Some recipes come easily, and some take a little more time before they find their way.  This is the latter, but it was well worth the wait.  Red velvet cake is my favorite, if you’re forcing me to choose, and so the thought of a red velvet ice cream seemed pretty great.  However, the majority of the “recipes” I’ve come across are simply ice cream with chunks of red velvet cake mixed in.  No doubt, that classic red velvet flavor isn’t quite going to come through, not to mention that the little pieces of cake stippled throughout a formerly creamy, smooth ice cream seems like a major texture fail.

I dropped the idea until one day it dawned on me – the thing that makes red velvet so good in that way you can’t quite put your finger on?  It’s the buttermilk.  And since I’ve already made a buttermilk ice cream that I happen to love, that seemed like a great starting point.  A small amount of cocoa powder is incorporated into the custard base of the ice cream, just as with the cake itself – a little chocolate, but not too much.  Yep, I had it all figured out last year at about this time but by a series of mishaps, my ice cream bowl was not cold enough and the batter never froze.  Red velvet season (AKA Valentine’s Day) passed so I filed the idea away yet again, but now here we are and it is a finally a reality.  A smooth, tangy treat with a ribbon of cream cheese frosting because really, what is red velvet without the cream cheese frosting?


For the ice cream:
1½ cups heavy cream
¾ cup plus 3 tbsp. sugar, divided
1½ tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
6 large egg yolks
1¼ cups buttermilk
1 tbsp. liquid red food coloring*
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the cream cheese swirl:
4 oz. cream cheese, cold
2½ tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1¼ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. heavy cream


  • 01

    In a medium saucepan, combine the heavy cream with ¾ cup of the sugar and the cocoa powder.  Heat over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally, until warmed through and the sugar and cocoa have dissolved into the cream.  Meanwhile, in a medium bowl or a large liquid measuring cup, combine the egg yolks and the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar.  Whisk until smooth.  Once the cream mixture is warm, slowly pour the mixture into the bowl with the egg yolks, whisking constantly to temper the eggs.  Return the egg-cream mixture to the saucepan over medium high heat.

  • 02

    Cook the mixture, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula or spoon (about 170-175° F.)  Pour the custard through the strainer into a bowl or storage container.  Stir in the buttermilk, red food coloring, and vanilla.  Cover and chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.

  • 03

    Just before you are ready to freeze the ice cream, make the cream cheese frosting.  Combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add in the confectioners’ sugar and mix on low speed just until incorporated.  Blend in the vanilla and heavy cream.  Increase the speed to medium-high and beat 2-3 minutes more.  (It is not absolutely required, but putting the frosting in a pastry bag fitted with a large flat tip, such as Ateco #789, will make it easier to layer the frosting with the ice cream.)

  • 04

    Freeze the ice cream base in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Transfer to a storage container, alternating layers of ice cream with layers of frosting.  Transfer to the freezer and freeze until firm.

  • 05

    *The red food coloring, in my opinion, is not totally crucial to the red velvet flavor so feel free to dial it down a bit if you are so inclined.  However, I do think it is part of the flavor so I wouldn’t omit it entirely.  Also keep in mind, the red color will look more pink/salmon colored immediately after freezing in the ice cream maker, but don’t be tempted to add more coloring.  The color will return to a deep red after fully freezing.

  • Aimee Conrad-Hill

    This looks beautiful and I can’t wait to try it.

  • Tracey

    My local ice cream shop had a new red velvet flavor this past summer that I came to love, but yours looks even more promising. Can’t wait to try it!!

  • Liz @ Tip Top Shape

    Oohh this is some dangerous ice cream! Pretty sure I would eat the entire batch myself!!

  • The addition of the cream swirl is definitely a wonderful thing!

  • I just red velvet cake ice cream from ben and jerry’s this week! i am excited to try your version. thanks!

  • I love the Lizzy House pearl fabric you used for the photo shoot!

  • yanksgurl613

    yum! I love red velvet so this will be a great one for me. and very valentines apropriate too! thanks for sharing this recipe I have yet to master ice cream and I want to try. xx. gigi

  • dek2711

    Wow schools are off 2day here in CT bcuz of the snowstorm and i had planned to bake red velvet cupcakes…i was trying to cut the recipe in half…but no need now for all that math…thank you Annie..this is a happy coincidence.

  • Sarah @ Cubicle To Kitchen

    I love your honesty that this was a work in progress. We have all been there before. Thanks for playing around with this one…it looks like it paid off! Cream Cheese Frosting swirl… genius.

  • I love it! Nicely done!

  • Caroline L.

    I think this may be the prettiest ice cream I’ve ever seen!

  • Michelle

    You had me at red velvet….thank goodness I got an icecream machine for Christmas!!!!!!!!!!

  • marcie @ flavor the moments

    I totally agree — buttermilk makes red velvet what it is. It’s one of my favorite cakes, too, so I really want to try this! I’ve never made ice cream before, but this recipe will give me this inspiration I need!

  • Liz N.

    Annie, this is amazing! I love the cream cheese swirl. What a great touch. I cannot wait to make this. How did you manage to hold out on this one for a year?! What other amazing recipes do you have up your ModCloth sleeves?? LOL

  • annieseats

    LOL! Oh, I’ve got a few more that are still working their way to greatness. Haha.

  • Erica Perry

    Genius! I wish I had an ice cream maker so I could try this!

  • JanetFCTC

    Right up my alley as far as desserts go. Hmmm, maybe I could make red velvet cake to serve it with hehe… calorie overkill

  • Tracy

    The Shake Shack in NYC is my favorite place for custard and one month they had red velvet as a rotating flavor. I was so excited to try some, but when I did, I was sadly disappointed. The custard was more like a cream cheese flavored ice cream with red velvet crumbs. Not bad, but definitely not great, and completely not what I wanted. Annie, this is what I think of when I think of red velvet ice cream. I can’t wait to try and hope all of my wildest dreams come true. Thank you!

