The Story Of Ice Cream - The Creamy And Sweet Dessert That Makes Us Scream For More

"I scream,
you scream,
we all scream for ice cream!

- a popular song from the 1920s by Howard Johnson, Billy Moll, and Robert King.

Ice cream is one of the world’s most favorite desserts and is consumed across the globe with great delight. Both children and adults go crazy over this sweet, creamy and smooth snack, usually made from milk, cream, sugar and various flavors. No trip to a fair, theme park, dinner or a picnic is ever complete without a scoop of this sweet heaven.

Ice creams come in a variety of colors, shapes and flavors and is consumed in a wide assortment of forms. It is the unique method of freezing, which is employed in the making of the ice cream that gives it the distinctive soft, creamy texture without forming ice crystals. Our love for ice cream is so huge that every year billions of gallons of this sweet dessert is produced and consumed, amounting to a staggering commercial trade in excess of 50 billion dollars!

A scoop sized history of ice cream.

The ancient Romans, Greeks, Chinese, Indians and Persians all used ice and snow for creating frozen food items and drinks. They gathered and stockpiled ice and snow from nature for preparing these delicacies. Traces of evidence can be gathered from Rome, Greece, Persia and China of ancient times – dating back to more than 2000 years -, on special chilled milk and fruit based food products that can be seen as the primitive prototypes for modern day ice creams.

In these early days ice was a much sought after and very expensive commodity. Before the discovery of the technology for freezing, snow or ice was collected from nature and storing them without melting was a very difficult and expensive task.

The technology for freezing and making ice can be traced back to a 13th century CE book by the great Arab medical historian, Ibn Abi Usaibia, who was born in Damascus, Syria in 1203. In this book he records methods for creating artificial ice using cold water and saltpeter. And it can be seen that by the medieval time, Sherbet drinks with ice was becoming more and more common in Middle East.

By the 17th century, artificially made ice became available in Europe, and many chefs and confectioners started experimenting with ice, fruits, milk and sherbets to create innovative frozen food items. Even then, ice was very expensive and these frozen delicacies were limited to the tables of kings, queens and nobility. By the second half of 17th century we can find evidences of a dish similar to modern ice cream being served at many of the royal banquets in Europe. Recipes for making ice cream started to appear in many of the French publications by the late 1600s.

A Page from "A Collection of Receipts in Confectionary", published in 1788, based on 'Mrs. Mary Eales's Receipts', that was originally published in London in 1718.

By early 18th century we can see that the dish called ice cream was familiar among the upper echelons of both Britain and American society. The first ice cream recipe in an English cookery book appeared in Mrs. Mary Eales's Receipts , which was published in 1718. By the second half of 18th century, ice cream started to get more popular as artificial ice became cheaper and it was soon available in various confectionary shops in Europe and America.

Agnes Marshall's ice cream maker, circa 1885.

In 1843, a lady named Nancy Johnson of Philadelphia, transformed the history of ice cream making by inventing a small hand-cranked ice cream freezer, which made making ice creams easier and cheaper. In England, the Victorian culinary entrepreneur Agnes Marshall, in 1885 patented an ice cream machine that could freeze a pint of ice cream – about 2 cups - in just five minutes. Soon large ice cream manufacturing companies were formed and this sweet scoop of delight was soon spreading across the globe as a popular and readily available dessert.

A truck that was used for delivering Ice cream to retail sellers - circa early 1900s - From the Book of Ice Cream, 1919.

Who invented Ice cream cones?

It is not easy to pinpoint a single person for the invention of ice cream cone as there are numerous claims for this title. One of the earliest reference to an edible cone can be traced to Antonio de Rossi, a Venetian confectioner in Rome, who in 1724 compiled a manuscript, which was a compilation of several ice recipes. In this manuscript there is a recipe for one cialdoni torceli, a twisted conical shaped wafer, which can be treated as an earlier form of ice cream cones.

During the 1800s, when ice cream became a favorite dessert of the masses, the street vendors found that serving ice cream in the traditional bowl and spoon was becoming increasingly difficult for their business. Looking for cheaper solutions they came up with innovative ideas like paper wrappings and glass cups; but these ideas were not entirely satisfactory for their business.

By the late 1800s an edible baked wafer or biscuit like shell was used in Europe by some vendors for selling ice cream to customers. Some of the restaurants in Europe and America then started using this wafer cup for serving their customers with ice cream. The patent for an edible cone was given to an Italian entrepreneur named Antonio Valvona in 1903 in the UK and to Italo Marchiony , an ice cream salesman from New York of Italian origin, in 1904, in the United States.

The ice cream cone made out of crispy waffle, rolled into a conical shape was made immensely popular during "The Louisiana Purchase Exposition" of 1904 held in St. Louis, Missouri, United States. It is believed that during the 1904 fair a waffle maker named Ernest Hamwi, an immigrant from Syria, created cones out of freshly made waffles due to the demand from a neighboring ice cream vendor, who ran out of ice cream cups.

The 1998 32¢ stamp commemorating St. Louis World’s Fair,1904 from The US Postal Service, portrays 2 kids with ice-cream cones. The ice-cream cones became immensely popular during the fair.

These ice cream served in a waffle cones became an instant success with both customers and vendors. By the 1920s ice cream sales boomed and the waffle cones became hugely popular and special machines were available for making these cones.

Some Sweet Facts about Ice Cream

Top Consumers: New Zealand, United States, Australia, Finland and Sweden are the top five ice cream consuming countries on our planet.

Top selling ice cream flavors : Vanilla and Chocolate are two of the bestselling ice cream flavors. Ice creams made with these two flavors were available from 19th century.

Most favorite ice cream topping: It is believed that Chocolate syrup is the world’s most popular ice cream topping.

Brain Freeze : Brain freeze or ice-cream headache is the sharp brief pain caused when ice cream touches the roof of the mouth.

The tallest ice cream cone: According to the Guinness World Records, the tallest ice cream cone was achieved by Norwegian ice-cream company Hennig-Olsen at Kristiansand, Norway, on 26 July 2015. This cone measures a massive 3.08m in height.