How To

How To Make Ice Cream: The Sweet Cream Base

The place to start when making ice cream is with the Sweet Cream Base. It contains the basic ingredients for lots of recipes, and then you can add flavorings to make whatever you want.

A great book to start with is Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book. It’s filled with no-nonsense recipes that are easy to make, and taste fantastic. Their recipe for the Sweet Cream Base is a pretty common one, and I’ve used it enough times to have it memorized. I like recipes with eggs because I think they make a creamier, more custard-like texture, but see the second recipe below if you want to make an ice cream without eggs.

If you’re looking to duplicate your favorite super-premium ice cream, this is the one you’ll want:

Ben & Jerry’s Sweet Cream Base #1

2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup whole milk

(makes about one quart)

The basic process:

  • Mix the cream and milk together and heat over medium-low heat.
  • While that’s heating, use an electric mixer and beat the eggs in a separate bowl, until they turn lighter in color.
  • Slowly add the sugar while whisking the eggs. I usually use an electric mixer in one hand and then use the other hand to pour the sugar in a little bit at a time. When it’s all in there, mix it a minute or so more.
  • When the cream/milk mix reaches about 140° F (60° C), remove it from the heat. While whisking the egg/sugar mix, slowly add small amounts of the cream/milk mix until about a third of the cream and milk have been added. (This is called “tempering”, and prevents the eggs from being scrambled in the high heat.) Then pour in the rest of the cream and milk and mix it all together.
  • Then continue heating it to kill anything that shouldn’t be in there, especially salmonella, which is a nasty bacteria that can come from raw eggs and make people pretty sick. Heating the mix also gives the ice cream a “cooked” flavor, like the taste of warm milk. Heat the mix over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until it reaches 175° F (79° C) and hold it there for at least 25 seconds (the FDA’s official requirement for pasteurization).
  • Strain the mix into a container and let it cool for a bit before adding extracts that might evaporate. Add a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract, pure peppermint extract, or ground cinnamon at this point to make those easy flavors.
  • Chill the mix until it’s below 40° F (5° C). This is important, because the mix needs to be chilled before it’s run through the machine, so it freezes faster. The faster the mix freezes, the smaller the ice crystals will be, and the smoother the texture. You can chill it covered in the fridge, or if you’re in a hurry, either stir the mix in a metal bowl that’s inside another metal bowl containing ice water, or use my latest favorite method and put the mix in a zip-top plastic bag and then dunk that in a bowl of ice water.
  • If you have a machine with a built-in freezer, turn it on and let it get good and cold. If you have a machine that uses a frozen bowl, be sure it’s completely frozen — some people say it can take 24 hours or more. Then turn on the motor so the dasher starts spinning, and pour in the mix.
  • It’ll take about 30 minutes, more or less, to churn. You’ll probably be able to hear the motor slowing down when it gets close, and you should probably stop it before it really starts having trouble, just so you don’t damage it. The ice cream will come out like stiff soft-serve ice cream.
  • If you have other things to mix into the ice cream like candy, nuts, or chocolate, you can sometimes add them to the mix in the machine, but I’ve found that it’s easier to just freeze the ice cream by itself and then fold in the ingredients afterward — and if you’re mixing in something soft like cookies, or something you want to swirl in, you’ll want to use this method anyway. Use a pre-chilled spoon to get all the ice cream out of the machine and into a bowl that’s been chilled in the freezer. My favorite bowl for this job is ceramic because it holds the cold a lot longer than metal, and is three liters in size to give enough room to work in.
  • Get all of the ice cream into pre-chilled containers and into the freezer as quickly as possible. Put it in the coldest part of the freezer, which is usually near the air vents at the back. After a few hours in the freezer, the ice cream will harden and be like what you buy in the store. I use cardboard ice cream containers that freeze quickly and look great. Plus you can write the flavor and the date on the lid.
  • Of course, you could also just eat it right out of the machine. Especially if it’s the first batch you’ve ever made. ;-)

A quicker way:

If the whole idea of cooking the mix just seems like too much work, you might see if you can find pasteurized eggs where you live. You’ll be able to skip all the heating parts completely, and go straight to the ice cream machine. Take a look at my post about pasteurized eggs for more info.

