Ice Cream Crunch Cake

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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 5 hr 50 min
  • Prep: 5 hr 50 min
  • Yield: 10-12 servings

There's nothing quite like an ice cream cake. Whether you buy yours at a local mom-and-pop shop or at a national franchise store it’s a frozen treat that totally deserves the status of birthdays and other important celebrations (or just a Wednesday night). You can continue to buy yours but it's also possible to make a homemade ice cream cake — just be sure to start 1 to 2 days in advance for so that it can freeze completely. This easy ice cream cake recipe is made in a 9-inch springform pan, the same one you would use to bake a cheesecake. The two-piece construction of the pan (complete with an expandable outer ring) makes unmolding and serving a cinch. Aside from using the right pan, the other key to success is letting your ice cream soften without melting. Store-bought ice cream cakes rely on soft serve, which is easier to work with and spread. You can mimic soft serve by letting your ice cream sit at room temperature until it is spreadable and easy to scoop. That should take about 15 minutes. If you're concerned that you'll forget and end up with ice cream soup, transfer it from the freezer to the refrigerator to soften (just wait 25 to 30 minutes, instead). The best part of the ice cream cake though, is the chocolate crunchy layer. We replicate it perfectly here with a combo of crushed chocolate wafer cookies and store-bought chocolate magic shell: Just stir the two ingredients together for that iconic (and beloved) sweet and crumbly layer. This recipe calls for classic chocolate and vanilla ice cream, but you don't have to stop there; you can use a combo of your favorite flavors to make your cake unique. Try some of these pairings: strawberry and peanut butter-chocolate, pistachio and butter pecan, rum raisin and chocolate, mint chocolate chip and cookies and cream, vanilla chocolate chip and cherry, black raspberry and chocolate, chocolate chip cookie dough and vanilla fudge swirl — or a double layer of Neapolitan ice cream. And, while you’re at it, why not make a chocolate ice cream cake with a vanilla crunchy layer instead? Just use chocolate ice cream and an equivalent amounts of crushed vanilla wafer cookies and melted white chocolate for the crunchy layer. (Crushed chocolate sandwich cream cookies and magic shell would be great, too.) Whipped cream is the perfect “frosting” for an ice cream cake. To get the perfect flavor and consistency, use confectioners' (aka powdered) sugar sparingly and be sure to freeze your bowl and whisk before you start whipping the heavy cream — it will thicken and come to a peak more quickly. Decorations? That’s easy. We suggest using your favorite sprinkles! If you're traveling, transport your frozen treat in the springform pan and wait to unmold it at the party. And don’t forget to use a warm knife when you cut into the cake (dip in warm water between every cut) — it will make clean, perfect slices every time. Enjoy!

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2 1 1/2-quart containers vanilla ice cream

1 9-ounce package chocolate wafers (such as Nabisco Famous)

1 7-to-8-ounce bottle chocolate shell ice cream topping

1 1 1/2-quart container chocolate ice cream

5 cups whipped cream

Rainbow sprinkles, for decorating (optional)


  1. Put a 9-inch springform pan in the freezer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, let 1 container vanilla ice cream soften at room temperature.
  2. Remove the pan from the freezer. Spread a 1/2-inch-thick layer of softened vanilla ice cream on the bottom and up the sides of the pan. (If the ice cream gets too soft, return to the freezer.) Freeze until firm, about 45 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, pulse the chocolate wafers in a food processor to break into large crumbs. Add the chocolate shell topping and pulse until the crumbs are moist, about 5 pulses; set aside.
  4. Let the chocolate ice cream soften at room temperature, about 15 minutes. Spread over the vanilla layer, firmly packing the ice cream into the pan. Spread the chocolate crumb mixture over the chocolate ice cream. Freeze until set, about 1 hour.
  5. Remove the remaining container vanilla ice cream from the freezer 15 minutes before assembling the final layer. Spread the ice cream over the crumb layer, packing it tightly, then smooth the top with an offset spatula. Freeze until firm, about 2 hours.
  6. To unmold, wipe the outside of the pan with a hot cloth, then run a hot knife around the inside; unlatch and remove the side. If the ice cream cake is too soft, refreeze 20 minutes.
  7. Spread 3 cups whipped cream over the top and sides of the cake. Freeze until set, about 20 minutes. Put the remaining 2 cups whipped cream in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip; pipe along the top and bottom edges of the cake and decorate with sprinkles. Return to the freezer; remove 15 minutes before serving and slice with a hot knife.