egg yolks, I added the rest of the hot cream to the yolks and then RETURNED the mixture to the heat and beat it over the heat until the yolks thickened the mixture, much like making hollandaise sauce. After the mixture thickened, I then poured it back into the bowl and cooled it over the ice water. This time, when I put it in the machine, it came together! Am I right or did you eliminate this step?

    • I’m sorry you’ve had problems with my recipe. I don’t put the tempered eggs back on the heat because I try to avoid the cooked eggy flavor that happens when you do that. I’ve not had any issues with the mixture not thickening. It will freeze if it gets cold enough.

      I can only think of two things: either the mixture was still too hot when you put it in the ice cream chiller or the chiller wasn’t cold enough (or a combination of the two). Different chillers work differently and the colder the mixture itself is when you start, the faster the thickening.

      I’m happy you found a work around that works for you! Thanks much!

      • Hey Mark. Another potential issue is the vanilla you are using. A lot of cheap imitation vanilla’s use something called propylene glycol which acts as an antifreeze in the product. On a different, albeit similar recipe, one teaspoon of imitation vanilla ruined the whole batch. Check it out.

  24. I want to make your recipe in a 6 quart ice cream maker…and I am not good at math. Can you help me convert the recipe?

  25. This looks like just the recipe I’m looking for! Quick question though, how much does this make? I have a one quart ice cream machine and wondering if this makes up one and a half? Just want to augment the recipe so I don’t end up with extra custard and no place to freeze it! 🙂



  26. This is exactly what I was searching for. I made it tonight in my machine so I could freeze it for tomorrow. Only concern is are the eggs “cooked” enough from the tempering to prevent “Sam & Ella”? Also, could the amount of eggs be reduced? It is SO rich! Don’t get me wrong, it’s DELISH! But it’s SO close to being TOO rich.

    • My whole point of this recipe was to take it to the edge. I am glad you liked it. If you are concerned about Sam and Ella paying you a visit, you can always used pasteurized eggs. Most grocers have these now. This isn’t an egg substitute but real eggs still in the shell.

      You could easily drop the quantity of eggs even by half. Naturally, the flavor and texture will change.

      Thanks for reading!

  27. You recently made reference in You web page of using egg whites to clear home made wine.

    Any possibility You could e-mail me some directions. I am A hobby vintner myself and sometimes have a very stubborn ferment that I have many problems with or loose because I can not get it to clear for me.

    Thank You Thank You for Your recipe of frozen custard and any suggestion You can help me with.

    • For wine, the process is called fining. Fining is simply mixing egg whites, a couple to barrel, into the wine, and then allowing it to react with the tannins. The egg whites, generally whipped, eventually settle to the bottom of the tank or barrel. The wine is then decanted or racked from the resulting sediment. The process is said to calm the tannins as well as pull down some sediment.

      For clarifying a stock for a clear soup, mix the whipped whites into the hot soup. The egg hardens into a “raft” taking a lot of sediment with it.

      Good luck!

  28. GREAT! Just the kind of recipe I was looking for. No evaporated / condensed milk, just real, good ingredients. I’m going to try this on company this weekend. And BTW, that paddle in the ice cream maker is called a dasher.

  29. You should show them how to make my creme brulee if you haven’t already done that!

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