Or you can try Ben & Jerry’s second base recipe, which doesn’t use eggs, and therefore doesn’t require cooking.  They say it’s a super-premium recipe with 25% butterfat but needs to be eaten right away since it tends to turn icy in the freezer.

Ben & Jerry’s Sweet Cream Base #2

2 cups heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup half-and-half

(makes about one quart)

Whisk the cream while slowly adding the sugar a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about one minute more. Then pour in the milk and whisk to blend.

So go make a batch and report back!


47 comments for “How To Make Ice Cream: The Sweet Cream Base”

  1. Lori Kelso wrote:

    SWEEEEET! I was just thinking about homemade ice cream the other day, when my husband ate the whole quart our neighbors brought over and never shared. I think he may qualify as an Ice Cream Geek, too! Now, do you have a recipe for frozen custard? I remember going with mom in Beaumont to get it, and it was the most awesome thing evah!!

    July 22, 2009, 6:04 pm
  2. Bob wrote:

    Do you use the whole egg, as most recipes i’ve seen just use the yolks?

    April 30, 2010, 10:31 am
  3. Yvette wrote:

    Great recipe. I made half a recipe. I do not have a ice machine, but this is what I did. I mixed the sugar with 1/8 tsp xantan gum and added that to the eggs. (I have a kitchen aid mixer, so that turned out quite fluffy. Mixed that with the hot mixture etc. Added 1/2 tsp vanilla and some cinnamon (love cinn icecream). Froze the whole mix overnight, fluffed up with the kitchenaid again, and froze again. Nicely scoopable and really yummie!

    June 13, 2010, 2:06 pm
  4. Russell wrote:

    Bob: yes, I generally use the whole egg, but I’ve experimented with just using the yolks, also. From what I can tell it doesn’t make a huge difference, but I suppose if you were doing something special like using a half dozen eggs, it might be better to just use the yolks. Let me know if you find out anything more on it.


    November 3, 2010, 9:43 am
  5. Gemini wrote:

    If I don’t add vanilla or cinnamon to the cream, half & half mixture will it taste similar to the Sweet Cream flavor from Marble Slab or Cold Stone? That is the flavor I want to learn to make because it is by far my favorite.

    November 26, 2010, 7:55 am
  6. Angelica Baeza wrote:

    Thanks for this post. I wish I had found it last night. I have the Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream recipe book. I was confused looking at the sweet cream base #1 recipe because it did not have instructions for cooking the base. However, in sweet cream base recipe #2 it states it was unlike the others because it did not need to be cooked!! Anyway, I proceeded to follow the recipe w/o cooking it, and you can imagine, we are not enjoying Blueberry ice-cream today.

    Thanks again, Angelica

    June 19, 2011, 12:39 pm
  7. Layla wrote:

    I usually steal soup containers from a grocery store salad bar whenever I buy my ice cream making ingredients. They’re the same as ice cream containers so long as u don’t mind the grocery store designs

    June 29, 2011, 7:00 pm
  8. Jessica wrote:

    I made the mix, heated on medium-low heat for 25 minutes, it got up to 175 F. I cooled the mix in an ice bath for an hour inside the fridge and when in poured it into my mixer it smelled like egg, almost like rotten eggs. The eggs are fresh from whole foods today, I used fresh cream and fresh milk, all bought today. Is that scent normal?

    July 5, 2011, 7:19 pm
  9. Jessica wrote:

    Update, best texture i’ve ever seen and felt in an ice cream but the smell of rotten eggs was over powered by the sour taste of the ice cream. I don’t know what went wrong, I even used a thermometer.

