Cocoa Ice Cream |
Philadelphia - style

Cocoa Ice Cream | Philadelphia - style

October 8, 2021


© 2022 Biterkin

This Cocoa Ice Cream is the simplest chocolate-flavoured ice cream you can make at home with your ice cream maker; it is made with just four ingredients: cocoa powder, milk, cream and sugar. To make it, you just boil the milk with the sugar, add the cocoa powder, blend with the cold cream and chill until cold. When churned in the ice cream maker it turns to a refreshing mousse-like goodness, bursting with cocoa flavour. 

This recipe will become your go-to ice cream recipe when you are short of time and yet want to make something which everyone will love and will be quickly devoured. And you will be happy to know that it is surprisingly perfect both regarding its texture and also its flavour, a delightful reminder that you do not need much to enjoy great ice cream at home.

And if you wonder what a Philadelphia-style ice cream is and in what ways it differs from other kinds of ice cream, read all about it below.

Philadelphia-style Ice Cream is the most simple ice cream you can make at home. 

But why is it different from other kinds of ice cream? In other kinds of ice cream, we thicken the ice cream mixture before churning to create a more stable ice cream body which:

  1. churns flawlessly in the ice cream maker
  2. melts slowly and uniformly during serving; and
  3. keeps well in the freezer for longer.

Thickening the ice cream is usually done by cooking the ice cream mixture with egg yolks or cornstarch (aka cornflour).

When making Philadelphia-style ice cream, you do not thicken the ice cream mixture. So it is quick to make and requires the fewest ingredients possible. Compared to an ice cream thickened with egg yolks or corn starch, Philadelphia-style ice cream melts faster during serving; and you may find that its texture does not keep well in the freezer for too long. Yet it is still delightful, and everyone loves it. It will become your go-to ice cream when you are short of time and still want to please a crowd.

The Biterkin tricks for a perfect Cocoa Ice Cream:

You can replace regular sugar with good-quality raw cane sugar, such as Demerara or Turbinado, which are very aromatic, thanks to their natural content in molasses and have an earthy, slightly caramelised aroma.

By replacing regular sugar with raw cane sugar like the above, you boost the chocolate flavour of the ice cream, creating the ultimate chocolate ice cream experience.

Choose good-quality raw cane sugar, one which smells divine when you sniff it. The best Demerara sugar is known to originate from the island of Mauritius, so check the label for the origin.

The ingredients:

This is what you will need:

Every ingredient plays a vital role in the recipe. Do not attempt to reduce or replace anything; everything is there for a reason. Look out for these:

The recipe at a glance:

This is a quick overview of the recipe. If you are new to ice cream making, do read the recipe before proceeding. 

Note that the colour of your ice cream mixture depends on the cocoa powder you will use, so its hue may differ from that of the photos.

Cocoa Ice Cream | Philadelphia - style

For best results, use a digital kitchen scale and measure the ingredients directly into the utensils, as you proceed with the recipe. Avoid weighing in one utensil and transferring to another, as this causes a small, but important loss of quantity, especially in liquids.

If you have a kitchen scale, weigh the ingredients instead of measuring them by cup; it provides accurate results, very much needed in ice cream making.

If you do not have a kitchen scale, follow these guidelines:

1 cup (US) = 236 ml | 1 Tbs. = 15 ml

– Cocoa powder: first, sift the cocoa powder into a bowl and then measure by the spoonful by gently taking a spoonful at a time; and levelling it with the flat side of a knife. Do measure the cocoa powder right after sifting it, as its volume lessens while it sits.

– Sugar: measuring sugar in tablespoons is more accurate than measuring it in cups. Do not use a regular tablespoon: you need a 15 ml measuring tablespoon; this is 12 gr of sugar. To measure, scoop the sugar to fill the tablespoon, then level it with the flat side of a knife. Repeat scooping and levelling.
Note: the sugar should be of good quality, with distinctive granules, which are visible to the naked eye. If the sugar appears to be somewhat pulverised, reduce the measuring by 1 tablespoon (both for cups and tablespoons).
Do not convert the sugar into cups with the usual “1 cup=200 grams” conversion; this is too much sugar, which results in sloppy ice cream.

– Liquid ingredients: make sure that you thoroughly scrape with a rubber spatula the cup every time you measure something and empty it.

Any unsweetened cocoa powder will do.

Use your favourite unsweetened cocoa powder, or choose a cocoa powder judging by its aroma and colour. A dark brown colour and a lovely cocoa aroma are good indicators for the maximum chocolate flavour in the ice cream.

Dutch-processed cocoa is a good choice for it has a rich flavour and colour, but you can also use natural cocoa powder or raw cacao.

Only use regular sugar (white granulated sugar) or raw cane sugar such as Turbinado or Demerara.

