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Who Invented Ice Cream?

Who Invented Ice Cream? That’s a good question. When a dessert has been around for eons, it becomes harder to pin down where credit is due! Today we’re going to separate facts from fiction regarding America’s favorite dessert.

A Quick History of a Favorite Frozen Dessert

Ice cream is one of America’s all-time favorite desserts, and it’s not hard to see why: ice cream has seen us through endless summers, celebrations, birthdays, heartaches, and then some. It’s also one of the oldest desserts in the world, dating back millennia and crossing continents.

For this reason, it’s difficult to pinpoint not only who invented ice cream but also where it was invented, and when. But what’s food history without a little mystery? For better or for worse, with a bit of Googling, I attempted to piece together the history behind our beloved frozen treat. 

Below, we’re digging (scooping) into ice cream’s past. Plus, don’t forget to scroll further down in the post for easy homemade ice cream recipes to try.

A scoop of spumoni ice cream in an ice cream scoop.

Who Invented Ice Cream?

So, this is sort of a trick question. There’s not one specific person who we have to thank for the invention of ice cream, rather many people throughout history. You’ll find hundreds upon hundreds of competing stories about ice cream’s inventor and its origins, and it’s all but impossible to nail down a definitive answer.

First, we have 11th century BC China, where the first references to eating frozen milk and rice came about. Then there were the Persians, who in 400 BC invented sharbat, believed to be the predecessor of the word “sherbet”. Their version of sherbet combined sugar with water, and was kept cold in insulated structures (basically, early refrigerators) called yakhchal.

Finally, thousands of years later, the explorer Marco Polo returned to Italy from the Far East, with a recipe closely resembling sherbet in tow. By this time, England had their own version of “cream ice”.  And in 1660, the first cafe in Paris, Café Procope, served a frozen, creamy dessert that combined milk, cream, and eggs. Old world ice cream was born.

Ice cream finally reached the US in the 1700s, where it quickly became a favorite dessert for the public and presidents alike. Everyone from President George Washington to Thomas Jefferson was enamored by the rare and exotic, creamy treat.

They say many hands make light work, and over thousands of years, many hands went into bringing ice cream to the masses. 

How Was Ice Cream Made? 

Making ice cream, like the story behind its invention, has also evolved over time. From freezing the ingredients in snowy hillsides to churning them in an ice cream machine, there have been numerous methods used to make this iconic creamy treat. 

Illustration from 19th century of barrel ice cream maker.

The real ice cream industry began in the 1800s when ice houses were invented. This allowed households to store winter ice for longer, and homemade ice cream became a possibility, at least for those who could afford it.

As far as modern ice cream making goes, we have African-American ice cream maker Augustus Jackson, to thank. While Jackson didn’t invent ice cream, he is credited with using salt in order to control the temperature and enhance the flavor, inspiring modern ice cream manufacturing methods.

In the old days before refrigerators, the first versions of modern ice cream were made by combining the ingredients in metal drums, which were then submerged in a larger vat of ice and salt. The ice cream was then stirred or “churned” until thickened and kept refrigerated in the brine until it was ready to serve.

Later on, technological advances in motor power, refrigeration, and freezing processes helped propel ice cream production to new heights. Ice cream parlors became popular in the 1940s, followed by packaged ice cream in the 1970s. Ice cream is now one of the most popular desserts in the US, with frozen dairy production reaching more than 6.4 billion pounds per year, according to the International Dairy Foods Association.

Homemade Ice Cream Recipes to Try

Now that you know all about the history of ice cream perhaps you want to try making some at home. In that case, here are some fun recipes to try!

An ice cream scoops a serving of strawberry shortcake ice cream from a loaf pan.

Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream

This creamy no-churn Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream is a heavenly frozen dessert made completely from scratch, from the chunks of tender shortcake biscuits down to the bright and flavorful strawberry sauce.

3 scoops of blue Cookie Monster Ice cream in a loaf pan

Cookie Monster Ice Cream

Cookie Monster Ice Cream is a creamy no churn ice cream recipe, filled with chunks of chewy chocolate chip cookies and crunchy Oreos. The bright blue ice cream base is totally gorgeous!

Scoops of strawberry ice cream in a bowl garnished with mint, with strawberries scattered on a wooden board in the background.

No Churn Strawberry Ice Cream

Make this easy No Churn Strawberry Ice Cream at home for a sweet treat filled with fresh strawberries. Creamy and full of flavor, this is the perfect scoop to enjoy all summer!

Spumoni ice cream in a glass bowl topped with whipped cream and a cherry.

Spumoni Ice Cream

Spumoni Ice Cream is a triple threat of flavor inspired by the traditional Italian recipe! Made with three different kinds of delicious, creamy homemade ice cream, you will need an ice cream maker for this one. But the end result is to-die-for!

Scoops of bourbon vanilla ice cream in a bowl with a spoon.

No-Churn Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream

Making ice cream from scratch is easier than you think, and so worth it with recipes like Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream! This smooth and creamy homemade vanilla ice cream with lashings of boozy bourbon is the perfect grown-up dessert.

A basket with Fried Chicken Ice Cream

Fried Chicken Ice Cream

This fried chicken ice cream recipe is the latest trend on TikTok. If you’re wondering what it is and how to make it, keep reading. We’re going to dive into all the details today!

Close up of an ice cream scoop of Superman ice cream resting on a loaf pan filled with ice cream.

Superman Ice Cream

It’s a bird, it’s a plane… It’s Superman Ice Cream! This bold and colorful homemade ice cream recipe is made with three different flavors of creamy no-churn ice cream.

A scoop of Oreo ice cream in a glass cup

Oreo Ice Cream

This creamy no-churn Oreo ice cream is so easy to make! You’ll only need 4 ingredients and ten minutes to make this simple homemade ice cream recipe. What are you waiting for?

A metal bowl filled with peach ice cream, with peaches in the background

Sweet Peach Ice Cream

This homemade peach ice cream recipe makes a sweet and creamy dessert. You won’t even need an ice cream maker to create a luscious no-churn ice cream bursting with fresh peach flavor.

Sources: IDFA.org, Reader’s Digest

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