Who Invented Ice Cream?

So, what's really the answer to that vexatious question: Who invented ice cream?

As you can tell from the ice cream history timeline, it's hard to say!

If we're going to scrupulously shun aside legends, rumors and myth, we're left with precious little documented facts that can actually be proven.

Here's what we do know:

The 1718 cookbook Mrs. Mary Eales's Receipts, which was first published in London, contains the first printed recipe for an iced dessert based on cream.

Here's the recipe as it appeared in the 1733 edition:

To ice CREAM.
Take Tin Ice-Pots, fill them with any Sort of Cream you like, either plain or sweeten'd, or Fruit in it; shut your Pots very close; to six Pots you must allow eighteen or twenty Pound of Ice, breaking the Ice very small; there will be some great Pieces, which lay at the Bottom and Top: You must have a Pail, and lay some Straw at the Bottom; then lay in your Ice, and put in amongst it a Pound of Bay-Salt; set in your Pots of Cream, and lay Ice and Salt between every Pot, that they may not touch; but the Ice must lie round them on every Side; lay a good deal of Ice on the Top, cover the Pail with Straw, set it in a Cellar where no Sun or Light comes, it will be froze in four Hours, but it may stand longer; than take it out just as you use it; hold it in your Hand and it will slip out. When you wou'd freeze any Sort of Fruit, either Cherries, Rasberries, Currants, or Strawberries, fill your Tin-Pots with the Fruit, but as hollow as you can; put to them Lemmonade, made with Spring-Water and Lemmon-Juice sweeten'd; put enough in the Pots to make the Fruit hang together, and put them in Ice as you do Cream.

Does that mean the English get the credit? It’s unlikely the dessert was first invented in the British Isles, even if they can claim the first printed recipe.

who invented ice cream - Catherine de Medici

Catherine de Medici

Does that mean Catherine de Medici did not bring Italian ices to France? Does it mean the city of Florence has to give up its claim as the place where ice cream was invented?

Far be it from us to take away anyone’s glory and say they weren't the ones who invented ice cream. Maybe Catherine de Medici’s chef really did freeze cream in his desserts. Maybe Bernardo Buontalenti really did, one day in 1565, mix zabaglione with fruit and freeze it, thus making Florence, Italy birthplace of the ice cream.

We just can't prove it.

So who invented ice cream? We don’t know.


Did we tantalize you into finding more about ice cream history? Here's a list of fascinating books on the history of ice cream. Explore the mystery!

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