Cool off this July with Vintage Ice Cream Recipes!

The following is a guest post by Jennie Horton, the 2020 Librarian-in-Residence with the Reference Team in the Serial & Government Publications Division.

Happy National Ice Cream Month! July is normally a time to find fun ways to keep cool, but with many of us still social distancing, it can be difficult to get outside for that favorite frozen treat. Instead of turning on your oven and heating up your kitchen baking that quarantine sourdough or banana bread, try making your own ice creams, ices, and frozen mousses, courtesy of home cooks from across the United States.

“What we would all like to do on a hot day like this,” Evening Public Ledger (Philadelphia, PA), July 13, 1916.

Chronicling America* features local newspapers from all over the country, and many of these papers include columns of recipes and recipe contests. Home cooks submitted their go-to recipes in the hope of being published in the local paper. Though the recipes presented here are from the earlier part of the 20th century, we can still follow them today.

Ice cream is by no means new–people have been eating similar desserts since the 17th century when an Italian named Antonio Latini wrote the first recipe for sorbetto (and mentions of iced drinks date even further back to biblical times) (PBS History Kitchen). The dessert made its way to the United States and was first served at the White House during the Jackson presidency. Elizabeth Hamilton (wife of Alexander Hamilton) introduced President Jackson to ice cream at her home and he “promptly decided to have ices at the executive mansion” (Christian Work 1899). White House chef at the time, Augustus Jackson, went on to become a prominent caterer of ice cream in Philadelphia (New York Times, March 11, 1894, p.18). He is often lauded as the American “Father of Ice Cream” for his contributions to the field of ice cream making, including adding salt to ice to make it colder (Black FirstsIce Cream: a textbook for students and manufacturers).

“Ice Cream is a Food,” The Columbia Evening Missourian (Columbia, MO), July 27, 1921.

Homemade frozen desserts pre-refrigeration were often expensive to make and required special equipment, including giant blocks of ice that had to be crushed at home. Desserts took hours to freeze and hand-churn ice cream machines were costly and tiring to use. Serving your guests ice cream or other frozen desserts like ices, sorbets, or mousses was a status symbol. However, recipes from the 19th and early 20th centuries show that these treats could be made at home, even without an ice cream machine. These recipes actually still hold relevance today, as electric ice cream makers are still quite expensive. One advantage we have now is access to reliable freezers–no more breaking up giant blocks of ice! (Ice Cream: the delicious history)

The following recipes come from historic newspapers freely available through Chronicling America.

“From the Kelvin Kitchen,” Las Vegas Age (Las Vegas, NV), July 6, 1934.

“Peppermint Stick Ice Cream (automatic refrigerator)

2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup water

1 cup whipping cream

1 cup crushed peppermint stick

Blend sweetened condensed milk thoroughly with water. Chill. Whip cream to custard-like consistency and fold into chilled mixture. Pour into freezing pan and place in freezing unit. After mixture has frozen to a stiff mush (one or two hours) remove from refrigerator. Scrape mixture from sides and bottom of pan. Beat for two minutes and fold in crushed peppermint stick candy. Smooth out and replace in freezing unit for one hour or until frozen for serving (two to five hours, total freezing time). Serves six.”


This recipe from the Las Vegas Age serves as a great ice cream base, no machine required. Instead of churning air into the ice cream using a machine, the mixture is whipped by hand or electric hand mixer midway through freezing. Try swapping the peppermint sticks for other mix-ins, or add other flavors like vanilla extract or cocoa powder to the liquid base before freezing.

“Twenty Prize Recipes for Sherbets, Ices Chosen,” The Indianapolis Times (Indianapolis, IN), June 17, 1927.

“Pineapple Mousse

One tablespoon of granulated gelatine, one quart of whipped cream, one and one-half cups sugar, one-fourth cup of cold water, one cup pineapple syrup, two tablespoons lemon juice. Soak gelatine in cold water. Heat the pineapple syrup and add lemon juice, sugar and gelatine, strain and cool. When the mixture thickens, fold in the whipped cream. Mold, pack in salt and ice and let stand for four hours.

Mrs. Otto H. Schulz, 4651 Rookwood Ave., City.”






Gelatin provides stability while folding in whipped cream makes this no-churn mousse recipe light and fluffy. Try substituting the syrup from canned pineapple with another fruit syrup. No need to pack in salt and ice, just stick the container in your freezer!

“Twenty Prize Recipes for Sherbets, Ices Chosen,” The Indianapolis Times (Indianapolis, IN), June 17, 1927.

“Frozen Angel Food

Beat whites of three eggs, boil one cup sugar and one-half cup water as for cake frosting until it hairs. Pour it on beaten whites and whip two or three minutes. Whip one pint cream and flavor with vanilla. Then beat cream and eggs together and pack in bucket in salt and ice, or an ice cream freezer. Set away for four or five hours. Run thin knife around sides, turn it on plate and slice off.

Mrs. Charles Knight, Cumberland, Ind.”






This sliceable frozen “cake” uses cooked eggs instead of raw, whipped egg whites like some other recipes from the time period. Cooking the sugar “until it hairs” refers to boiling the sugar and water mixture until it reaches thread stage, between 230 and 235 F.

Hungry for more? Here’s some more Library of Congress resources to check out:

Tried one of these or another historic recipe? Let us know in the comments!

* The Chronicling America historic newspapers online collection is a product of the National Digital Newspaper Program and jointly sponsored by the Library and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Happy 220th Birthday to the Library of Congress!

This piece was co-written by my colleague Megan Halsband. To celebrate the 220th anniversary of its founding, on Friday, April 24, 2020, the Library of Congress is highlighting some of the many gifts and resources we have been able to provide because of your contributions.  Your creativity and knowledge help us build our Web Archiving collections […]

Women’s History in Newspapers

This is a revision of the Headlines and Heroes 2019 International Women’s Day blog. Sunday, March 8, 2020, was International Women’s Day and today we return to our historical newspaper archives for stories featuring change-making women in newspapers searchable in Chronicling America. This database, sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of […]

Christmas with the Presidents

Holidays at the White House have evolved over the years from intimate family gatherings to national celebrations, ranging from an indoor snowball fight between grandchildren, to a first lady ride on a cherry picker!  Discover how U.S. Presidents of the past celebrated Christmas.  “Old Hickory,” President Andrew Jackson, threw an elaborate party for his grandchildren […]

Let’s Talk Comics: Folklore, Comics, and Santa Claus

Dr. Daniel Peretti, Assistant Professor of Folklore at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, is the author of “Superman in Myth and Folklore” (University Press of Mississippi, 2017), as well as other essays on folklore, myth, and popular culture. His current research focuses on Santa Claus, ritual, and the traditions of Christmas. Here Dr. Peretti answers […]

The Mayflower: Tales of Jumping Ship

  For a seemingly interminable 65 days the Mayflower was the floating home of pilgrims, officers and crew as they made their famous journey to America.  For some it was a graveyard, and for others, a symbol of life renewed. Those who sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 are commonly known as pilgrims, but the sailors who […]