Do not try to reduce the calories of the ice cream by cutting down the sugar or replacing it with low-calories or “healthy” sweeteners. Do not use:

  • sugar substitutes, such as table sweeteners or stevia, liquid or granulated. Sweeteners mixed with sugar are not suitable either.
  • confectioner’s sugar
  • honey or other liquid sweeteners, natural or artificial

Only use whole milk (this is around 3.5% fat). Do not substitute with skimmed milk or plant-based milk.

Use heavy cream with 35-40% fat content and of pourable consistency. “Ultra-pasteurised cream” and “cream suitable for whipping” with 35-40% fat are ok, too. Avoid any cream which contains sugar or other sweeteners. Do not substitute with low-fat cream or plant-based cream.

You can combine double cream with whole milk to make heavy cream for this recipe. To make 500 gr (17.6 oz.) heavy cream, you need:

  • 350 gr double cream (12.3 oz.) (appr. 50% fat)
  • 150 gr/ml whole milk (5.3 oz.) (appr. 3.5% fat) *

To make the heavy cream, put the double cream in a bowl; then pour in the milk, a little at a time, stirring smoothly with a rubber spatula until smooth. Avoid whisking, as it may turn into whipped cream.

The resulting heavy cream has 36% fat, perfect for this ice cream. Proceed with the recipe, just as if you had the 500 gr (17.6 oz.) heavy cream needed. 

*this 150 gr (5.3 oz.) milk is extra to the 450 gr milk (15.9 oz) asked in the recipe. So, if using double cream, you will need in total 600 gr milk (21.2 oz.), from which:

  • 450 gr (15.9 oz.) are for the recipe; and
  • 150 gr (5.3 oz.) are mixed with the double cream to make heavy cream

A flexible rubber spatula is useful for:

-wiping the bottom of the saucepan when cooking dairy on the stovetop

-scraping residues which would be otherwise left behind in bowls, saucepans etc.

If you do not have one, I strongly encourage you to buy one, preferably a flexible one.


Start making the ice cream mixture (steps 1-2) one day before churning it. 

If your ice cream maker has a removable freezer bowl, put it in the freezer for the whole time indicated by the manufacturer before churning, usually 24 hours.

Step 1: Make the ice cream mixture
Place a rubber spatula and a whisk on a plate next to the stovetop to have them close and ready to use interchangeably.

Sift the cocoa powder (50 gr; 1.8 oz) through a fine-mesh sieve and into a small bowl; set aside. Do not skip sifting, even if your cocoa powder doesn’t seem to need it.

Pour the heavy cream (500 gr; 17.6 oz.) into a bowl and set the bowl next to the stovetop.

Warm the milk and the sugar: in a medium saucepan put the milk (450 gr; 15.9 oz.) and the sugar (192 gr; 6.8 oz.) and warm over medium heat, often stirring until the sugar dissolves. Do not let the milk boil before the sugar fully dissolves, or the milk may curdle; often stirring helps the sugar dissolve efficiently.

Bring the milk to a boil and remove it from the heat. Do not let it boil for more than 10 seconds; as soon as the first bubbles start to pop up vigorously, take it off the heat. 

Add the cocoa powder in the hot milk and whisk vigorously to dissolve it (some lumps are ok, they will dissolve during blending).

Pour the hot cocoa mixture into the heavy cream and stir until it is a uniform brown colour with no streaks.

Blend the ice cream mixture with an immersion/regular blender for 30 seconds to ensure a smooth texture, stopping once midway to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  

Step 2Chill the ice cream mixture

Strain the ice cream mixture through a fine-mesh sieve and into a bowl.

Cool it down: prepare an ice bath by putting ice cubes and cold water in a large bowl and carefully nest the bowl with the ice cream mixture in it, taking care that no water slips into it. Leave it to cool down for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Chill thoroughly: the ice cream mixture should come to fridge-cold temperature before you churn it with the ice cream maker; to chill it, use one of the two ways below (click to read more):

When you have time, prefer the slow way to mature the ice cream mixture and improve its flavours. If you are in a hurry, you will be happy to know that most people do not notice this flavour improvement, so feel free to be quick.
When choosing the fast way, consider that it needs more ice than an average household usually holds.

When churning with a domestic ice cream maker, your ice cream mixture should always be thoroughly chilled. Otherwise, if the ice cream mixture is not cold enough, the ice cream maker may not churn it to its fullest potential, resulting in a sloppy liquid vs. fluffy ice cream.

Step 3: Blend and churn the ice cream

Check the ice cream mixture if it is thoroughly chilled, before churning: it should feel fridge-cold to the touch (or if you have an instant-read thermometer, it should read around 4ºC–10ºC / 39ºF-50ºF). 