  • wow, it’s amazing! I never touhgt about this idea before. can’t wait to try it at home. :)

  • Callie

    This is so amazing!! I love your blog so much because I am constantly sharing your opinions about food. Prime example- that ice cream with chunks of red velvet cake does not equal red velvet ice cream. Thank you for aspiring to greatness with your recipes; I love having a reliable source of inspiration in the kitchen :)

  • Heather at Kitchen Concoctions

    I have wanted to try to make homemade red velvet ice cream for quite sometime! Glad to see you’ve come up with a great recipe! Can’t wait to try it!

  • Carlene

    Annie, this looks amazing! Just one question: I have a daughter with an egg allergy and I was wondering if I could cut back on the eggs or such substitute something for the eggs in this recipe? She can eat baked goods that contain eggs, but the most she can handle are 4 eggs in a cookie or brownie recipe. So any suggestions? We love red velvet, but I”m not a very experienced ice cream maker so I would be grateful for any suggestions.

  • natalie

    oh my … the BF would LOVE this …

  • Deborah Andrews

    Omg! This is totally one of my absolute favorite ice creams and I have this totally awesome double ice cream maker by Cuisinart. And it’s time to make more ice cream…lol. Thanks for the inspiration and the recipe!


  • Annie @Annie’s City Kitchen

    I think the words “cream cheese swirl” now need to be added to every recipe I ever make. I want this so bad an it’s only 10am

  • Felicity @ Our Little Beehive

    Not related to this post, but I’m looking at my Paper Source catalog and apart from a macaron covered cover, there are the cutest aprons, dish towels, plates, etc. for sale. I thought of you immediately! You must check it out! I

  • Oh. Man. This is out of control delicious!!

  • sheryl wehn

    Have you tried swirling the frosting in rather than layering?

  • annieseats

    Oh yes, I love their mac stuff! I actually bought a set of the macaron note cards a while back and have been using them like crazy. So, so cute!

  • annieseats

    I’m not sure what you mean exactly. Layering gives the swirled effect when scooped. If you actually mix it in, it will blend with the ice cream batter and then there won’t be definition between the two.

  • Katrin

    I’ve made the base, ready to be frozen tomorrow for Valentine’s Day. The custard tastes so good! It actually really tastes like the cupcake. I’ll also be making your beet ravioli tomorrow – the perfect red for Valentine’s Day. Thank you for so many many amazing recipes!!

  • pzrhodes

    Hi Annie,
    I made this recipe a couple days ago. Wow! Rich! But very delicious and the taste is indeed “red velvet”. I did add a tablespoon of Vodka to keep it from freezing too hard. It turned out perfect.

  • annieseats

    Glad you enjoyed this! Just for the future, the vodka isn’t necessary thanks to all the egg yolks and the buttermilk. This ice cream stays pretty scoopable, definitely moreso than some other homemade flavors.

  • Amy

    Oh my… I was just trying to figure out the same thing but in a smoothie just last week! I agree, everything I found was just adding red velvet chunks to it which is not acceptable. I will definitely have to try this. Thank you!

  • Wendy

    I made this recipe the other day and it came out perfect. I am not a huge Red Velvet person but this ice cream is rich and amazing. It takes just like the cake. Thanks for sharing Annie!

  • Den

    My ice cream won’t freeze. After churning, I placed it in the freezer overnight. Saw it the following day and it’s not frozen.

  • Den

    What food coloring did you use? Thanks!

  • annieseats

    It’s likely an issue with your ice cream maker. I had that happen to me and it turned out my freezer was a bit too warm, and the bowl was not cold enough to freeze the ice cream.

  • annieseats

    Just generic red liquid food coloring – I think probably Kroger brand.

  • Larissa

    I’ve made this recipe twice in the last month. Once per my friend’s Bday request, then again because I wanted a batch for myself! It’s so rich and delicious! And like Wendy, I’m not a huge red velvet person, but wow, this recipe is amazing. Especially the cream cheese swirl. I think Annie is right; the red food coloring is not essential to the flavor, but I made the second batch without it and it sort of lacked something without that key visual of RED. Thanks Annie for developing this recipe!!

  • Kevin

    Delicious. Very rich flavor, with enough Cocoa, which I think many red velvet recipes are lacking. The amount of red is just right also–produces a beautiful color. I made it for my wife who is very particular about red velvet anything, as red velvet is her favorite flavor. She loves this custard. I would recommend doing the frosting layers frequently or even scooping the custard and frosting layers into a separate container simultaneously so as to make sure each bite has both custard and frosting. I made my layers a little too far apart so that you need to make a conscious effort to get both custard and frosting.

  • Lauren Ochoa

    I was searching for my next ice cream adventure and decided to make this because red velvet is my friend Kayla’s favorite cake and she was coming for dinner. We all enjoyed it and I got extra points for remembering what flavor she loves.

  • Hi Annie,

    Did you use Dutch-process cocoa for this? I’m working on a red velvet ice cream recipe of my own, and my first batch totally failed (did not set). So, I started Googling to find other recipes that have been more successful. I’m thinking that the combination of acidic buttermilk + regular cocoa is the downfall of mine.

  • annieseats

    I use regular unsweetened cocoa powder. I don’t think that is the reason for the ice cream not setting up. Good luck!

  • Jelli

    I used the cream cheese frosting swirl recipe today for my cinnamon roll ice cream and it turned out beautifully! Thanks, Annie, for sharing!