Cocoa Ice Cream |
with egg yolks (custard)

Cocoa Ice Cream | with egg yolks (custard)

September 22, 2021


© 2022 Biterkin

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For this Cocoa Ice Cream you only need five ingredients: cocoa powder, milk, cream, sugar and egg yolks. Although it contains only cocoa powder -and no chocolate-, its flavour is insanely chocolate-y, with a rich cocoa flavour and a bold chocolate aroma. 

In this cocoa ice cream the aroma of the cocoa powder you use will shine through, so use your favourite one to make it. If you do not have a favourite, open yourself up to try any kind, because I have tested it with various types of cocoa powder, from cheap to expensive and from raw to Dutch-processed; and each batch was scrumptious, no matter the cocoa powder it was made with.

This is a custard ice cream, which means that it contains egg yolks cooked with the cream over the stovetop until thickened. Egg yolks are the miraculous, natural ingredient which makes for a perfectly velvety and luxurious ice cream. If you fear the ice cream might taste eggy, rest assured that it does not. The cocoa powder is enough to cover any egg taste, so that the ice cream benefits from the presence of egg yolks -a perfect mouthfeel and texture- and is perfectly chocolate-y at the same time.

The Biterkin tricks to a perfect custard Cocoa Ice Cream:

When making custard-based ice creams at home, you may be asked to use an instant-read thermometer to check if the custard has reached the right temperature, which is around 80ºC/176ºF. This is the temperature at which the custard thickens; also, at this temperature, the eggs are perfectly safe to eat. But while it is good to have a thermometer, it is only natural that you may not have one at home.

For this reason I have developed a very simple method, which uses the laws of physics to guarantee that the custard is cooked to the right temperature. It is also the least labour-intensive one, as it does not require you to stand over the stovetop stirring until the custard  thickens. 

Instead, you only need to bring the dairy and sugar to a full boil and then pour the mixture onto the cold egg yolks, while whisking vigorously. It works every time, because by combining the right amount of boiling dairy with the right amount of fridge-cold egg yolks the custard comes to the right temperature.

For this method to work, you have to make sure that:

  1. the ingredients are properly measured; it is important that the ratio of “cold egg yolks to boiling dairy” is right
  2. the egg yolks are cold from the fridge (this is around 4ºC; 39ºF), and
  3. you bring the dairy to a full boil (this is around 100ºC; 212ºF) and immediately pour it over the egg yolks, while whisking vigorously. 

This is totally optional, but you can replace regular sugar with a good-quality raw cane sugar, such as Demerara or Turbinado. These are sugars which are very aromatic, thanks to their natural content in molasses, which gives them an earthy, slightly caramelised aroma.

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

For best results, the raw cane sugar you use should be of good quality. To evaluate the quality of the sugar, you only have to sniff it; it should smell divine.  In my experience, the best Demerara sugar comes from the island of Mauritius.

The ingredients:

This is what you will need:

Every single ingredient plays a vital role in the recipe. Ice creams are all about balance, both in terms of ingredients, as well as their quantities. Do not play around changing the proportions of the ingredients or trying to use low-fat versions of dairy and sweeteners, such as stevia/other decreased-calorie sugars. 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 | with egg yolks

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.

For cup measurements:

1 cup (US) = 235 ml

– for cocoa powder: first sift the cocoa powder into a bowl, then measure by the spoonful by gently taking a spoonful at a time from the sifted cocoa powder and adding it to the measuring cup. Cocoa powder should be freshly sifted to be measured right. I am pretty aware that if you google how much cocoa powder is 60 gr; 2.1 oz, it will give you a different cup measurement than the one provided in the recipe, but the google results can be totally off, depending how clumpy your cocoa powder is. So, after many trials and errors, I have found that the most reliable way to measure cocoa powder by volume cups is this: sift, then measure while freshly sifted.

– for 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. 

If you have a favourite unsweetened cocoa powder, then use this one in this recipe, as its flavour will really shine in this ice cream. If not, use as your guide the cocoa’s colour and its aroma: a deep brown colour and a lovely cocoa aroma when you smell it, are proof that the final ice cream will have an amazing cocoa flavour.

