The 4 Essential Ice Cream Bases You Should Know

published Jul 21, 2015
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A bowl of three scoops of ice cream
(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Whether you’re new to making homemade ice cream or you’re a seasoned pro, it’s important you know this — there isn’t one single way to whip up this sweet treat. Depending on the type of ice cream you’re making and personal preference, you have a choice of four different bases to get your dessert started.

The ice cream base is where it all begins. This is the liquid mixture of ingredients that will eventually be churned and transformed into cool, creamy ice cream. There are a few different methods to bring this magical dessert to life.

Which is your favorite?

4 Bases to Know for Making Ice Cream

1. The Custard Base

This classic cooked ice cream base is essentially the same as making homemade pudding or custard. It involves cooking eggs yolks together with cream and sugar and makes for a rich-tasting ice cream.

2. The Philadelphia-Style Base

This base is made with just cream, sugar, and flavorings. No eggs needed here. Instead, the fat content comes solely from the cream. Some recipes call for heating the ingredients to help the sugar dissolve, while just as many others skip the cooking and go straight to churning. Philadelphia-style ice cream is delicate and smooth, with less richness than a custard-based ice cream.

3. The Egg-Free Base

This base was made popular by Jeni Britton Bauer’s Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home. Like the name implies, this base skips the eggs (similar to Philadelphia-style), but relies on cornstarch as a thickener, along with a small amount of cream cheese for richness and smooth body. This is my favorite base; it’s consistently reliable and makes amazing ice cream.

4. The No-Churn Base

Unlike the other three bases, this one doesn’t require any cooking, nor does it require an ice cream maker. Heavy cream, along with sweetened condensed milk (both with high milk-fat contents), are the common ingredients in this frozen dessert. The condensed milk acts as the thick base, while the cream is whipped and folded in to add a light, airy texture.