    July 5, 2011, 7:34 pm
  10. Russell wrote:

    Hi Jessica,

    Wow, that’s really strange, I haven’t heard of that before. I can only think of two reasons why that could happen… Either there was some kind of strange smell in your fridge that got into your mix, or the eggs were bad. And if you don’t smell anything strange in your fridge, or you had the mix covered, then I’d have to go with the bad egg theory. If you figure it out, let us know. Good luck!


    July 5, 2011, 9:54 pm
  11. Jessica wrote:

    Russell, I wish I knew. I checked the eggs even though I bought them on July 4th and they’re good. I am very unsure but since I wonder if I overcooked them or did something funny with them, I’m buying pasteurized eggs today. They sell them locally and they’re about 50¢ more than regular eggs. i think I can handle the cost. I won’t have to cook them and I won’t worry about any bacteria. I’ll be serving the ice cream to a child every now and then and it’s hard trying to tell her it’s only for grown ups who are healthy because of the raw eggs. A 6 year old only hears “no ice cream!” :)

    As for fridge smells, I considered that until I realized, I poured the mix into a zip loc bag sitting in an ice bath. It’s the way Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream book tells you to “rapid cool” the mix. the mix was ready for the ice cream mixer in 30 minutes, but I gave it an hour to ensure it was cold enough. I also don’t see anything that could cause a scent in the fridge, but that doesn’t mean there could not be one. I’m going to try again tonight, will provide an update. I’m dying to try this once more and hopefully I see that same texture and thickness, it was amazing.

    July 6, 2011, 8:56 am
  12. Jessica wrote:

    Well, I found pasteurized eggs and made the base again, it seems to have worked well. It is more airy, I used an electric mixer to whisk the eggs and such. I also don’t think it was as cold as it could have been but I had an impatient 6 year old who had to get to bed. All in all I’m happy with the results. Can’t wait to see how it freezes.

    July 6, 2011, 9:01 pm
  13. Kim wrote:

    I’ve had that happen before. Your curdled the eggs. It’s important to let the cream mixture cool down by adding a small amount of the yolks while constantly whipping so that the eggs don’t “curdle”. When you curdle the eggs, that’s all you can smell or taste. When don’t correctly, the mixture becomes very smooth.

    I found your blog looking for dairy free, gluten free ice cream. BTW, for me, eggs are not dairy. They come from poultry now cows.


    July 19, 2011, 9:07 am
  14. Tara wrote:

    Jessica, I’m agreeing with Kim. It sounds as though your eggs didn’t temper properly and therefore curdled. You may have also burned your milk which smells pretty bad (though not like rotten eggs). Just make sure to add small amounts of the hot milk mixture to the eggs while whisking. I used a ladle and put about half a ladle full into the eggs while whisking and continued adding half ladles until about half of the milk mixture was in the eggs. Then I just poured the eggs in the milk while whisking.

    Thanks for the recipe! We’re having it with strawberry pie tonight for a barbeque! yum!

    August 19, 2011, 2:22 pm
  15. EG wrote:

    I also think this is just more eggy than what I’m used to. I carefully tempered the egg/ sugar mixture and used a thermometer in cooking the base. The base was perfectly smooth, but smelled very eggy.

    Churned and frozen it’s still eggy, but not unpleasantly. It’s like a custard, I guess.

    Can’t wait to look at more of your blog posts! Thanks!

    August 19, 2011, 7:47 pm
  16. Steve Capelli wrote:


    I agree with Kim on the eggs being curdled and also that fact that if you had the ziplock bag sealed they heat wasn’t aloud to escape and your liquid spoiled. NEVER cover or close anything hot and put it directly in the fridge. ALWAYS keep a lid cracked open for heat and moister to escape and always give a stir or shake while cooling something off. That shaking or stirring also helps stop the inner core of the food from spoiling and cools it down faster.

