Chocolate Caramel Homemade Ice Cream Cake

This homemade ice cream cake recipe makes a great birthday cake and feeds a crowd! Made with store bought ice cream to be super easy, but homemade caramel and ganache to be extra delicious!

A homemade ice cream cake with caramel sauce dripping off the top.

Ice cream cake is the best kind of cake, period. But homemade ice cream cake is on a whole other level.

There are a few steps involved in making your own ice cream cake, but the process is simple and it's so worth it. This no bake dessert is a great recipe to have on hand for birthdays and special occasions because it can be made up to a week in advance and has a major wow factor.

This ice cream cake recipe is extra easy because it utilizes store bought ice cream, but still has that homemade flavor thanks to a buttery chocolate graham cracker crust, plenty of homemade salted caramel and a silky smooth homemade chocolate ganache.

Like the classic Carvel cakes we all grew up on, I include layer of those crunchy, buttery chocolate crumbs in the center of the cake as well to give it a nostalgic feel.

If you're a salted caramel lover like me, you have to try my recipe for easy sea salted caramels or these extra fudgy salted caramel brownies.

For a fun fruity cake, try this Lemon Blueberry Poundcake or my Classic Italian Ricotta Cake with Pears!

Why This Recipe Works

  • No baking required.
  • Made easy with store bought ice cream.
  • Homemade caramel and chocolate ganache make it extra special.
  • Make it up to a week ahead for easy entertaining.
  • Major wow factor.
  • Feeds a crowd - up to 16 servings!
The side of a layered homemade ice cream cake with chocolate and caramel.

Ingredient Notes

  • Chocolate graham crackers - You can also substitute Oreo cookie crumbs or chocolate wafer crumbs.
  • Chocolate chips - I use semi sweet chocolate, but you can use milk chocolate or dark chocolate if you prefer.
  • Light corn syrup - This is NOT high fructose corn syrup, and is used to keep the caramel sauce from crystallizing.
  • Heavy Cream - Use real heavy whipping cream and do not substitute light cream or anything low fat or the recipe will not work.
  • Vanilla extract - use real vanilla extract, not imitation. For best results, use homemade vanilla extract!
  • Ice cream - I use vanilla flavored store-bought ice cream for ease and simplicity. But feel free to use chocolate ice cream or experiment with different flavors. You will need one whole gallon, which seems like a lot, but it all gets pressed down to fit.
  • Flaky sea salt - Be sure to use a large flake sea salt like Maldon for the best crunch!

*Full ingredient list with quantities is in the recipe card.

Helpful Equipment

  • Springform pan - A deep pan with removable sides is key for any ice cream cake recipe. Use a 9-inch wide, 3-inch deep springform pan.
  • Food Processor - To pulverize the graham crackers. You can also place them in a sealed bag and run a rolling pin over them, or crush them with your hands. 
Slices of ice cream cake on plates with the cake in the background.

Step by step instructions

Make the crust

  1. Mix together the chocolate graham cracker crumbs, sugar and salt in a medium or large bowl.
  2. Pour in the melted butter and mix until the crumbs are fully moistened.
  3. Scoop out half of the crumbs into a 9-inch wide, 3-inch deep springform pan that's been sprayed with cooking spray.
  4. Use the bottom of a glass or measuring cup to press the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan, forming an even layer that creeps up about an inch on the sides.
  5. Take the remaining crumbs and spread them out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  6. Place both pans in the freezer to set up for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Make the Ganache

  1. Heat the heavy cream in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until it just starts to bubble.
  2. Remove from the heat and pour in the chocolate chips.
  3. Stir until the chips are fully melted, and the ganache is smooth and shiny.

Make the Salted Caramel Sauce

  1. Place the sugar and corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat and swirl the pan around gently until the sugar melts. Try to avoid stirring unless absolutely necessary.
  2. Cook the sugar until it starts to turn amber in color, then remove from the heat and stir in the heavy cream and butter. Be very careful, as it will bubble up and foam immensely at this point. Rapidly stir until everything is incorporated.
  3. Place the pot back on the stove and cook over medium heat until it turns a shade or two darker. Keep a close eye on it, as you don't want it to go too far.
  4. Remove it from the heat, then stir in the salt and vanilla. Allow to cool to room temperature before assembling the cake.

