Out of all the ice cream truck treats, nothing beats a classic ice cream sandwich. You can keep your Choco Tacos and Strawberry Shortcake bars, because I firmly believe the combination of tender chocolate cookies and creamy vanilla ice cream trumps them all.
If you agree (or you’re ready to be convinced), this homemade version will instantly win your heart — and seriously impress your family and friends. I’ve always liked the idea of making ice cream sandwiches from scratch, but most recipes I came across looked labor-intensive and messy. I set out to create a version that’s as simple as possible, but still has maximum ice cream truck vibes. Here’s how to do it.
What’s the Cookie Part of an Ice Cream Sandwich?
Although ice cream sandwiches can be made with all different types of cookies, the classic ice cream truck version features a dense, chewy chocolate one. To give the cookies their classic deep, dark color and mild chocolate flavor, I used Dutch-process cocoa powder instead of natural cocoa powder. Hershey’s Special Dark is an easy-to-find option, although I often splurge on Guittard Dutch-process cocoa powder because it’s a touch more complex.
The Easiest Way to Build This Classic Summer Treat
The key to keeping things easy is baking the chocolate cookie in one giant slab in a half sheet pan, eliminating the need to roll out cookie dough or grab the cookies cutters. Just know that the dough is relatively thick (almost frosting-like), so you’ll need to be patient as you’re spreading it onto the pan. Don’t worry if it’s a little uneven, as the dough will melt a bit and even out as it bakes.
Once the cookie is baked, you’ll poke holes all over the top with a chopstick or skewer to give it that authentic ice cream truck look. After a quick chill in the freezer to speed the cooling process, you’ll cut the cookie in half and build one giant ice cream sandwich on a smaller quarter sheet pan, which helps contain any melty ice cream from dripping all over your counter during assembly. If you don’t have a quarter sheet pan, you can use a 9×13-inch baking pan, although I will say I reach for my quarter sheet daily (to roast a small batch of veggies or toast nuts) so it’s well worth having one on hand.
To make it easy to cut the giant slab into handheld sandwiches, you’ll freeze it until it’s nice and firm, which should take about four hours. Then, grab your sturdiest large knife (a chef’s knife is perfect) to cut it into a dozen individual rectangles. Serve them right away, or wrap the sandwiches individually in parchment or plastic wrap to stash away for later.
Experimenting with Ice Cream Flavors
The classic combination of chocolate and vanilla is hard to beat, but you can make these ice cream sandwiches your own by swapping in your family’s favorite ice cream flavor. Coffee, mint chocolate chip, and strawberry would all be great. Or double down and reach for chocolate. No matter which you choose, I’ll warn you: Once you’ve unleashed this homemade frozen treat into the world, expect your family and friends to insist on them at every summer gathering.
How To Make Classic Ice Cream Sandwiches
YieldServes 12, Makes 12 ice cream sandwiches
Prep time 45 minutes
Cook time 10 minutes to 12 minutes
- 1 stick
(8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 cups
- 1/2 cup
unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, such as Hershey’s Special Dark
- 1/2 teaspoon
- 1/2 teaspoon
- 1/2 cup
packed light brown sugar
- 1/3 cup
- 1 teaspoon
- 1/3 cup
- 1 quart
or 2 pints vanilla ice cream
Soften the butter. Cut 1 stick of unsalted butter into small cubes, then place in the bowl of a stand mixer. (Alternatively, place in a large bowl if using an electric hand mixer.) Let sit at room temperature until the butter is softened, about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven and prepare the baking pan. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a half sheet pan (18x13 inches) with cooking spray, then line with parchment paper so that it hangs off the short sides and forms a sling. Lightly coat the parchment paper with cooking spray.
Combine the dry ingredients. Place 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
Beat together the butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla. Add 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar and 1/3 cup granulated sugar to the bowl of butter. Beat on medium speed with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add 1 large egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and beat until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
Add the flour mixture and milk. With the mixer on low speed, beat in 1/2 of the flour mixture, then 1/3 cup whole milk. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Beat in the remaining flour mixture until just combined.
Spread the dough into the pan. Dollop the dough into the prepared pan. Coat an offset or rubber spatula lightly with cooking spray. Use it to spread the dough out, as if frosting a cake, into a thin, even layer that goes all the way to the edges of the pan.
Bake the cookie. Bake until the edges are firm and have pulled away from the sides slightly, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean with just a few crumbs, 10 to 12 minutes.
Chill the cookie. Place the pan on a wire rack and poke the cookie all over with a skewer or chopstick. Let cool for 5 minutes. Grasping the excess parchment, lift the cookie out of the pan and set it on the rack. Transfer the cookie on the rack to the freezer to chill. (Alternatively, if you don’t have space in the freezer, chill in the refrigerator). Place a quarter sheet pan or 9x13-inch baking pan in the refrigerator to chill. Meanwhile, soften the ice cream.
Soften the ice cream. Let 1 quart vanilla ice cream sit at room temperature to soften until spreadable but still firm, 15 to 20 minutes.
Cut the cookie. Remove the cookie from the freezer. Gently invert a large cutting board over the cookie, then flip both the board and sheet pan over in one motion. Peel off the parchment paper, then cut the upside-down cookie in half crosswise. Remove the chilled pan from the freezer, fold the used parchment paper in half, and place it in the baking pan. Place an upside-down cookie half in the pan.
Assemble and freeze the ice cream sandwich slab. Use an ice cream scoop to spoon the softened ice cream all over the top, then spread into an even layer with an offset or rubber spatula. Press the remaining cookie half, right-side up, on top of the ice cream. Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.
Cut the ice cream sandwiches. To serve, transfer the ice cream sandwich slab to a cutting board and cut into 12 individual ice cream sandwiches. Serve immediately or wrap each sandwich well in parchment paper or plastic wrap and return to the freezer until ready to serve.
Storage: Individually wrapped ice cream sandwiches can be stored in the freezer for up to 1 month.