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2 simple secrets to making luscious ice cream without a machine
[5 ingredients]

lemon ice cream lemon ice cream

Smooth, creamy, luscious home made ice cream. The holy grail of desserts, to me at least.

my quest for the holy-grail of ice cream
Those of you that have been following stonesoup for a while will know of my love affair with ice cream. You’ll also know about my search for the holy grail of desserts: A recipe for super creamy home made ice cream that doesn’t require an ice cream machine.

You see a few years ago, before my minimalist days, I got so frustrated with seeing tempting ice cream recipes in my favourite food magazines. The creamy desserts always sounded so inviting but inevitablly the final instruction would be to ‘freeze in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s directions’.

Each time I read those words my heart would sink a little more. Until one day I decided to fork out a large amount of cash for an appliance that could barely fit in my tiny kitchen. But an ice cream machine I wanted, and an ice cream machine I would have. And a proper one, with an internal compressor so I could happily make batch after batch of cool creamy goodness.

To be fair, my ice cream machine and I have had some good times together. As a quick perusal of the list of my pre-minimalist ice cream and gelato recipes in the stonesoup gelato recipe index will attest. But since embracing minimalism, I’ve been searching for a good ice cream recipe that doesn’t need a one-trick-pony piece of equipment. Basically I’ve been looking for a good reason to get rid of my beginning-to-rust ice cream machine.

And the brilliant news is that I’ve unlocked the secrets to making ice cream at home with just a simple whisk and your home freezer. And not only does it not need special equipment, it also isn’t based on an egg custard like most ice cream recipes. So the prep work is even more simple still. Yay!

secret 1. use lots of sugar
Traditional ice cream making uses mechanical means to prevent large ice crystals forming. First the mixture is continually stirred or churned to break up ice crystals as they form. Secondly, better quality ice cream manufacturers freeze the custard base as quickly as possible, to further promote only fine ice crystals.

But as I’ve discovered, the real secret is to make conditions difficult for the ice crystals to form at all. And the simplest way to do that is add lots of sugar. This decreases the freezing point of the overall mixture so that even when it gets to the temperature inside your freezer, big ice crystals just aren’t able to form. Instead the mixture remains creamy and smooth and pretty much everything you’d want in an iced dessert.

I’m so excited about this, the simple ideas really are the best. Alcohol will also decrease the freezing point – a whole new area to explore another day.

secret 2. incorporate air
This second secret isn’t critical for achieving creaminess over icyiness. But if you’ve ever wondered why your home made ice cream feels heavy compared to commercial brands, it’s all about the air. Since ice cream is sold by volume and air is much cheaper than every other ingredient, ice cream manufacturers tend to whip their ice cream to incorporate as much air as possible.

Before you start getting upset about this, I actually prefer my ice cream to be lighter and fluffier. It feels more moussy in your mouth AND air is much kinder to the waistline. Win-win!

watch lemon ice cream video on YouTube,

lemon ice cream

[5 ingredients]
creamy lemon ice cream

makes about 2 cups

I first made this for my Thanksgiving dinner last month and served it with my pumpkin cheesecake (that you could learn how to make this weekend). And while the cheesecake was getting rave reviews, I was secretly more impressed with my ice cream making skills.

Feel free to play around with the cirtus, lime would be lovely, if a little more expensive. This recipe has quite a lemony tang, if you’d prefer your lemon to be a little more subtle, you could easily reduce the juice down to 1/4 cup.

If you’re in a hurry, a metal container will conduct the heat much more quickly and get you there in half the time. Shallow containers with lots of surface area will also freeze more rapidly than deeper ones.

1/3 cup lemon juice
250g (9oz) icing (powdered or confectioners) sugar
300mL (1+1/4cups) whipping cream, approx 35% milk fat

1. Combine lemon juice and icing sugar in a small bowl.

2. Using a whisk, whip cream until soft peaks just start to form and the cream has thickened slightly.

3. Whisk the lemon mixture in with the cream and whisk until the texture is back to the soft peaks.

4. Place in a freezer-proof container and freeze for at least 6 hours or until lovely and ice-creamy.


I’m planning to run a short masterclass at The Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School on making ice cream without an ice cream machine next year. Is this something that sounds interesting to you? Or do you have another more pressing cooking challenge you’d prefer to learn to overcome? I love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Or drop me a quick email: jules@thestonesoup.com.

lemon ice cream


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{ 131 comments… add one }
  • Querino de-Freitas 12 March, 2013, 1:29 am

    I am all for this type of ice-cream,,which I made quite a lot of over the years.I never measure anything, taste as you go along…A favourite was a bird’s eye custard ice-cream, but living in the west indian island if Trinidad where goat’s milk is the best milk to use…..some times we would make ice cream cubes…you must try these…enjoy, Querino

  • Heidi Stanley 5 April, 2013, 5:28 pm

    Hello Jules

    I think this recipe looks good, but I would like to see a recipe for vanilla ice cream – could you give me your thoughts?