Important: only use unsweetened cocoa powder. The term “unsweetened” means that it only contains cocoa powder, so check the label if there are any other ingredients listed. If there is sugar (sucrose) or any other sweeteners listed in the ingredients, do not use it for this recipe, it will affect its outcome. Exception: if in the ingredients list you see the  words “acidity regulators” or “potassium carbonate”, these are not sweeteners;  these indicate that the cocoa powder has been alkilized (Dutch-processed); this kind of cocoa powder is still unsweetened and perfectly ok to use.

If you want to know more on cocoa powder to help you choose before buying. then read below:
There are three types of unsweetened cocoa powder available at the grocery stores: Dutch-processed, raw cacao and natural cocoa powder. The difference between them lies in the way they have been processed, which impacts their colour and their flavour:
  • Dutch-processed cocoa powder is cocoa powder which has been treated with an alkali to neutralise its acidity. Although it is the most processed type of cocoa powder, it is for a good reason: Dutch processed cocoa powder is, hands down, the best type of cocoa powder to use for this ice cream recipe. It gives the richest possible flavour notes of cacao to the ice cream and an intriguing, deep, brown colour. Words written on the packaging: Dutch-processed, alkalized. Another indicator that the cocoa powder is Dutch-processed is that in the ingredients list on the packaging the words “acidic regulator” or “potassium carbonate” exist along with the cocoa powder. Hint: the world’s top cocoa powder brands are actually Dutch-processed.
  • Raw cacao powder is the least processed of all types of cocoa powder. It has a very light brown colour and is slightly acidic; it is flavour is, well, natural and not as rich as that of Dutch-processed cocoa powder. Raw cacao powders are usually the  organic brands and their quality is sublime, but the cocoa flavour in the final ice cream, as well as its colour, are on the light side. Words you will see written on the packaging: natural, raw, organic, cacao (not to be confused with cocoa).
  • the most commonly available type of cocoa powder at the grocery’s store is natural cocoa powder. The term natural only means that it is not treated with an alkali, like Dutch-processed cocoa powder is, but it is still more processed than raw cacao powder. The word “natural” may appear on the label or somewhere on the packaging. This type of cocoa powder gives the least rich flavour of all, in comparison to the other two types of cocoa powder. Words you will see on the packaging: natural, 100% cocoa (especially in the ingredients).

Comparison apart, I have made ice cream with all three types of cocoa powder and in a variety of price range, from the cheapest to the most expensive and each batch was delicious. So use the above information as a guideline to fit your own taste and pocket and rest assured that no matter which one you will choose, everyone will love it.

If you find the above descriptions confusing, you can simply judge a cocoa powder by its colour and aroma:

  • when the cocoa powder is dark in colour and rich in its aromatic tones, it gives a richer cocoa flavour and colour to the ice cream (a dark brown hue, means that it is actually Dutch-processed cocoa powder a.k.a. alkalized)
  • if it has a light brownish hue, it is still aromatic but just a tad acidic and results to a sharper flavour and lighter brown colour in the final ice cream (when it is has a very light brown hue, it is actually natural cocoa powder; or raw cocoa powder, if it is organic)

You can choose either of the two and still have a stellar ice cream. 

If you are an ice cream making geek, you will also be interested to know that you can use both cocoa powder classified as “type 10/12” (which contains 10-12% fat) and “type 22/24” (which contains 22-24% fat). These two types, which are the most common available, are both suitable for this recipe.

You can use regular sugar (white granulated sugar) or a good quality raw cane sugar such as Turbinado or Demerara, which enhances the cocoa flavours.

Do not use sugar substitutes, such as table sweeteners or stevia. Also, do not use confectioner’s sugar, it is not suitable for this recipe. Not suitable either is honey or other liquid sweeteners, natural or artificial, because in ice cream making they behave differently than sugar and their quantities should be adapted before using them in this recipe.

Use heavy cream with 35-40% fat percentage. It should be of pourable consistency. It is ok to use cream which is suitable for whipping and/or ultra-pasteurised cream, as far as the fat content is right and you like its flavour. Just check the ingredients, for it should contain no sugar (or other sweeteners).

You can combine double cream with whole milk and use this instead of heavy cream in this recipe. For 450 gr (15.9 oz.) heavy cream, you will need:

  • 315 gr double cream (11.1 oz.) (with 50% fat)
  • 135 gr/ml whole milk (4.8 oz.) (3.5% fat) *

How to use: put the double cream in a large bowl, then pour in the milk, a little at a time, stirring smoothly with a rubber spatula until just incorporated. You need the cream to be smooth and preferably with a pourable consistency. Resist the urge to  whisk, as it may turn into whipped cream.

