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Getting started with homemade ice cream

Written by editor Nicole Bennett of Gidget Goes Home.

When a Simple Homemade reader, Kate, recently told me she was given an ice cream maker bow, and asked if I had any tips for her, I figured it was time to share my story.  

I‘m coming up upon my three year anniversary with my love affair with homemade ice cream. I got my ice cream maker bowl a little while before that, but it was my twenty-ninth birthday, in February of 2010, when I really got hooked.

Who says you have to be served on your special day? My birthday was coming up, and I wanted to throw a party for some of my dearest friends. I’d always loved ice cream, and even tried to make it myself once or twice– what better way to get acquainted with my ice cream maker bowl, and do something special to celebrate, than to pick a few recipes, and create a little spread for celebrating?

I hadn’t even begun to scratch the surface of the plethora of homemade ice cream recipes out there in the world yet, so I simply went to the woman who knows something about everything in the realm of Homemade, Martha. I picked up her Classics cookbook, and chose three fruity flavors that would bring a summery flair to my winter birthday.

I planned out how many days I would need to make three flavors… each flavor would require time to defrost the bowl afterwards for at least a night, and then a good fifteen hours to refreeze it before I could use my bowl again. So about a week before, I got started on my first flavor.

The recipes were a bit intimidating, with lots of steps, and I was nervous at first– how would I know when the custard was done? Would my ice cream thicken and freeze nicely, or remain liquidy and get icy? There was no way to know if I didn’t buy the milk and cream and go for it.

When my first few batches turned out as a success, I was on the hunt for more flavors to try, natural sweeteners to experiment with, and recipes to tweak and make my own.

At night, when my daughter, almost three at the time, was asleep, I would bring out the mixing bowls. Because most of the recipes require cooking the mixture to some degree, it would often sit in my fridge chilling, until morning until Gigi would drag a chair to the kitchen counter to watch me pour the mixture into the frozen bowl.

I’d drape my Kitchen-aid with a towel to help keep the cool air in around the bowl, and we’d listen, impatiently, to the whir of the mixer as it churned my creamy mixture into dreamy, rich ice cream.

And that’s the thing with homemade ice cream. It is amazingly rich and creamy. It’s what a dessert should be like, honestly. A small bowl with a tricolor selection of homemade flavors satisfies the palate in ways that no commercially-made, store-bought ice cream ever will, because of its richness, it’s creaminess, and the freshness of flavors.

Many friends and family members have experienced homemade ice cream now because of my experimenting, whether by way of Ice Cream Sundays, as a gift, or just dessert after dinner, and it’s a simple pleasure I’m happy to share.

I won’t say I won’t indulge in a large bowl of whatever my parents have in their freezer (I’m only human), but after three years of developing a love for homemade ice cream, I’ve become quite the connoisseur of high-quality ice cream. P.S. When I’m not eating ice cream I made? I keep Trader Joe’s ice cream on hand. It’s made with simple ingredients and is akin to something I might have made.

Ingredients I can’t pronounce and artificial colors simply will not completely satisfy me now that I’ve tasted and seen the faint hue of green in milk that’s been infused with real mint leaves, or the hint of coral-pink that ensues from pouring freshly-squeezed blood orange juice into custard.

Flavors melding, texture developing, mixing, heating, cooling, freezing… there’s truly an art to homemade ice cream– it’s called artisan oftentimes for a reason– and while I’ve always loved eating this creamy frozen dessert, I now officially consider making it a hobby.

View the recipes I made at my birthday shindig three years ago here.

A few tips for the ice cream maker:

  • I love my Kitchenaid bowl attachment. In fact, I just got a second one (Thanks, Mom and Dad!) so I can now make multitple batches without having to defrost, wash and refreeze between every batch. I’ll keep them both in my chest freezer and I love not having to store another appliance in my too-small kitchen cupboards.
  • The colder your mixture is the better. You want your bowl to freeze the mixture, not the mixture to defrost your bowl. Make sure you chill your mixture as much as possible before freezing it. Like I mentioned before, I drape my mixer with a clean kitchen towel to help keep the cold in.
  • Find a good base recipe if you want to experiment with your own flavors. I’ll share some of my favorite recipes with you next week.
  • Freeze your ice cream for a few hours before serving or your ice cream will only be soft-set. I store mine in old Baskin-Robbins 1-quart containers (seems appropriate), yogurt containers or large plastic tubs, and give them as gifts in my Sweet Bliss containers.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment with alternative sweeteners. Ice cream is very forgiving I find. I always substitute brown rice syrup for light corn syrup if a recipe calls for it with great success, and have made ice creams with turbinado sugar, honey, coconut palm sugar and maple syrup.

