How to Frost an Ice Cream Cake: Tips for Perfect Frosting Every Time

How to Frost an Ice Cream Cake: Tips for Perfect Frosting Every Time

Few desserts capture the essence of celebration quite like an ice cream cake. Whether it’s a birthday, anniversary, or just a special treat, frosting an ice cream cake can seem like a daunting task. But with the right tips and tricks, you can transform this frozen delight into a show-stopping centerpiece.

Key Takeaways

  • Choose the Right Frosting: Ideal frosting options for ice cream cakes include whipped cream, modified buttercream, and ganache, each providing different textures and stability.
  • Select Quality Ice Cream: Opt for ice cream with natural ingredients, minimal ice crystals, and complementary flavors to enhance the cake’s overall taste and texture.
  • Prepare the Cake Base Properly: Whether baking or buying, ensure the cake layers are leveled and chilled for easy handling and smooth frosting application.
  • Frosting Techniques: Soften ice cream for even spreading and apply frosting in layers, starting with a crumb coat to trap crumbs and followed by a thicker final layer for a smooth finish.
  • Freezing and Decoration: Freeze the cake in stages to set the frosting, and add visual appeal with decorations like fresh fruits, chocolate shavings, or candy pieces after the cake is fully frozen.

Choosing the Right Ingredients

Types of Frosting Suitable for Ice Cream Cakes

Selecting the right frosting is crucial when decorating an ice cream cake. Frosting should complement the cake’s texture and flavors. Here are three types of frosting ideal for ice cream cakes:

  1. Whipped Cream Frosting: Light and airy, whipped cream frosting tastes less sweet and works well with various ice cream flavors. For a stabilized version, mix in a small amount of gelatin.
  2. Buttercream Frosting: Traditional buttercream is rich and creamy, but a modified version with extra powdered sugar can better withstand freezing. This frosting can be easily flavored and colored.
  3. Ganache: A mixture of chocolate and cream, ganache offers a smooth and glossy finish. Ganache can form a stable layer that doesn’t harden too much at low temperatures.

Selecting Quality Ice Cream

Quality ice cream improves the overall taste and texture of the cake. When selecting ice cream, consider these factors:

  • Flavor: Choose flavors that match the cake and frosting for a balanced taste. Examples include vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry.
  • Texture: Pick ice creams with fewer ice crystals and creamier textures. Premium brands often have better textures.
  • Ingredients: Look for ice creams with natural ingredients for a richer taste. Avoid those with artificial additives or excessive sugar.

Preparing the Cake Base

Baking or Buying the Cake Layers

Choosing between baking or buying cake layers depends on personal preference and time constraints. Baking the layers offers complete control over ingredients and flavor combinations. Use a standard cake mix, adjusting for any preferred modifications, and bake in a lined and greased cake pan. Allow the layers to cool completely before assembling. Alternatively, buying pre-made layers saves time and guarantees consistency. Ensure they match the desired flavor profile of the ice cream used.

Preparing Cake Layers for Frosting

Proper preparation of cake layers is essential for smooth frosting application. Level the cakes using a serrated knife to remove any domed tops, creating a flat surface. This step helps in even layering and prevents a lopsided cake. Once leveled, place the layers in the freezer for 30 minutes. Chilled layers reduce crumbs spreading and make handling easier. Stack and fill the layers with desired fillings, keeping them aligned. Check for stability and press gently to secure them together.

The Frosting Process

The Frosting Process

Working With Softened Ice Cream

Softening ice cream before frosting is essential for an even application. Let the ice cream sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes. It should be soft enough to spread easily but not melted. Use a spatula to stir the ice cream, ensuring a uniform texture throughout. Spread a layer of softened ice cream onto chilled cake layers, forming an even base for the frosting. Freeze the cake for at least 1 hour before adding the final frosting.

Techniques for Smooth Application

For a smooth finishing touch, apply the frosting in layers. Start by spreading a thin crumb coat, sealing in any loose crumbs. Freeze the cake for 30 minutes to set the crumb coat. Use a spatula to apply a thicker layer of frosting after the initial layer has set. Smooth the surface using a bench scraper or offset spatula, holding it at a slight angle and rotating the cake as you go. Return the cake to the freezer for another hour before serving or decorating further.

Freezing and Finishing Touches

Optimal Freezing Times

Freezing time significantly impacts the final outcome of an ice cream cake. Initially, freeze the cake for 30 minutes after applying the crumb coat. This step helps set the frosting and reduces the risk of mixing crumbs into the final layer. After applying the second, thicker layer of frosting, freeze the cake for at least 1 hour. This extended freezing period ensures the frosting firms up and creates a smooth base for further decoration. Finally, store the fully frosted cake in the freezer until it’s ready to serve, ideally for several hours but no longer than 24 hours to maintain optimal texture and flavor.

Decoration Ideas

Decorations enhance the visual appeal of the ice cream cake. Use edible items like fresh fruits, chocolate shavings, or candy pieces. Fresh fruits, such as strawberries or blueberries, add color contrast and freshness. Chocolate shavings or curls, either dark or white, provide an elegant touch and complement the frosting. Candy pieces, like gummy bears or sprinkles, create a fun, vibrant look. For an added flair, drizzle chocolate or caramel sauce over the top just before serving. Ensure decorations are applied after the cake’s final freezing stage, except for items like sauces, which should be added immediately before presenting the cake.


Frosting an ice cream cake might seem daunting, but with the right approach and a bit of patience, it can be a rewarding experience. By choosing the right ingredients and following the recommended techniques, you can achieve a beautifully frosted cake that’s both delicious and visually appealing. Remember to take your time with each step, from softening the ice cream to applying the final decorative touches. With practice, you’ll find that creating an ice cream cake masterpiece is not only possible but also a lot of fun. So go ahead, gather your tools, and start frosting your next ice cream cake with confidence!

Frosting an ice cream cake requires a few specific techniques, such as working quickly and using stabilized whipped cream to prevent melting. For detailed tips and step-by-step instructions, check out Martha Stewart. Additional frosting ideas and troubleshooting tips are available on Betty Crocker.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best types of frosting for ice cream cakes?

The best types of frosting for ice cream cakes are whipped cream frosting, buttercream frosting, and ganache. These types work well with the cold environment of an ice cream cake and provide delicious and smooth finishes.

How should I prepare my ice cream before decorating the cake?

You should soften the ice cream by letting it sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes. This makes it easier to spread and apply evenly on the cake.

What is the importance of applying a crumb coat?

A crumb coat is a thin layer of frosting that helps seal in crumbs. It provides a smooth base for the final layer of frosting and ensures that crumbs do not ruin the cake’s appearance.

How long should I freeze the cake after applying the crumb coat?

After applying the crumb coat, freeze the cake for at least 30 minutes. This ensures that the frosting sets properly and provides a stable base for the final layer.

Can I use store-bought cake layers for the cake base?

Yes, you can use store-bought cake layers for convenience. Just make sure they are properly prepared and frozen before applying the ice cream and frosting.

What tools are recommended for smooth frosting application?

Tools like a bench scraper or an offset spatula are highly recommended for smooth frosting application. They help achieve a polished and professional finish on your ice cream cake.

What are some decoration ideas for ice cream cakes?

You can decorate ice cream cakes with fresh fruits, chocolate shavings, candy pieces, and sauces. These additions enhance the visual appeal and add extra flavor and texture.

Is freezing necessary at various stages of making an ice cream cake?

Yes, freezing is crucial at different stages to ensure the cake sets properly. It helps maintain the structure and ensures smooth and even frosting application.