Just Desserts: Jake’s Festive Ice Creams

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean we can’t have ice cream. And hey, the Northern Hemisphere isn’t the only one on the planet. So without further ado, here’s Jake Dicus of Cleveland, Ohio, sharing some brilliant recipes for your local restaurant or your own kitchen.

Jake moustache has been moved to facilitate ice cream testing.

Jake’s moustache has been repositioned to facilitate ice cream testing.

By the way, if you’ve thought about getting an ice cream maker for you or as a gift for another ice cream fanatic in your life, but didn’t think you could afford it, Jake might change your mind. If you have room in your freezer to stash the bowl, Jake notes the “pre-frozen” or canister-style models (models you freeze for 24 hours in advance of making ice cream) will work for you and come cheaper than the “self-refrigerating” models with built-in compressors.

When America’s Test Kitchen reviewed ice cream makers for Cook’s Illustrated, a top pick was the Cuisinart Automatic Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker at $49.99—cheaper still from Craigslist or eBay where unwanted wedding and holiday gifts are sold. Jake says, “I have the Whynter SNÖ Professional Ice Cream Maker [a self-refrigerating model] recommended in the article, but they are hard to find. I got mine off of eBay for pretty cheap.”

How to Make the Ice Cream Base

A coconut-milk ice cream base will give you a custard-like consistency. High fat-content coconut milks, such as Savoy Coconut Cream, parallel the fat content of premium ice creams. If the ice cream does not turn out to a desired consistency, more sugar or alcohol (rum, brandy, or bourbon) will soften it. A thickening agent such as agar powder, xantham gum, or corn starch makes for an ice cream with a creamier mouth-feel.  

In some cases the ice cream will need no thickening agent. Peanut butter, for example, creates a thick base that doesn’t need any help with thickening. Chocolate ice cream made using lots of vegan dark chocolate is thick on its own from the fat in the chocolate. (A coconut taste will come through with subtle ice creams such as vanilla, so those are not the best choices with this recipe.)


  • Two 14-ounce cans of coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup vegan sugar or other sweetener.  Maple syrup complements maple-walnut ice cream; molasses is a good pick for oatmeal cookie ice cream. Remember: The more sweetener you add, the softer the ice cream.
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp agar powder (or a starch slurry of 2 Tbsp. corn starch mixed with ¼ cup cold non-dairy milk)


Put the coconut milk, sweetener, and salt into a medium saucepan. Heat medium-low, stirring frequently to dissolve the sweetener. This is also the point where you would add other flavor components such as those suggested from the list below.

Once the mixture is hot but not quite simmering, sprinkle the agar powder in and whisk to combine.  Continue to whisk frequently until the mixture thickens, adjusting the heat as necessary so the mixture does not boil.  When it thickens, remove the mixture from the heat.

Cool the mixture to room temperature and, optionally, run it through a fine mesh strainer to remove any lumps.  Cover the mixture and refrigerate it until it cools completely.  Freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.  Place the ice cream in a container in the freezer for at least 2 hours to allow it to set up completely.

Ice creams using the base above:

Peanut Butter Ice Cream:  Add one cup of creamy-style peanut butter and a half-teaspoon (½ tsp.) cinnamon to the coconut milk and sugar mixture and do not add the agar powder (as stated above, peanut butter also serves as the thickener).  After the ice cream has come to room temperature, add 1 to 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract and stir to incorporate.  Serve with vegan chocolate sauce drizzled on top.

Spiced Pumpkin:  Add one 14 oz. (414 ml.) can of pumpkin puree, one tablespoon (1 Tbsp.) cinnamon, one teaspoon (1 tsp.) ginger, a fourth-teaspoon (¼ tsp.) nutmeg, and a half-teaspoon (½ tsp.) cayenne pepper (optional); or add one tablespoon (1 Tbsp.) pumpkin pie spice to the coconut milk sugar mixture.  You can also replace ½ cup sugar with ¼ cup maple syrup and ¼ cup molasses.  After the ice cream has come to room temperature, add 1 to 2 teaspoons each of vanilla extract and bourbon (optional) and stir to incorporate.  During the last 5 minutes of the ice cream machine’s cycle, add 1 cup of frozen vegan spiced nuts, pralines, or walnuts.   

Cardamom, Rose Water, Pistachio Ice Cream:  Add 2 teaspoons of ground cardamom to the coconut milk sugar mixture.  Once the mixture cools to room temperature, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of rose water and stir to incorporate.  During the last 5 minutes of the ice cream machine’s cycle, add in 1 cup of frozen pistachios.

Pandan Ice Cream

Pandan ice cream with rum-soaked mango and black forbidden rice, made and photographed by Jake Dicus

Pandan Ice Cream with Mango and Forbidden Rice: Add ¼ to ½ teaspoon of pandan extract (available at some Asian markets; also called screw pine extract) to the coconut milk and sugar mixture. This will turn the
mixture pale green. Adjust sugar and pandan extract to taste.