    September 3, 2011, 11:12 am
  17. Tengil wrote:

    If making a non-cooking ice cream… What about whipping the cream fairly stiff before mixing in the milk/egg/sugar-mixture?

    September 22, 2011, 6:42 am
  18. Denise wrote:

    I think I solved the icy problem of the second recipe. It does require cooking, which takes the “no-cook” novelty, which to me is really no big deal. Just mix up a cornstarch slurry (1 tsp each water and cornstarch), heat your cream to a simmer, add the slurry, and cook gently for five minutes to cook out the flavor of the cornstarch. Then, you can just follow the instructions from where they start. I tried this the other day, and it was creamy, rich, and smooth, and not at all icy. It was such a hit, I’m making more this afternoon!

    Great recipe, thanks!

    October 20, 2011, 5:28 pm
  19. Ron Amos wrote:

    I tried using the butterfat calculator on the Ben and Jerry’s eggless base recipie – with two cups whipping cream at 36% butterfat and 2/3 cup half and half at 12% butterfat, by my caluclation there, it would be a 30% butterfat ice cream.

    I’ve calculated this mix would be 75% cream and 25% half and half, by volume. What’s wrong with this picture? Thanks for any clarity.

    October 22, 2011, 12:39 pm
  20. Russell wrote:

    Hi Ron,

    I think the problem is that you’re not including the 3/4 cup sugar from the recipe in your calculations. Remember that the percentage butterfat is by weight, so the sugar is important since it changes the total weight of the recipe. When I enter the cream, half-and-half, and sugar into my Ice Cream Butterfat Calculator, I get 24.8%, which is a bit more reasonable.

    The Base #1 recipe above with eggs comes out to 19.1%. I think the extra butterfat in the eggless recipe helps compensate for the lack of eggs.


    December 29, 2011, 12:13 pm
  21. Sam F wrote:

    How did you know to cook Base #1? The recipe book does not say to do so. Nor did it say to use pasterized eggs. This was the 1st ice cream recipe book I reviewed and purchased. Based on the recipe, you mix the ingredients and add to maker. Luckily, the ice cream maker had a recipe book that used eggs and every recipe required you to cook.

    January 2, 2012, 12:00 pm
  22. Russell wrote:

    Hi Sam,

    Yes, you’re right, the book says nothing about cooking recipes with eggs, or the risk of salmonella. I think they leave it to the reader to decide whether they’re concerned about it or not.

    I’ve read that the risk is pretty low, and a lot of people don’t worry about it. But since pasteurized eggs are easy for me to find, it’s just as easy for me to use them and not have to worry about someone getting sick eating my ice cream — and I can skip the cooking part completely.

    I guess you’ll have to decide for yourself which way you want to go on it.


    January 2, 2012, 1:35 pm
  23. Sam F wrote:


    Thank you for such quick feedback. I think I will use the pasterized eggs next time. However, does using the raw egg leave a egg taste to the ice cream?

    January 2, 2012, 1:57 pm
  24. Russell wrote:


    I haven’t noticed any difference in taste or consistency either way. The only difference I’ve found is the strong “cooked milk” taste from cooking the recipe, which people seem to love or hate. It’s sure a lot easier not having to cook it though.


    January 2, 2012, 2:03 pm
  25. Chee-Hing wrote:

    regarding the issue of eggy smelling or eggy tasting ice cream custard, you may be interested to know that beaten whole egg coagulates at about 155 F ( 68 C) although the addition of sugar (in this case) would raise the coagulation temperature to a certain extent.
    The English chef Heston Blumenthal advised that an ice cream custard based on egg yolks be heated up to only 149 F ( 65 C) to avoid the eggy taste issue. Egg yolks coagulate at about 149 F – 158 F ( 65 C – 70 C) and egg whites coagulate at about 140 F – 158 F ( 60 C – 65 C)
    If you are worried about food safety you could try to adjust the heat and hold the temperature of the custard at 149 F (65 C) for a minute or so.
    Apparently the most heat resistant strain of salmonella is significantly destroyed when exposed to a temperature of 130 F ( 55 C ) for 2.5 minutes.