Are you an ice cream maker? Be sure to leave a question in the comments if you’re curious about something, and I’ll try to help.

Reading Time:

4 minutes





  1. Breanne :: This Vintage Moment

    I have yet to make ice-cream but you make it seem simple enough and inspiring…just buy milk and cream and start. =)
    What would you recommend if one doesn’t have a kitchen aid mixer? I have a Bosch mixer that I use for almost everything else.
    I also love the idea of throwing yourself a party with a fun theme. =)

    • Nicole

      I don’t have experience with any others, but I’ve heard good things about Cuisenart!

  2. Heather

    Yum! My mom used to make homemade ice cream with a hand crank machine. It was absolutely delicious, and seriously the richest dessert I have ever had. I don’t have an ice cream maker, so I haven’t tried. I think this summer I might try my hand at making ice cream without an ice cream maker…I know I have seen a way to do that somewhere!

    • Nicole

      See Hazel’s comment below. I’ve also seen recipes that refer to making it without a ice cream maker- just google it and I’m sure you’ll find tips. It won’t be as light and airy because the special bowls churn a bit of air into the mixture, but I’m sure it will be just as tasty.

  3. Hazel

    I can take or leave supermarket ice cream, but I love homemade ice cream. I have a Kenwood Chef with an ice cream attachment, so virtually identical to your Kitchen Aid.
    For those without an ice cream maker you can freeze the ice cream and then get it out to beat a few times when partially frozen, or try this Nigella Lawson recipe which needs no beating once it’s in the freezer.
    It makes the most gorgeous ice cream ever- one of my children’s favourites. If you don’t have Seville oranges you can use sweet oranges and lime, or try this version
    Fabulous colour!
    For Ice Cream for Breakfast Day today, I made Spiced Apple ice cream, which also didn’t need a machine. Cook and puree 1lb eating apples with a spoonful of butter, 2 tbsp water and a cinnamon stick (or add ground cinnamon or mixed spice to taste), stir in 2 tbsp sugar then add 2 beaten egg yolks and cook gently until thickened. Cool. Whisk 1/4 pint double (heavy) cream and 1/4 pint single (?light ?half and half) cream until peaking and mix with cooled apple mix. Freeze until half frozen, fold in 2 stiffly beaten egg whites and freeze until firm. Yum!

  4. Kimberly

    I highly recommend David Lebovitz’s ice cream book “The Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments ” for anyone interested in homemade ice cream.

    • Nicole

      Yep, that is one I will be recommending in my resources post. I finally got it for Christmas, but have been a fan of his for a long time!

  5. Alissa

    Thanks for this! My husband and I have both been craving ice cream lately, but I keep avoiding the frozen aisle in the grocery store… seems like a great excuse to break out the ice cream maker we got for our wedding, but seldom use. Sounds like a great project to enjoy with the kids, too!

    • Nicole

      Have fun! Yes, my kids love watching it churn magically from a thick liquid into ice cream. Definitely some science in action there. 🙂

  6. Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm

    Oh no! I’ve been avoiding the ice cream bowl temptation… but I just clicked through your link, and it’s only $81 on Amazon right now!!! Hmmm. A Valentine’s present to myself? 🙂

    • Nicole

      Happy Valentine’s Day to you and have fun!!

  7. Joyce

    Why do I not know about this KitchenAid attachment?! We always have ice cream stocked. I love the idea of Ice Cream Sundays too. 🙂

    • Nicole

      It is the best invention for the Kitchen Aid! Wish you were closer and we’d have you over for Ice Cream Sunday!!

  8. Natalie

    We love making ice cream and try do so often in the summer. It is soo delicious!

  9. Jamie

    We have a Cuisinart ice cream maker and love it. I have yet to make any recipes involving cooking and cooling the mix first. has very creative Real Food ice cream recipes and even tells you how to make it without a special machine. Our favorite has been cinnamon maple ice cream – DELICIOUS!

  10. charmingdate

    Nice to be here and see your post! Thank you for sharing so much!

  11. Renee

    Yummm! Homemade ice cream 🙂 I had asked for the Kitchen Aid attachment but my Grandma misunderstood, so I go the Cuisinart stand-alone ice cream mixer and I’m very happy with it. I make vanilla most often but I’d love to branch out with other flavors – I guess I just get lazy! Oh, and speaking of lazy, I don’t even make the kind that you have to cook – I just mix cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla and then freeze.

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