This will make a “heavy cream” with around 36% fat, perfect for this cocoa ice cream. Proceed with the recipe, just as if you had the 450 gr (15.9 oz.) heavy cream needed. 

Note that these 135 gr milk (4.8 oz.) are additional to the 385 gr milk (17.6 oz) asked in the recipe. This means that you will need in total 520 gr; milk (18.3 oz.), from which:

  • 385 gr (17.6 oz.) are for the recipe; and
  • 135 gr (4.8 oz.) are to mix with the double cream.

it is recommended to weigh the egg yolks, because egg sizes (and their yolks) may vary from my country to yours.

If you do not have a scale, use egg yolks from 4 eggs which are in the range of around 65 – 75 gr; 2.3 – 2.65 oz (whole egg, in its shell). The weight of the eggs is written on their packaging and they may be labelled as “large” or “extra large”, depending on the country they are sold in. 

TIP: to separate the egg yolk from the white, do it when the eggs are cold from the fridge, as the egg yolks are firmer and are easy to handle.

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.

Using a saucepan with a long handle in step 2 is useful for easily pouring  the boiling cream with one hand, while whisking the egg yolks vigorously with the other.

Bonus tip: put a towel under the bowl with the egg yolks, to keep it in place while whisking.


Before starting, make sure that your ice cream maker will be ready for churning when you need it. This means that if it has a removable freezer bowl, it should be put in the freezer for the whole time indicated by the manufacturer, usually 24 hours.

If you intend to transfer the ice cream to a container to store the ice cream, put this container in the freezer well ahead of time, too; this will prevent the ice cream from melting upon contact with it.

Step 1: Prepare the cocoa mixture

Prepare your workplace; place a rubber spatula and a whisk on a plate, next to the stovetop to have them handy to use interchangeably.

Sift the cocoa powder (65 gr; 2.3 oz.) through a fine mesh sieve and into a bowl; set aside. Note that cocoa powder always needs sifting, so do not skip this step even if, by judging by the looks of your cocoa powder, it seems unnecessary.

Warm the milk and 3/4 of the sugar: in a medium saucepan put the milk (385 gr; 13.6 oz.; 1 & 2/3 cups) and 3/4 of the sugar (160 gr; 5.6 oz.; 3/4 cup). Warm over medium heat, stirring often with the rubber spatula.

Add the cocoa powder: when all the sugar has dissolved and the milk looks hot and steamy, grab the whisk and add the cocoa powder, a spoonful at a time, whisking well after each addition.

Bring to a soft boil: increase the heat to medium high. Stir continuously with the rubber spatula, scraping the bottom of the saucepan as you go, so that the cocoa doesn’t stick at the bottom of the pan. When the first bubbles appear on the surface, remove from the heat and pour the hot cocoa milk into a large heatproof bowl, scraping along all residues from the saucepan.

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 hot cocoa milk in it, taking care that no water slips into it. Leave it to cool down while you prepare the custard.

Step 2: Make the custard

Prepare the egg yolks: put the cold egg yolks (80 gr; 2.8 oz.) in a large heatproof bowl, and whisk them lightly to break them down. Put them in the fridge to keep them cold, keeping the whisk in the bowl. Aim to proceed with the recipe as soon as possible, as the egg yolks dry out quickly.

Boil the cream and 1/4 of the sugar: place the heavy cream (450 gr/ml; 15.9 oz; 2 cups) and the rest of the sugar (60 gr; 2.1 oz; 1/4 cup) in a medium saucepan. Warm over medium heat, stirring often with the rubber spatula, until the sugar dissolves.

Increase the heat to high and remove the egg yolks from the fridge. 

Pour the boiling cream in the egg yolks: when the cream comes to a full boil (large bubbles cover the surface), remove it from the heat, and immediately start pouring it in a slow, steady stream into the cold egg yolks with one hand, while whisking them vigorously with the other.

When you boil the milk with the sugar, keep an eye on it to avoid boiling it for too long. Boiling causes water to evaporate; and if we let the milk boil for too long, the loss of water will disturb the balance of the recipe. The result? You may end up with a sloppy liquid vs. a fluffy ice cream after churning, as the ratio of the sugar in the final ice cream mixture will be more than it should.