    January 8, 2012, 7:25 am
  26. CVC wrote:

    I had the same eggy smelling problem. I actually made my base with vanilla soy and also almond milk (for lactose intolerance). I’m wondering though if this is even safe to eat. Thoughts?

    January 12, 2012, 11:42 pm
  27. Ann Stover wrote:

    The uncooked recipe was fantastic. Thanks a bunch!

    June 22, 2012, 12:43 pm
  28. Kevin Bergin wrote:

    My favorite part of Ben’s book (and there are a LOT of parts I like) is when he’s talking about what to do with all of those extra egg whites:

    “I store them, covered in the refrigerator. About 30 days later, I throw them away.”


    August 14, 2012, 5:07 pm
  29. Rajeev wrote:

    I love that part! My mom got me the book about 15 years ago, and I pored over it, memorizing the anecdotes. That’s categorically the best one and I’m always quoting it when I make a french custard and friends are hovering nearby. Classic.

    September 19, 2012, 8:31 am
  30. Kevin Smith wrote:

    What if I used a stabilizer (my brother has Cremodan 30) to recipe #2 — would that keep the ice crystals at bay?

    January 30, 2013, 11:06 am
  31. Robin wrote:

    I recently acquired a cream separator so we can start making/selling goat cream, butter, and possibly ice cream.

    The cream consistancy adjustment seems to have no effect and my cream always comes out very rich. It has the consistancy of refrigerated heavy whipping cream but it’s around body temp. When I refrigerate it it’s so heavy you can turn the jar upside down and nothing happens.. it’s solid.

    I need to get it tested so I can mix skim back in to get it to the proper “heavy” whipping cream ratio.

    I’m going to make some ice cream tonight anyway and just try to guesstimate it :)

    March 9, 2013, 1:44 am
  32. Karen Danzer wrote:

    I work for a small dairy and I’m trying to decide on a recipe for our ice cream . We are using our own milk cow or goat and I’m not sure if I should use a stabelize like Carrageenan or Guar Gum or eggs. It will be mixed and pastuerized together chilled then put in a batch freezer.

    May 15, 2013, 8:15 am
  33. Margret wrote:

    This recipe is amazing! I put bits of chocolate chip cookie dough in the ice cream and it tasted great! Thanks, I will definetly be making this ice cream again :)

    May 19, 2013, 5:25 am
  34. Tracy wrote:

    I made this recipe for the 4th of July. I modified as follows: I used 6 PASTEURIZED egg yolks and doubled all of the other ingredients, but did NOT cook the mixture. I’m one of those people who doesn’t like the cooked milk taste. When I was a kid we *gasp* used raw eggs in our homemade ice cream all the time, but I felt better about using pasteurized. To me, that’s the way homemade ice cream is supposed to taste. It was well worth the effort! With my double batch I did half vanilla (with a real vanilla bean and some pure vanilla extract) and the other half with chocolate malt ovaltine and some malted milk powder. I did end up adding some additional whole milk to the chocolate version because it was so sweet from the malt powder. I also drizzled in some vegetable glycerine to both to help keep the ice cream scoopable after being in the freezer overnight, and it worked like a charm. The vanilla is less hard than the chocolate because the butterfat content is higher due to having more cream, but both are scoopable and delicious. I’m going to make some homemade ice cream sandwiches for my kids with it! Yum!

    July 5, 2013, 6:15 pm
  35. tony wrote:

    Has anybody used duck eggs or goose eggs when making this. Reading about the different type of eggs I just think the ice cream will taste better. Let me know ….there is an ostrich farm near by and I think i am going to try it lol.