While the mixture is cooling according to the above instructions, peel one large
mango and separate the flesh from the pit. Finely dice the fruit. Larger pieces will freeze solid in the ice cream as fruity ice cubes. Macerating the mango in a tablespoon of sugar dissolved in two tablespoons of rum for at least 15 minutes will help to soften the mango when frozen. Spread on a sheet of wax paper placed in a container that will fit in your freezer and freeze. Now make the rice. Forbidden rice or purple sticky rice is available at many supermarkets and Asian markets. Put ¼ cup of uncooked rice into a small saucepan and cook according to its directions (but substitute coconut milk for the water or other cooking liquid and add ½ cup sugar). Once the rice is tender, you may need to add more coconut milk to get the consistency of soupy oatmeal.

When it has cooled, blend the rice pudding in a food processor or blender to break up the rice kernels. Thoroughly chill the rice pudding mixture. Make the ice cream according to the manufacturer’s directions. In the last five minutes add the frozen mango. Pre-freeze a freezer-safe container large enough to hold your ice cream. Starting with ice cream, alternate layers of ice cream and rice pudding in the container so you have two or more layers of rice pudding. Freeze for at least two hours to allow the ice cream to fully set up.

Now, another take on creating an ice cream base and putting together a thoroughly festive dessert—just the thing for a vegan Thanksgiving get-together, or to celebrate the Winter Solstice.

Jake’s Bourbon Chestnut Ice Cream with Cranberry Sauce

Jake's Bourbon Chestnut Ice Cream

It doesn’t get more festive than this.

Ingredients for the ice cream base:

  • 1 – 5 ounce package of roasted and peeled chestnuts or 5 ounces of chestnut puree
  • 2 – 14 ounce cans of coconut milk
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)
  • A few pinches of fresh grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon guar gum or xanthan gum (optional)

Ingredients for the cranberry sauce:

  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ½ cup sugar (adjust to taste, but tartness provides a nice contrast to the sweet ice cream)
  • A few pinches of lime or lemon zest

Prepare the sauce: Place all the sauce ingredients in a sauce pan and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries pop and most of the liquid has reduced – about 15-20 minutes.  The sauce should be thick and slightly chunky. (For an interesting flavor addition, add a sprig of rosemary to the cooking cranberries and remove when the sauce is finished cooking.) Cool to room temperature and then thoroughly chill in the refrigerator.

Prepare the ice cream base: Carefully score an “x” with a sharp paring knife on the flat side of the nut, making sure to pierce the skin. Roast nuts in 375°F (190°C, Gas Mark 5) oven for half an hour. Let them cool a bit and then peel the shell and skin away from the nuts. This process can be a bit tricky and it may be best to use prepared rather than fresh chestnuts. If you can’t find chestnuts or don’t like them, try roasted walnuts or black walnuts.

Place all the ingredients in a powerful blender like a Vitamix and blend on high speed until the chestnut pieces are thoroughly incorporated and the liquid has a smooth texture – about 1 minute. If you want the best texture, strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Then refrigerate the base for at least 4 hours.

If you don’t have a powerful blender, you can get canned chestnut puree instead of the prepared chestnuts. The brown sugar may not completely dissolve using this method, so heating the mixture on the stove until the sugar dissolves can prevent a gritty texture.  If you apply heat, wait to add the vanilla and bourbon until after the mixture cools to room temperature.

Once the ice cream base is thoroughly chilled, add it to your ice cream maker and prepare according to the directions included with the machine.

While the ice cream is churning, place a sealable glass container large enough to hold the ice cream in the freezer. A few minutes before the ice cream is ready, remove the container from the freezer and place about half of the cranberry sauce in the bottom of it.

When the ice cream is ready, put half the ice cream in the container. Top with the remaining cranberry sauce and then the remaining ice cream. You can swirl the sauce by running a knife through the ice cream, making several passes in a figure-8 pattern. Alternatively, leaving the ice cream as is will result in scoops with ribbons of sauce running through them.

Thank you, Jake. I’ll never forget the ice cream you smuggled into Chrissie Hynde’s restaurant, VegiTerranean in Akron, after we got together though a presentation offered by the Cleveland Animal Rights Alliance in 2011. VegiTerranean did not survive the recession, alas!, but your ice cream is invincible. 

6 thoughts on “Just Desserts: Jake’s Festive Ice Creams

  1. These sound amazing – many thanks!
    I’m offering to forward them to all my contacts as well as suggesting that they subscribe to this blog.
    Best wishes from a very Novemberish UK,

  2. Lovely idea to use coconut milk which I adore! I must post something icy too on my blog travelsaroundmykitchen.com and give you credits for the prompt: I never think of ice cream in the cold but heading to the Caribbean soon, so…

  3. Reblogged this on Vegan Place and commented:

    Reblogged in celebration of my visit to Cleveland this week, where I’ll offer a presentation on Saturday at the Cleveland VegFest, and where Jake is making hazelnut espresso ice cream with brown ale syrup for me!

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