    At the moment, I make one with 2x tins condensed milk, 300ml single cream and 200g creme fraiche, with 1 tbsp vanilla flavouring – I mix it up, then 3 hours later mix it again and freeze until solid. This is usually a bit hard to scoop so I have to take it out half an hour before serving! It is lovely though.

    Also, what do you mean when you say that metal conducts the heat better? I didn’t know it used heat!

    I’d be glad of your thoughts please…

  • Dana Kirkmeyer 1 July, 2015, 1:10 am

    I love ice cream, and I don’t have an ice cream maker, so seeing that you can make ice cream without one, really caught my attention. I would definitely like a virtual class on it…Thanks … can’t wait to try this lemon ice cream…Lemon is my favorite flavor!!

  • Philippa 16 July, 2015, 12:18 am

    What would you suggest for a peach ice cream recipe? My Daddy has requested I make it and it needs to be special as my mother used to make it for him and she passed last Feb. I can’t find her recipe! Any advice you might give would be very much appreciated! Joyfully, philippa

    • jules 27 July, 2015, 1:25 pm

      I’d Puree fresh peaches (nice and ripe) and use in place of the lemon juice (maybe leave a few tablespoons lemon in to keep the flavours fresh. Sorry to hear about your Mother Philippa :)

  • Rachel 23 July, 2015, 8:53 am

    My sister made this lemon ice cream to go with a lemon raspberry cake I made for our mothers birthday last week. It was an absolute hit with all who ate it!!! I loved it so much I just got done making a batch instead of buying icing!! One thing my sister did that I loved, was adding lemon and lime zest!!! Thank you so for this lovely recipe, we will make it over and over!!!

    • jules 27 July, 2015, 12:43 pm

      So glad you liked it Rachel!

  • Garima Jain 20 May, 2016, 4:20 pm


    So basically you mean that whichever flavor we are targetting, just whip the flavor with cream along with other side ingredients and that’s it?

    I wana try Butterscotch and blueberry ice creams.

    Thanks for the easy steps :):)

  • Patty 27 September, 2016, 7:51 am

    I’m a diabetic and can’t use all that sugar. Is there another way to prevent crystals ?
    Thank You

    • jules 28 September, 2016, 2:58 pm

      Not that I’ve found yet sorry Patty! Working on it though :)

    • Mark Alexander 15 December, 2016, 6:55 am

      Create a gelato. See my comment below. The lack of air makes a much easier freeze, with less air making less ice crystals. It thus does not need as much sugar and is much more diabetic friendly.
      Make a milk gelato as your base then add flavouring.
      As said. Worried about ice cream cookery schools, if this is this not known, and i claim I know next to nothing about cooking.

    • Mahlatse Bosjones Manyaka 12 October, 2017, 11:10 pm

      I don’t know if this will be useful but I was watching food network the other day and heard some chef say that “fat” makes ice cream smoother, I’d suggest using cream with high fat content or adding egg yolk as it contains enough fat.

      • jules 16 October, 2017, 8:49 am

        Fat helps but the smoothness is really from having smaller ice crystals.

  • Mark Alexander 15 December, 2016, 6:51 am

    Your missing facts that make me think, What a waste of time reading.
    You talk a lot , quite arrogantly about ‘discovering the secrets ‘ of this and , ‘I’ve worked this secret out’ , but frankly , I claim I absolutely near nothing about cooking , but even I know air creates larger ice crystals in an ice cream. And I suspect you don’t know what gelato is nor why it forms fewer ice crystals over an ‘ice cream’.
    For home cooking with no ice maker, a gelato milk base recipie is the route to use. I know this, and I say I know little count cooking, so what’s going on with cookery classes and courses if you don’t?!

  • yvonne stuart 21 May, 2017, 6:26 am

    how much sugar to use and does it come out creamy

    • jules 23 May, 2017, 2:39 pm

      It definitely comes out creamy… but you need lots of sugar Yvonne :)

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