    August 18, 2013, 11:16 pm
  36. Cookingdiamond wrote:

    After having a complete disaster with a recipe that used eight egg yolks, a friend pointed me in the direction of Ben and Gerry,s sweet cream recipe. I have just made the custard and this time I used the thermometer . Wow, absolutely perfect and just the flavour I was looking for, I hate that overly eggy taste you get sometimes. It is very sweet but I know that freezing will “lose” that too sweet taste. Can,t wait to. Churn it tomorrow. I have bought an ice cream attachment for my KA mixer and it will be my first attempt , so fingers crossed. Will report

    August 23, 2013, 6:09 am
  37. Robert Keller Florida wrote:

    OK, doubled the mixture exactly, used 6 whole Madagascar beans, scraping the flake, and added 3/8 xanthan gum, wonderful. I started making my own ice cream after the kids could not read the label on the side of the major store bought brands, I like that we have only 5 items in the ice cream base plus Calabaut chocolate, melted and poured in the churner at the last min. wonderful chip style.

    September 27, 2013, 7:13 pm
  38. Arja wrote:

    What is vegetable glycerin? When you use pasteurized eggs, you don’t cook the base, correct? Do you then still refrigerate it before churning?
    Does this recipe scale up well?

    November 12, 2013, 11:29 am
  39. Beverly wrote:

    Re: Eggy Taste. The diet fed to chickens may be comprised of various ingredients that effect the flavor of the eggs; ingredients such as fish oil to add omega 3s(a good thing but may add a fishy taste especially when cooked), as well as soy and other miscellaneous items. Best eggs to use; cage free eggs from chicken that are Free Ranged-where they can eat the things chickens are supposed to eat. Visit a local farm for these eggs, but ask the farmer about the chicken feed if you are concerned about what is contained in his chicken fed.

    January 31, 2014, 10:08 am
  40. Aila wrote:

    Great recipe. Very creamy and decadent.Makes a great dessert with a fresh berry fruit sauce.

    May 19, 2014, 5:54 pm
  41. Helene Wilson wrote:

    So, I learned to make ice cream in a Baking 101 course offered at a local school w/ a culinary program. I even received a Kitchen Aid ice cream maker for Christmas, but I barely used it (because it froze hard as a rock). Enter this website: OMG! I think I make ice cream every week and people constantly tell me I should open an ice cream parlor. I pull from what I learned in school, but I learned SO much more on this site. THANK YOU for such solid information. Ordering the cardboard containers fixed the “rock-hard problem.” I have now used HUNDREDS of them. I justed ordered guar gum to try to make strawberry ice cream. It was not until today when Googling and coming across the site again that I realized just how much I learned from this ONE site. I will recommend for sure!

    October 8, 2014, 9:44 pm
  42. Christofar wrote:

    Please be noted milky smell is very strong in sweet cream and French vanilla ice cream. Please advise me how I can remove milky smell?

    April 20, 2015, 1:45 am
  43. Merle wrote:

    I have made the no-cook, no eggs version for 10 or more years. It’s perfect. The other might be better but I’ll never know, it would be easier to go to the store and buy a pint.

    October 23, 2016, 2:12 pm
  44. John Doe wrote:

    You can forget about eggs by using sweetened condensed milk. You take the amount of 25% butterfat cream you want to use, then take .46 (or 46%) of that amount and add that much sweetened condensed milk.

    You can get the 25% mixture by mixing heavy and light cream in equal amounts, or using 2/3 heavy cream and 1/3 “half and half.”

    The 25% mixture gets reduced to a bit over 19% butterfat, when you calculate .46 of condensed milk (which itself is 8.5% butterfat.

    November 30, 2016, 12:48 am
  45. John Doe wrote:

    I should have added that the sweetened condensed milk, calculated at .46 of the cream mix, yields 14% sugar in the final mixture. That’s the reason for the percentage and if the cream mix is 25% butterfat, you wind up with around 19% butterfat after combining the cream and condensed milk.

    November 30, 2016, 1:09 am
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