Ice cream sandwiches are as much a part of summer as rain is to spring and bicycles to childhood.
These classic hot-weather treats remind me of drinking from the hose, piles of bikes discarded in front yards, sitting on the front porch, and licking the sticky, sweet chocolate cake from my fingertips, while creamy vanilla ice cream melts down my wrist.
Ice cream sandwiches are an easy-to-make quintessential summer treat. Be the hero of your neighborhood block party, and bring them out to enjoy while the kids chase fireflies and the adults revel in nostalgia.
What Is an Ice Cream Sandwich?
There’s no denying this is a simple dessert: a block of vanilla ice cream, sandwiched between two layers of soft, chocolatey cake.
For this recipe, I made a thin brownie base to use as the chocolate cake layers, and stayed with traditional vanilla ice cream, but feel free to mix it up. Strawberry ice cream, mint chip, caramel, or almost any flavor in between would be delicious. What doesn’t pair well with a brownie?
Once frozen, the brownie remains soft enough to bite through without the ice cream squishing out on the sides—this is an ice cream sandwich requirement in my book. If you want the sandwich even softer, let it sit out for about a minute. Of course, if you’re hitting triple digits outside, 30 seconds might be enough.
How to Make the Brownies
I wanted this to be pretty simple and straightforward. Use a jelly roll pan (a baking sheet with sides) lined with parchment paper. Spread a thin layer of brownie batter over the parchment, and bake! When the brownies cool, trim and cut them to size.
What’s the Best Ice Cream for Ice Cream Sandwiches?
The key is to soften the ice cream so it's easy to spread on the brownie base, then top it with the other half of the brownie base—after which, you freeze and cut it into individual sandwiches. The edges may not be perfectly clean, but it's an ice cream sandwich. No one really cares.
If you’re using homemade ice cream for this sandwich recipe, you don't need to worry about softening it. Freshly made homemade ice cream has the same texture as soft serve when it's fresh from the ice cream maker.
If you’re using store-bought ice cream, which is used for this version, I would keep a few things in mind.
High-end ice cream melts faster than its less expensive counterparts. It has fewer commercial stabilizers in it. If you go with a top-notch brand, you may not need to wait as long for it to soften.
What’s the Best Pan Size to Use?
Okay! If there’s one part that may be a bit tricky, it’s probably pan size. Jelly roll pans come in various shapes and sizes. I used a 16x11-inch pan. It worked great.
Your pan might be slightly larger or smaller. A 15x11-inch pan would be perfect. If your pan is much smaller, I would divide the batter in half among two pans, or do it in batches. If your pan is much larger, I would make a fake side by folding aluminum foil and placing it in the pan so the inside of the pan measures 16x11 or 15x11. Don’t worry about a fraction of an inch here or there. We don’t have to be too precious about this.
I did try baking these in a 9x13-inch cake pan, but the brownie was just too thick. Stick with the jelly roll pan.
Jazz Up Your Ice Cream Sandwiches
If the basic chocolate and vanilla combo isn’t spectacular enough for your freak flag side, or you’re looking for a way to include the kids, break out some sprinkles, sanding sugar, mini chocolate chips, and nuts. Press the sides of the ice cream into any of the above, wrap, and freeze.
Try These Ice Cream Recipes
Classic Ice Cream Sandwiches
- 1 cup (130g) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
- 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (200g) firmly packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 gallon ice cream, any flavor
Prepare the oven and pan:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom of the jelly roll pan, then line it with parchment, leaving enough to hang over the sides. The butter will help the parchment stick to the pan when you spread the batter. The jelly roll pan should be about 15x11, give or take a little on either side.
Combine dry ingredients:
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Set aside.
Make the chocolate sauce:
In a medium saucepan set over low heat, slowly melt the butter, chocolate, vanilla, and salt together, stirring constantly. Once melted, remove from heat.
Finish the batter:
Stir the brown and white sugars into the chocolate mixture. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring until well combined. Fold in the flour mixture.
Spread the batter in the pan:
Using an offset spatula or standard spatula, spread the batter into a thin, even layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. When finished, the brownie should have puffed up just a little, and the top should look dry.
Cool and cut the brownie slab:
Let cool completely. Once cool, use the parchment sides to lift the brownie slab out of the pan. Transfer to a large cutting board.
Cut the brownie in half down the middle from north to south. Use an offset spatula or knife and run it between brownie slabs and the parchment. Put one brownie on top of the next just to make sure the top is the same size as the bottom. Trim about 1/4 of an inch off each side so you have smooth even edges.
Prepare to assemble the ice cream sandwiches:
You are going to make one large ice cream sandwich, wrap it, freeze it, and then cut into individual ice cream sandwiches a little later.
To do this: Place a piece of plastic wrap over the baking sheet. Leave enough hanging over the edges to wrap the entire brownie once you've finished assembling the ice cream sandwich.
Place one of the brownie slabs on the plastic wrap.
Soften the ice cream:
About 15 minutes before you plan to assemble the ice cream sandwiches, remove the ice cream from the freezer to soften on your kitchen counter. It should be soft enough to scoop and spread, but not so soft that it's melting and runny.
Assemble the ice cream sandwiches:
Spread the softened ice cream in an even layer over the brownie slab on the plastic wrap lined baking sheet. Top with remaining brownie slab. Wrap in the plastic wrap, and freeze for at least two hours.
Slice into individual ice cream sandwiches:
Remove the ice cream sandwich from the freezer. Place on cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut into 6 rectangle or 12 square-shaped ice cream sandwiches. Re-wrap in plastic wrap and freeze.
When an ice cream (or brownie) craving kicks in just go to your freezer and grab a sandwich!