The Great Ice Cream/Frozen Custard Debate

What’s your persuasion? Ice cream or frozen custard? In many parts of the country that is a hotly debated topic. Many purists side with ice cream for its fluffy and airy sweetness. Others side with the dense and rich creaminess of frozen custard.  Those who attend culinary schools in Los Angeles, have an opportunity to learn about both, their origins and how to make them.  Here's a little insight.

While ice cream has a much longer history that dates back to the late 1600s, frozen custard is a relative newcomer to the dessert scene. Brothers Archie and Elton Kohr invented it in 1919. Their concoction was an instant hit on the beach at Coney Island, NY that summer. Since then, its popularity has spread up and down the Eastern seaboard and deep into the Midwest. While there are few frozen custards stands in Greater L.A., there are still many Angelinos who crave it.

So What’s the Difference?

While frozen custard is technically an ice cream, it is differentiated from ice cream by the amount of egg and butterfat content. The FDA requires anything labeled frozen custard to contain at least 1.4 percent egg and 10 percent butterfat. The additional fats and proteins in the egg and butterfat give frozen custard a silkier, richer, and denser texture than ice cream. It also doesn’t freeze as hard as ice cream. If you’ve never had it, think of the texture of frozen pudding. Culinary school students will know frozen custard’s texture from the crème brulee that they’ve learned how to make in their pastry classes.

Ice cream on the other hand, has no required ingredients or preparations. Ice cream makers are free to make it however they please. Its basic form can come as soft serve, hand-churned, or hard packed.  Because it freezes harder than frozen custard, fruits, candies, and other ingredients can be easily suspended in it, making possible the popular flavors of rocky road, cookies and cream, and White House cherry.

Ice cream is also easier to use in other types of desserts like sundaes and shakes. You can use frozen yogurt, but the stiffer texture of ice cream gives those desserts a better structure.

Another difference is that frozen custard is typically a fresher product than ice cream. Frozen custard is ready to eat as soon as it comes out of the churning machine, and must be served quickly to maintain flavor and consistency. Ice cream must be frozen for several hours before it can be consumed. This required freezing also makes ice cream a much more portable treat. Frozen custard is so susceptible to defrosting that it can’t be easily mass-produced and transported. That’s why you don’t see frozen custard in the ice cream case at the super market.

The Verdict

We hate to take the easy way out, but the choice between ice cream and custard is up to you. You either like walking around the park with your favorite cone of light and creamy ice cream, or you like the richer and more decadent taste and feel of frozen yogurt.

Which do we prefer? Both, of course! Give us a cone of butter pecan ice cream in one hand and cup of chocolate frozen custard in the other, and there will be nothing but smiles all around.

This article is presented by Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Los Angeles. Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Los Angeles offers culinary arts and pâtisserie and baking training programs in Los Angeles, California. To learn more about the class offerings, please visit for more information. 

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