Basics Recipe for Practical Application

How To Make A Custard Base For Ice Cream + Best Custard Base Recipe

February 21, 2017

Make the ultimate homemade frozen treat by mastering how to make a custard base for ice cream.  Plus, my favorite recipe for the best custard base for ice cream, and a recovery hack for if you curdle your base!

Make the ultimate homemade frozen treat by mastering how to make a custard base for ice cream. Plus, a recipe for the best custard base for ice cream!

Making a custard base for ice cream is a bit time consuming.  The results, however, are proof of the work put into it.  You get a creamy, dreamy, luxuriously smooth ice cream that begs to be eaten.  It calls to you in your dreams, whisks you away to pleasant places during the day, and more than anything, tempts you to make poor choices about portion sizes…

Why Use A Custard Base For Ice Cream?

Custard ice creams give you that classic texture that you think of with ice cream; super smooth, thick, and decadent.  Not to mention, custard ice creams don’t get freezer burnt as easily because there is less water particles are smaller and the eggs work as an emulsifier to contain the water.

But if you’re wondering if a custard base is worth your time, the answer really comes down to preference.  Many custardless ice creams out there are fantastic.  In fact, I did a guest post for Cook.Craft.Love last year on a Strawberry-Lavender Ice Cream (it also comes with a fantastic story about my brief foray into kleptomania) that is extremely delicious despite not having a custard base.  So I would say that more than anything, it comes down to what kind of ice cream you’re making.

Custard bases are ideal for when you want a super thick, rich, and decadent ice cream.  It’s better suited for the elegant or indulgent flavors that the custard will help bring out; like, vanilla bean, dark chocolate, dulce de leche, salted caramel, or white chocolate.  It’s also nice to use a custard base when you’re adding in flavors that have a high amount of water in them – like peach, mango, or lemon.

How To Recover A Curdled Custard Base For Ice Cream

The most important thing to know for making a custard base for ice cream, is that temperature control is key.  There is a fine line between a silky custard and scrambled eggs, so make sure you have a well-calibrated thermometer in you pot at all times.  As soon as you see the temperature hit 180°F, shut off the heat, and move the pot away from the burner.  If you let your custard base site while it’s still on the burner, the residual heat can end up taking your base over that fine line.

“What happens if I scramble the eggs in my custard base?”, you may be thinking.  All hope is not lost my friend, I have a recovery hack that works excellently every single time.

To recover a curdled custard base for ice cream: cool the custard to room temperature, place it in a blender and blend on medium-high for 15-30 seconds or until the custard base is once again smooth.

Blending your curdled ice cream base will help break down the egg into teeny-tiny pieces so it won’t effect texture.  You may find that the flavor of your ice cream is a bit more “eggy” than if they hadn’t curdled, but 9 times out of 10, no one will notice.

The Best Custard Base For Ice Cream

This is my absolutely favorite way of making a custard base for ice cream.  A lot of the recipes on the internet (including the one that I’m putting out later this week) allow for you to just cook the custard base right in the pot.  The problem with that is that it doesn’t provide very good temperature control.  Using a double boiler gives you more control since the base isn’t directly touching a heat source.  It also gives you more ice cream at the end because you don’t lose as much to it sticking to the pot.

If you would like to heat it up in your pot instead of the double boiler, no problem.  I do still recommend adding the chilled heavy cream at the end to stop the cooking to make sure your residual heat doesn’t overcook your base.

 Get your free printable grocery list for this Best Custard Base for Ice Cream recipe HERE.

Above you’ll find a printable grocery list for everything you’ll need to make your ice cream custard base.  If no amounts are listed, you can purchase the smallest amount the store offers and still have some leftover.

Practice Makes Perfect

If you would like to try some ice cream recipes made with a delicious custard base, here are some I recommend:

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Happy Cooking! 🙂


Tub of custard ice cream next to cuisinart ice cream maker
5 from 1 vote

How To Make A Custard Base For Ice Cream + Best Custard Base Recipe

Get the best quality and consistency out of your homemade ice cream by using this recipe for the best custard base for ice cream. This method provides better control over temperature and a rich and decadent end product!
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Calories 290 kcal
Author Mackenzie Ryan


  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract (optional)


  1. Combine the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl. Whip the mixture until it becomes thick and the color turns a light yellow.

  2. Scald the milk in a pot, then gradually beat it into the egg mixture. If you add in too much too soon in will scramble your eggs. Take your time.
  3. Stirring constantly, continue to heat over a water bath or double boiler until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat.
  4. Immediately stir in the cold cream to stop the cooking. Add the salt and vanilla if using.
  5. Chill the mixture for at least 12 hours, then freeze in a ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions.

Recipe Notes

If you are using a container of heavy cream that has previously been opened, make sure to scald and cool it prior to use. This will help reduce the risk of food-borne illness.

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  • Reply MEGAN MCDUFFIE June 11, 2017 at 10:29 pm

    What a great, well-researched post! I have yet to dip my toes into ice cream making, but this is a great guide for when I start! The ice cream recipe you suggested looks wonderful – I love anything with cardamom!

    • Reply Mackenzie Ryan September 12, 2017 at 3:10 pm

      I hope you get to try making your own ice cream soon, Megan. The effort you put into it will definitely be rewarded with excellent creamy dreamy goodness!

  • Reply Timid August 21, 2017 at 8:47 pm

    I had never made custard or icecream before this but this recipe sounded good even if a bit intimidating for a novice. It was amaaaazing and not as difficult as I had anticipated. Nothing curdled, no bits of weird cooked egg it was simply silky and luxurious. I swapped the vanilla out for almond extract and made a gorgeous Rhubarb Custard icecream!

    It was quite sweet though, I’m wondering if it’s possible to reduce the level of sugar a bit for next time or if that would completely destroy the texture. Regardless I would make this again and try different flavors or just plain…plain would be really good.

    • Reply Mackenzie Ryan August 23, 2017 at 10:29 pm

      This just absolutely made my day! I love that you tried something new and that the recipe worked so well for you. Plus, that Rhubarb ice cream with almond extract sounds magnificent!!! Yum!!

      As for the sweetness – you absolutely could cut it down a bit, I would say by as much as 1/3rd depending on what you are turning the base into. It may change the texture a bit, but mostly in how it freezes. Since you’ll have more liquid in the recipe, the mouthfeel will vary slightly and it will be more prone to freezer burn. I recommend putting the ice cream into a freezer safe container, and then putting that container into a sealable freezer safe gallon bag. That usually does the trick!

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe, and thank you for the awesome review! If you get a chance, I’d love to see a photo of your delicious creation! 🙂

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