Assemble the Cake

Scoops of ice cream in about to be spread in a layered ice cream cake.
Spreading chocolate ganache on top of an ice cream cake.
  1. Remove the springform pan from the freezer and pour half of the ganache over top. Spread it out into an even layer, then sprinkle with a teaspoon of flaky sea salt. Place the pan back in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  2. Remove the pan from the freezer, and scoop out half the gallon of vanilla ice cream. Spread it out evenly, pressing it down firmly so there are no air bubbles or gaps. Place back in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove the sheet pan of chocolate crumbs from the freezer and crumble into small pieces.
  4. Sprinkle ⅔ of the chocolate crumbs over the ice cream layer. Then pour ¾ of the cooled salted caramel over the chocolate crumbs and place back in the freezer for another 30 minutes.
  5. Scoop out the remaining half gallon of ice cream and spread it out over the caramel layer, pressing down firmly to fit it all in. It should come right up to the top of the spring form pan. Place back into the freezer for 30 minutes.
  6. Remove from the freezer and pour the remaining ganache over the top of the ice cream, spreading it out into an even layer. Crumble the last of the chocolate crumbs over top of the cake, then douse with the remaining salted caramel and top with a teaspoon of flaky sea salt. Place back in the freezer for at least one more hour, or up to a week before serving.

Tips For Success

  • You should be able to fit all of the ice cream into the pan by pressing down very firmly and making sure there are no air bubbles or gaps.
  • Remove the cake from the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to soften prior to serving.
  • When ready to serve, release the hinge on the side of the pan, and remove the sides. Keep in the pan or move to a serving platter. 
  • Dip a sharp knife in HOT water for a few seconds and then slice into the cake. Repeat dipping the knife in hot water prior to cutting each slice of cake. 
A slice of homemade salted caramel and chocolate ice cream cake.

Serving Suggestions

This cake is a masterpiece all on its own, but here are a few ideas for serving if you really love to pile on the sweets.

  • Top with extra chocolate chips, whipped cream and a maraschino cherry!
  • Serve alongside a glass of Homemade Cold Brew Coffee or a shot of espresso for an affogato!

FAQ

How do I prevent my ice cream cake from melting too quickly?

It needs to be frozen solid for at least an hour before serving, but longer is better. If it's exceptionally hot where you are, try serving the cake indoors. Return cake to the freezer immediately after serving. 

How do I decorate an ice cream cake?

I love the rustic look of the cookie crumbles, ganache and homemade caramel oozing down the sides.

How to store ice cream cake?

Wrap the entire cake in plastic wrap a few times and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. 

Can I refreeze leftover slices of ice cream cake?

Yes! Just wrap them tight in a few layers of plastic wrap. 

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A homemade ice cream cake with caramel sauce dripping off the top.
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Chocolate Caramel Homemade Ice Cream Cake

This homemade ice cream cake recipe makes a great birthday cake and feeds a crowd! Made with store bought ice cream to be super easy, but homemade caramel and ganache to be extra delicious!
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings: 16 servings
Calories: 933kcal

Ingredients

For the Crust + Cookie Crumbs

  • 18 chocolate graham crackers pulverized into crumbs (about 3 cups)
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 ½ sticks, melted

For the Ganache

  • 1 ¼ cups heavy cream
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

For the Salted Caramel

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup*
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Assembly

  • 2 half-gallons vanilla ice cream
  • 2 teaspoons flaky sea salt

Instructions

Make the Crust + Cookie Crumbs

  1. Mix together the chocolate graham cracker crumbs, sugar and salt in a medium bowl.
  2. Pour in the melted butter and mix until the crumbs are fully moistened.
  3. Scoop out half of the crumbs into a 9-inch wide, 3-inch deep spring form pan that's been sprayed with cooking spray. Use the bottom of a glass or measuring cup to press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan, forming an even layer that creeps up about an inch on the sides.
  4. Take the remaining crumbs and spread them out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place both pans in the freezer to set up for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Make the Ganache

  1. Heat the heavy cream in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until it just starts to bubble.
  2. Remove from the heat and pour in the chocolate chips. Stir until the chips are fully melted, and the ganache is smooth and shiny.

