No-Churn Cocoa Ice Cream |
the custard version

No-Churn Cocoa Ice Cream | the custard version

November 18, 2021


© 2022 Biterkin

no-churn cocoa custard mbl

You only need cream, egg yolks, sugar and cocoa powder to make this No-Churn Cocoa Ice Cream. The process is as simple as this: you boil the cream with the sugar, pour it over the cold egg yolks, whisk in the cocoa powder, chill the whole thing and then whip with the mixer. You then have to wait until it sets overnight in the freezer; and your patience is rewarded with the best no-churn ice cream you can make at home. 

What you will love about this no-churn ice cream is that with just four ingredients (and no condensed milk, none at all) plus a hand-held mixer you can make an ice cream that everyone will adore. What is more, it’s the perfect choice for making ice cream pops and ice cream cakes, as its rich body makes it easy to pour into moulds without making a mess.

In this cocoa ice cream the aroma of the cocoa powder you use shines through, so use your favourite one to make it. 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 what cocoa powder it was made with. If you do not have a favourite, in the recipe you will find everything you need to help you choose the right cocoa powder.

The Biterkin tricks for a No-Churn 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. egg yolks are cold from the fridge (4ºC; 39ºF), and
  3. you bring the dairy to a full boil (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 raw cane sugars are very aromatic, thanks to their natural content in molasses, which gives them an earthy, slightly caramelised aroma.

By replacing regular sugar with a good quality raw cane sugar, you boost the earthy, tropical flavour notes of cocoa powder in the final ice cream, taking its cocoa-ness to the next level.

You will need a good-quality raw cane sugar to obtain the best results. 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, so I always check the packaging for the origin.

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.

No-Churn Cocoa Ice Cream | the custard version

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.

Use heavy cream suitable for whipping, with 35-40% fat content.

Do not use lower fat versions, or else the custard may not whip.

Do not use any kind of non-dairy cream. 

You can combine double cream with whole milk and use this instead of heavy cream in this recipe. For 500 gr (17.6 oz.) heavy cream, you will need:

  • 350 gr double cream (12.3 oz.) (with 50% fat)
  • 150 gr/ml regular milk (5.3 oz.) (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, whisking smoothly after each addition until just incorporated. Do not over-whisk, or else it will turn into whipped cream; stop when the cream is smooth and preferably with a pourable consistency.

Proceed with the recipe, just as if you had the 500 gr heavy cream needed. All the other ingredients remain the same.

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.

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 five (5) egg yolks from 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. 

The egg yolks should be fridge-cold when you pour the boiling cream onto them, or else they may scramble.

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 1 is useful for easily pouring  the boiling cream with one hand, while whisking the eggs vigorously with the other.

Bonus tip: if the bowl with the eggs is lightweight, put a towel under it, to keep it in place while whisking.

Step 1: Prepare the custard

Prepare your workplace; place a plate with a rubber spatula on it next to the stovetop; this will come in handy for interchangeably placing the spatula and the whisk while making the custard.

Sift the cocoa powder (40 gr; 1.3 oz.; 1/2 cup) 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.

Prepare the egg yolks: put the cold egg yolks (100 gr; 3.5 oz.) in a large 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 sugar: place all the heavy cream (500 gr; 17.6 oz; 2 cups & 2 Tbs.) and the sugar (150 gr; 5.3 oz; 3/4 cup) in a medium saucepan. Warm over medium heat, stirring often with a silicone spatula, until the sugar dissolves.

Increase the heat to medium-high and remove the egg yolks from the fridge. If the bowl with the egg yolks is lightweight, put a damp towel underneath to keep it in place while you pour the boiling cream inside. 

Pour the boiling cream in the egg yolks: when the cream comes to a full boil (large bubbles start to 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 cream 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 cream boil for too long, the loss of water will disturb the balance of the recipe. The result? Your ice cream may take forever to set and will melt rapidly as soon as you serve it. This happens because the ratio of the sugar in the final ice cream mixture will be more than it should.

Do not worry about it too much, through; just be mindful while the cream 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 scrape the bottom and inner 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.

Add the cocoa powder while the custard is boiling hot, and whisk to dissolve.

Blend with a stick blender/regular blender until smooth and no tiny clumps of cocoa are left in the custard; pause to thoroughly scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl/blender with the rubber spatula; then blend again for one minute.

Step 2: Strain and chill the custard

Strain the custard over a fine mesh sieve and into a bowl; after straining, there will be custard stuck beneath the sieve: release it into the bowl with the rest of the custard by gently tapping the sieve over the bowl and scrapping its bottom from beneath with the rubber spatula.

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 custard in it, taking care that no water slips into it. Leave it to cool down for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Chill thoroughly: before you whip it, the custard should be thoroughly cold. To chill it, use one of the two methods below (click on methods to read more):

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

Step 3: Whip the custard
Pour the chilled custard into the bowl of a stand or hand-held mixer.

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 whip for longer and to acquire a better texture.

Whip the custard: with the whisk attachment on, start whipping at low speed and gradually increase the speed to high. Beat until soft peaks form and it is dollopable: this is when the waves that the whisk leaves on the surface of the cream stay there, instead of disappearing in the cream.

Step 4: Freeze until firm

Transfer the whipped custard into a freezable container. Cover well and put it in the freezer until completely firm and set, preferably overnight. 

If using as a filling in a mould, ice cream sandwich or a torte, use it directly after whipping. Freeze for 24 hours before cutting/unmoulding.

The setting time for this no-churn ice cream depends on your freezer. It is most likely that it will take 6-8 hours, but it is recommended to let it fully set overnight; you can tell if the ice cream has properly set, if you insert a knife into it and it is hard to go all the way to the bottom*. When it is set, you can soften it to a scoopable consistency, by putting it in the refrigerator for one hour, which will finally give the best texture and mouthfeel to this ice cream. 

* if the ice cream is not ready yet, when you insert a knife, it will feel hard on the top and softer as you go down. In this case, you have to let it set for longer.

Storage and serving
Storage: in the freezer for one month, covered well to protect it from absorbing the freezer’s smells.
Scooping: before serving, soften it to a perfectly scoopable consistency, by putting it in the refrigerator for 1 hour (or 30 minutes if it is freshly made).

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 1 is useful for easily pouring  the boiling cream with one hand, while whisking the eggs vigorously with the other.

Bonus tip: if the bowl with the eggs is lightweight, put a towel under it, to keep it in place while whisking.

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