(optional, but good to do)  Blend the ice cream mixture: blend the ice cream mixture (with a blender or a stick blender) for 1 minute and immediately proceed to churning.

If you want to skip blending give a nice, thorough stir to the ice cream mixture just before churning. 

Prepare the ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. 

Churn: with the machine running, pour the ice cream mixture through the canister and into the ice cream maker.

Leave to churn until fluffed up and creamy; depending on your ice cream maker this can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes (see below).

This cocoa ice cream will expand and fluff up during churning. It is ready when it looks smooth and fluffy, with a mousse-like body. That could take anywhere from 30-60 minutes, depending on your ice cream maker.

To evaluate if it is ready, lift a spoonful; it should be thick enough to stand on the spoon, but it will be still soft like soft-serve ice cream. If you lift some ice cream with the spoon and a pool immediately starts forming on its edges, you will have to churn it for longer. 

In any case, if you feel doubts about the consistency, leave it to churn for ten minutes more. But beware: at this stage, do not expect it to be like store-bought carton ice cream; for now, it should be more like soft-serve ice cream. It will firm up and become like store-bought ice cream only after it sets in the freezer.

So, stop the ice cream maker when thick and creamy, as described above. If you leave to churn it for much longer, it will start turning grainy.

Warning: some ice cream makers are programmed to automatically stop after a specific length of time, which doesn’t make sense because the ice cream may need to churn for more to reach its fullest potential. So, if you notice that your ice cream maker stops on its own and upon checking the ice cream, you find that it is sloppy instead of fluffy, try to turn the machine on again and leave it to churn until it reaches the desired texture.

Step 4: Put the ice cream in the freezer to set

Put in the freezer to set: before serving the ice cream or moving it to a container for storing, you have to put it in the freezer to set. To do so: 

  • remove the removable freezer bowl (still filled with the ice cream) from the ice cream machine
  • remove the paddle, scraping any ice cream attached to it back into the ice cream bowl
  • cover the ice cream bowl and put it in the freezer to set

Setting time depends on the ice cream maker you use; see notes below for indicative times.

Serve or store: when it sets, you can serve it directly from the removable freezer bowl or transfer it to an airtight container for longer storing.

The setting time for the ice cream largely depends on the type of ice cream maker you use.

It can take :

  • 3-5 hours for removable freezer bowls (these are the ice cream maker bowls which you should pre-freeze before churning)
  • 1-2 hours for aluminium bowls (these are the bowls from compressor ice cream makers)

Note: the times given are indicative. Setting time depends on many factors.

Check it occasionally (approx. every 2 hours; or as needed) while it is in the freezer. The ice cream is ready when it has an internal temperature of -11ºC / 12ºF. If you do not have a thermometer, to evaluate if the ice cream has set, insert a round tip knife into it, all the way to the bottom: 

  • when the ice cream is ready, it feels firm as you go down, but at the same time it is soft enough to insert the knife into it; it should have this same firm consistency from top to bottom.
  • not ready yet: it will feel hard on the top and softer as you go down
  • if left in the freezer for too long: it will be too hard for the knife to insert into it and too hard to scoop out of the ice cream bowl. Do not worry, though! Read right below how to soften it.

If the ice cream stays in the removable freezer bowl for too long, it will harden and be difficult to remove or serve.

To make it scoopable again, leave it in the refrigerator to soften. That can take:

  • anywhere from 4 to 10 hours for removable freezer bowls (the ones which need pre-freezing before churning)
  • 1-2 hours for aluminium bowls (these are the bowls from compressor ice cream makers)

(Note: the time given is indicative, time may vary depending on many factors, so do check it occasionally as it sits in the refrigerator.)

When the ice cream is easy to scoop (or it has an internal temperature of approx. -11°C / 12°F if you have a thermometer), you can transfer it to another container and store it in the freezer or serve it directly from the removable freezer bowl.

Straight after churning, the ice cream has a soft-serve consistency and melts immediately upon contact with anything. This makes it impossible to serve or transfer to another container.

Putting it in the freezer after churning sets it and brings it to the right consistency, similar to that of an ice cream parlour’s.

Storage and serving

Storage: Philadelphia-style ice creams are at their best if they are eaten the day they are churned. If you want to keep it for longer, cover it well to protect it from absorbing the freezer’s smells and keep it in the freezer for up to one month.

Scooping: this ice cream, like all artisanal ice creams, freezes hard in the long term. To soften it to a perfectly scoopable consistency, put it in the refrigerator for 45-60 min (or when it reaches approx. -11ºC / 12ºF if you have a thermometer).

If you have an instant-read thermometer, the perfect serving temperature of this cocoa ice cream is when the thermometer inserted midway through the ice cream, reads around -11ºC / 12ºF. At this temperature the ice cream is scoopable and with the most satisfying mouthfeel.

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