Do not worry about it too much, though; just be mindful while the milk is warmed and as soon as you see the first bubbles appearing on the surface, count to 10 (as for 10 seconds) and remove it from the heat.

Stir: with the rubber spatula, stir well and thoroughly for one minute, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl.

You have to stir the custard with a rubber spatula while it is still hot, thoroughly scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl, where residues of egg yolk lie. Those residues, which you cannot see, are there and they should be incorporated into the rest of the mixture, while it is still hot. Stirring also makes the custard thicken slightly.

Step 3: Mix and chill the ice cream mixture

Mix the the custard with the cocoa milk: remove the bowl with the cocoa milk from the ice bath and pour it into the custard, scraping along all residues left behind. Stir thoroughly with the rubber spatula, until no streaks remain.

Strain the ice cream mixture through a fine mesh sieve and back into the bowl the cocoa milk was in. If there are any tiny cocoa clumps left on the sieve, press them gently through the sieve and stir well. 

Cool it down: refresh the ice bath with more ice cubes, 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, use one of the two methods below (click on methods to read more):

Personally, I prefer the slow method, as during the refrigeration process, both the ice cream mixture matures and its flavours improve. However, most people do not notice this flavour improvement, therefore feel free to follow the method which is more convenient to you.
One more thing to consider when choosing the fast method is whether you have enough ice to fully submerge the bag. 

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

Step 4: 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 4ºC–10ºC / 39ºF-50ºF). 

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

Stir: this cocoa ice cream mixture may become very thick after chilling, so give it a nice, vigorous stir with a rubber spatula to loosen it; this will allow it to churn for longer and to acquire a better texture.

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 consistency. This could take anywhere from 30-60 minutes, depending on your ice cream maker. 

To evaluate if it’s ready, lift a spoonful; it should be thick enough to stand on the spoon, but still be soft like soft-serve ice cream. If, upon lifting some ice cream with the spoon, 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 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 it is thick and creamy, as described above. If you leave it for much longer, it will start turning grainy.

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

Step 5: Put in the freezer to set

Put in the freezer to set: before serving the ice cream or removing it to a container for storage, you have to put it in the freezer to set. Remove the removable freezer bowl (still filled with the ice cream) from the ice cream machine, cover with a lid and put it in the freezer to set. Setting time depends highly on the type of 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.

This can take :

  • anywhere from 1 to 4 hours for removable freezer bowls (these are the ice cream maker bowls which must be frozen before churning). 
  • 1 hour for aluminium bowls (these are the bowls from compressor ice cream makers)

Note: the times given are indicative, actual time may vary depending on many factors, so do check it every one hour or two, while it sits in the freezer. For example, with my Cuisinart ice cream maker, it takes one hour for the ice cream to set, whereas with the Krups ice cream maker it takes 3 hours. 

To evaluate if the ice cream has properly set, insert a knife into it, all the way to the bottom:

  • if it is properly set, it will be soft enough for the knife to be inserted into it, and yet have the same consistency from top to bottom
  • if it is not ready yet, it will feel hard on the top and softer as you go down
  • if it is too hard for the knife to insert, you may have left it in the freezer for too long. You can still bring it to a perfectly scoopable consistency; just read the troubleshooting guide below.

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 directly in the freezer to set after churning, will help it set and reach the right consistency.

Then you can serve it or transfer to a sealable container for longer storing.

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

Do not worry though, you can still make it scoopable by leaving it in the refrigerator to soften. This can take :

  • 4-6 hours for removable freezer bowls (these are the ice cream maker bowls which must be frozen before churning)
  • 1 hour for aluminium bowls (these are the bowls from compressor ice cream makers)

(Note: the time given is indicative, actual time may vary depending on many factors, so do check it every one hour or two, while it sits in the refrigerator).

After this, the ice cream will be easy to scoop and transfer to another container or serve directly from the ice cream maker.

Storage and serving

Storage: in the freezer for one month, covered well to protect it from absorbing the freezer’s smells. 

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 one hour. 

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 perfectly scoopable and with the most satisfying mouthfeel.

Use a rubber spatula: 

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.

Use a saucepan with a long handle: 

Using a saucepan with a long handle in step 2 is useful for easily pouring  the boiling cream with one hand, while whisking the egg yolks vigorously with the other.

Bonus tip: put a towel under the bowl with the egg yolks, to keep it in place while whisking.

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