These easy ice cream cake recipes are perfect for summer birthdays and BBQs, and there are a few no-bake options in the bunch. Whether you go semi-homemade, entirely from scratch, or simply assemble components from the store, you can’t go wrong with these flavors.
Combining the best of cake and the best of ice cream in one cool, whipped cream–topped slab on a plate, ice cream cakes bring instant joy to all ages, and they’re easier to make than you might think (certainly easier than most baked layer cakes).
There’s more than one way to make an ice cream cake; it should involve at least one flavor of frozen treat, but the traditional cake layers can be replaced (or augmented) by brownies, crushed cookie layers, rice cereal treats, or even pulverized pretzels. Or you can just go all in on the ice cream with a thin layer of cookie crumbles in the middle, a la Carvel.
And you can top it off with various sauces and extras, with or without whipped cream. Really, you can use any ice cream cake recipe as a template and make swaps as you please, mixing and matching your favorite ice cream flavors and other ingredients to build your ultimate summer dessert.
Make sure you buy (or make) enough ice cream to cover your cake. For an 8-inch round cake, 3-4 cups is ideal for one ice cream layer, depending on how thick you want it. If you’re going big with a 19- by 13-inch pan, you’ll want 6 cups (or 3 pints) of ice cream for a single ice cream layer.
Soften your ice cream before spreading it in place. When it’s time to smooth the ice cream onto whatever you’re using for the other layer (or into your cake pan, as the case may be), you’ll need to soften it up first. Don’t let it get too soupy, though; rather than simply let it sit at room temp and start to melt, scoop it all out into a large bowl and use a big metal or wooden spoon to stir it to a spreadable consistency.
Cool your cake completely. If you’re using a traditional baked cake for any of the layers, allow it to cool completely before adding ice cream, for obvious reasons.
Give it time to set. Once your cake is fully assembled, you’ll need to pop it back in the freezer to firm up. If you’re making multiple layers of ice cream, you’ll need to repeat this process each time you finish a layer, so plan accordingly.
Use a parchment or plastic sling for easy lifting. If you’re constructing your cake in a pan, whether round or rectangular, line it with a long-overhanging piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap before you begin. This way, you can easily lift the whole thing out once it’s ready to serve.
Let it thaw a little before serving. While you want your cake to be frozen so everything stays in place, don’t cut it immediately after removing from the freezer either. Let it sit out for roughly 10 minutes (no more than 15), and use a sharp, heavy knife to slice it.
Heat your knife. To make clean, smooth cuts, dip the blade of your knife in hot water before making each slice (and wipe it clean with a towel in between slices too).
Don’t refreeze too many times. Ideally, you’ll eat your entire ice cream cake right away, since each time you re-freeze it, the texture gets icier and toppings, especially whipped cream, can start to degrade. If you don’t think you can finish the whole thing in one or two sittings, make mini ice cream cakes instead, and only take out as many as you’ll need. Making a stabilized whipped cream can also help keep up appearances.
Below find some of the best ice cream cake recipes for summer with one special adults-only version you’ve just gotta try.
This cake has textures and tastes in spades with strawberry ice cream in addition to chocolate and vanilla—and it’s no-bake which is a major bonus this time of year. But switch up the flavors as you see fit. Get our Chocolate Rice Krispies Ice Cream Cake recipe.
This ideal summer birthday cake is sweet and gooey enough to feel like a celebration, but the coffee ice cream gives it a sophisticated edge. Get our Chocolate–Coffee Almond Crunch Ice Cream Cake recipe.
Brownies made with stout, filled with vanilla or caramel ice cream? I think I just passed out. These are not for kids (sorry kids!) which is good news because that means more for you…and me. (And before you quibble, these totally count as mini cakes.) Get our Chocolate Stout Ice Cream Sandwich recipe.
The cool thing here, apart from cookies and cream ice cream and an Oreo garnish, is that no cutting is necessary: Everybody gets a mini self-contained ice cream cake! Get our Chocolate Ice Cream Cupcakes recipe.
Salted caramel is the flavor of our time. Here, the irresistible sweet-salty balance plays out in the presence of sour cream–enriched vanilla cake and soft whipped cream. Get our Vanilla–Salted Caramel Ice Cream Cake recipe.
Boston cream pie is not, of course, actual pie, and this version—custardy vanilla ice cream substitutes for vanilla custard—is not actual Boston cream pie. It is, however, delicious. Get our Boston Ice Cream Pie Cake recipe.
There’s no actual cake-baking here, just three ice cream flavors—fresh strawberry, vanilla bean, and roasted pistachio—stacked up under a crunchy layer of crushed vanilla cookies. Get our Pistachio-Strawberry Ice Cream Cake recipe.
This easy option has only six ingredients, yet the end result is stunning. A dark chocolate cookie crust holds chocolate ice cream you’ve swirled with thick ribbons of creamy peanut butter, and it’s topped off with what is essentially homemade Magic Shell. Don’t skip the salted, roasted peanuts. Get the Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream Cake.
Cutting carbs doesn’t have to mean missing out on ice cream cake, as this Keto Ice Cream Cake recipe proves. Made with layers of no-churn strawberry and vanilla ice cream (keto, of course) on a low-carb chocolate cake base with a sugar-free chocolate glaze, it’s a healthy indulgence anyone would enjoy.
The classic style of ice cream shop cake doesn’t involve baking at all, and only interrupts two thick layers of ice cream (traditionally, chocolate and vanilla, but go wild) with a strata of crunchy chocolate cookies and fudge sauce—which contains some corn syrup so it doesn’t freeze too solid. A thin layer of whipped cream frosts the outside, which is a blank canvas to decorate however you like. Get the Copycat Dairy Queen Ice Cream Cake recipe.
Individual brownie parfaits are an all-around simpler way to make an ice cream cake—and you can assemble them at the last minute. Just layer fresh-baked brownies, ice cream, fresh raspberries, and whipped cream. Hot fudge and caramel sauce optional but encouraged. Get our Brownie Ice Cream Parfaits recipe.