Make the Salted Caramel

  1. Place the sugar and corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat and swirl the pan around gently until the sugar melts. Try to avoid stirring unless absolutely necessary.
  2. Cook the sugar until it starts to turn amber in color, then remove from the heat and add in the heavy cream and butter. Be very careful, as it will bubble up and foam immensely at this point. Rapidly stir until everything is incorporated.
  3. Place the pot back on the stove and cook over medium heat until it turns a shade or two darker. Keep a close eye on it, as you don't want it to go too far.
  4. Remove caramel from the heat, and stir in the salt and vanilla. Allow to cool to room temperature before assembling the cake.

Assemble the cake

  1. Remove the spring form pan from the freezer and pour half of the ganache over top. Spread it out into an even layer, then sprinkle with a teaspoon of flaky sea salt. Place the pan back in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  2. Scoop out one half gallon of vanilla ice cream and spread it out evenly on top of the ganache, pressing it down so there are no air bubbles or gaps. Place back in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove the sheet pan of chocolate crumbs from the freezer and crumble into small pieces.
  4. Remove the spring form pan from the freezer and pour ⅔ of the chocolate crumbs over the layer of ice cream. Next, pour ¾ of the salted caramel over the chocolate crumbs, then place back in the freezer for another 30 minutes.
  5. Scoop out the remaining half gallon of ice cream and spread it out over the caramel layer, pressing down firmly to fit it all in. Make sure there are no air bubbles or gaps, then place back into the freezer for 30 minutes.
  6. Pour the remaining ganache over the top and spread it out into an even layer. Crumble the last of the chocolate crumbs over top, then douse with the remaining salted caramel, and top with a teaspoon of flaky sea salt. Place back in the freezer for one more hour, or up to one week before serving.

Notes

  • You should be able to fit all of the ice cream into the pan by pressing down very firmly and making sure there are no air bubbles or gaps.
  • Remove the cake from the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to soften prior to serving.
  • When ready to serve, release the hinge on the side of the pan, and remove the sides. Keep in the pan or move to a serving platter. 
  • Dip a sharp knife in HOT water for a few seconds and then slice into the cake. Repeat dipping the knife in hot water prior to cutting each slice of cake.

Nutrition

Calories: 933kcal | Carbohydrates: 96g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 57g | Saturated Fat: 34g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 15g | Trans Fat: 0.5g | Cholesterol: 165mg | Sodium: 559mg | Potassium: 648mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 79g | Vitamin A: 1739IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 350mg | Iron: 2mg
5 from 34 votes

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59 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Wow!! This is truly sinful but Amazing! I made this for my 16 year old son’s birthday and all 3 of my kids said they are now requesting this cake for every birthday! This recipe has lots of steps but simple to follow and very forgiving. Feel like you can make it your own with multiple variations. A jar of premade caramel work great to save you the hassle of failed (crystallized) caramel….or so I’ve heard LOL. But I would not skip the chocolate ganache or the flaked sea salt- YUM!!

    1. So glad to hear it was a hit, Jennifer! Store bought salted caramel is definitely a solid hack to make this a little bit easier to throw together. It's totally a forgiving recipe that can be made with endless variations. Have fun!

  2. 5 stars
    This was awesome!!! Everyone went crazy for it! The only change I made was using half of the half gallon ice cream for each layer. So one half gallon total split between the 2 layers. So delicious and special! I will definitely make it again!

  3. 5 stars
    I made this twice and its was loved by family and friends with every bite. So easy to make, even a man can do it. Thanks for the recipe!

  4. 5 stars
    Made this. I strongly suggest a larger springform pan. I also suggest buying caramel. Making it this way was arduous and it didn't drizzle well AT ALL! What a mess. It looked awful after my attempt so I'm either going to doctor it up again with more store bought caramel or whipped cream. But I'm sure it will all taste good...I hope. Ha!