Ice cream sandwiches are now made with every type of cookie and cookie substitute. See our list below (photo © King Arthur Flour).
August 2nd is National Ice Cream Sandwich Day, so our tip is: Make ice cream sandwiches!
You can do much better than the ones you enjoyed childhood, those inexpensive rectangles of vanilla ice cream covered with very thin slices of chocolate wafer, which became sticky from the moisture of the ice cream.
If you still eat ice cream sandwiches today, they’re likely more of artisan varieties, made in many flavors and more importantly, sandwiched by quality cookies and cookie substitutes. See the options below; but first, take a bite of some:
According to an article in The New York Tribune in July 1900, the ice cream sandwich was created in 1899 by an unnamed pushcart peddler in the Bowery neighborhood of New York City. Vanilla ice cream was pressed between two graham wafers.
His customers comprised everyone from shoe shine boys to stockbrokers. The pushcart vendor was so busy pressing ice cream into a tin mold to order, that he didn’t have time to make change. Customers had to pay the exact price of one cent.
The treat was revolutionary: hand-held and portable ice cream, no dish and spoon required. The ice cream cone, which also first appeared in New York City, had not yet taken hold (here’s the ice cream cone history).
An earlier portable ice cream treat, without the cookies, was sold in London by Italian street vendors.
A slice of vanilla ice cream was cut from a large slab and wrapped in a piece of paper. It was known as an “okey-pokey,” the English adaptation of the vendors’ call, “O che poco,” Italian for “Oh, how little [money].” (The name gave way to the Hokey Pokey song.)
By 1905, ice cream sandwiches had made it to other locations, including the Boardwalk in Atlantic City.
It is often written that the version we know, the vanilla ice cream rectangle sandwiched with chocolate wafers, was invented in 1945 by Jerry Newberg, an ice cream vendor at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. He no doubt sold them.
However, some people who did deep research have debunked this allegation, and attest that the familiar vanilla rectangular surrounded by “sticky chocolate wafers” first appeared in the early 1900s (it can be seen in photos).
However, 1945 is still noteworthy in ice cream sandwich history: In that year, the first ice cream sandwiches were mass produced.
Today the frozen treat is made in many shapes (photo #1) including Mickey Mouse and other novelty designs, and is enjoyed all over the world in local flavors.
Here and there, people may have sandwiched ice cream and cookies at home; but the first mass-produced specialty ice cream sandwich, the Chipwich, was launched in 1978.
This “gourmet” ice cream sandwich placed vanilla ice cream between two large chocolate chip cookies, and covered the exposed sides of the ice cream with mini chocolate chips.
It was created by a New York lawyer, Richard LaMotta, who launched it via street carts in upscale neighborhoods of Manhattan. Some 25,000 Chipwiches were sold the first day, and became a local craze. Within two weeks the company was selling 40,000 a day.
The concept was exciting; but alas, the brand went downhill. In 2002, in financial straits, the company was sold to a larger company and the quality declined. It was subsequently discontinued. Here’s more about it.
The success of the Chipwich in the late 1970s inspired restaurateurs and folks at home to create their own variations.
Not just every type of cookie (black and white, biscotti, ginger snaps, lemon, macarons, meringues, oatmeal, palmiers (elephant ears), pizelles, red velvet, stroopwafels), but breads, pastries and candies, like…
…baklava, brioche, brownies and blondies, cake, caramel corn, chocolate bars, chocolate chip cookie dough, chocolate pancakes, churros, cinnamon rolls, croissants, cupcakes…
…donuts, frozen waffles, s’mores, Pop Tarts, raisin bread toast, whoopie pies and even breakfast cereals like Corn Flakes, granola and Cocoa Pebbles and Fruity Pebbles. Plus:
GARNISHES: The chocolate chips that garnished the Chipwich ice cream has expanded to dried fruits, granola, mini M&Ms and other small or crushed candies (like striped peppermints), Oreo crumbs, nuts, sprinkles and toffee chips.
LAYERS: Beyond just ice cream and cookies, you can add dessert sauces, jam or preserves, or fruits before the top cookie is placed. Try a layer of caramel or fudge, or brandy-soaked cherries.
So what are you going to do today?
Pick up your favorite ice cream and favorite “outer,” and make ice cream sandwiches! For inspiration:
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