Caramel Ice Cream & a Lesson in Appearances

Yes. There are only 4 ingredients in this ice cream recipe, and this is a lesson in the magic of chemistry and not judging by appearance. A few weeks ago, I had the good fortune of scoring a free meal by helping out at a Condolleeza Rice dinner locally. My job was apparently to usher folks to their tables, but as I quickly realized, conservatives in general and the West Michigan Dutch in particular, like to care for themselves and feel quite uncomfortable with formality and assistance. Instead of ushering,  I found myself chatting with folks.

One of my first chats of the evening was with Mr. Heilman,  a retired nut-shop owner and chairman of his local GOP. Yes. Two resume items that will individually give hives to my children and then to me. I’m not too interested in the nitty gritty of politics. Unfortunately, in medicine, politics has taken an interest in me…so I’ve had to start paying attention and it’s been a very fascinating education in reality.  The thing that makes this political education so interesting, is that I genuinely like people. In medicine, we don’t care about folks’ political beliefs. We just care about people.  And Mr. Heilman was a delightful man. We talked about nut roasting, peanut blanching, carmel making, and creating a business from nothing. We talked about staying up late perfecting recipes and the amazing American system where necessity puts a fire under our butts, and liberty allows us to stretch and learn new skills we never knew we had.  He proudly talked about his caramel ice cream with 22% butterfat and I confided utter failure at chocolate tempering and a wish for a real tempering machine.

A few weeks later, Mr. Heilman stopped by and dropped off one of his industrial chocolate tempering machines to borrow over the holidays as well as his famous waffle cookies. Talk about a kid in a candy store! I had an absolute ball over Christmas, making fleur de sel caramels and chocolate covered cherries, dipping pretzels and saving all the chocolate scraps for mint chip ice cream.  But most of all, I was smitten with the idea of a Caramel Ice Cream. So I gave it a shot, and it’s wonderful.  Just like Mr. Heilman, it’s more than it appears on the surface, wonderful and complex, sweet and a little salty. Enjoy. 

Caramel Ice Cream
  1. 1 cup sugar
  2. 2 Tablespoons water
  3. 1/4 cup water for “stopping” the caramel
  4. 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  5. 3 cups soy creamer
  1. In a medium saucepan, mix the water and sugar together and start heating over medium-high heat. The sugar will melt and start boiling. Swirl the pan around every so often as the sugar mixture starts boiling. Keep boiling until the sugar syrup starts caramelizing and turning a golden brown. This is tricky. I have stainless pans, and it’s hard to judge caramel color. Sometimes, I take a little spoonful out and drop it on a white plate to see how golden my caramel is. If you overcook the caramel, it’s burnt, and not too good.
  2. Once the caramel is the right color, remove from the heat and set the pan WAY back on your stove. Things are going to get exciting. Quickly pour the 1/4 cup of water into the hot caramel mixture and jump back. The carmel is going to freak out, spurt and sputter.
  3. Once the carmel calms down, bring the pan forward onto low heat and stir until all the hard caramel chunks dissolve into a nice caramel syrup. Add the salt and let the caramel syrup cool down a bit.
  4. Off the heat, add the soy creamer to the carmel syrup slowly. The caramel may freak out again and form hard caramel chunks, don’t worry. Keep stirring and they will eventually dissolve. Don’t heat the mixture once the soy creamer has been added. Soy tastes really weird when it’s cooked, so just be patient and stir until the chunks dissolve.
  5. Freeze in an ice cream maker and enjoy! I have a Cuisinart and it’s wonderful.

Caramel ice cream is perfect with “Snowflake Cookies”.


  1. foodallergychronicles says

    I really need to get a Cuisinart icecream maker…your icecream's look so good!I love the pattern on the cookies and look forward to your recipe…where did you get the press to make such a pattern? Susan H. @ The Food Allergy Chronicles

  2. Barbara Feltcher says

    I made the frosting to use on a yellow cake (my husband's favorite birthday cake combination is yellow cake with caramel frosting–7 years in I am still working to find the right recipes for both). I followed the other reviewers' suggestions to double the caramel. The flavor was fantastic and intense. My husband liked it but thought it was super rich. I may lighten up some of the dairy ingredients next time. The icing was still fairly loose after chilling. I bet this would be amazing with the pumpkin cake. I learned this recipe at and sites were amazing. They have lots of exciting and tasty recipes for you to choose from. Try visiting it!

  3. Shauna says

    This looks delicious along with some of the other ice creams I have found on your website but I have a soy allergy as well as dairy. Can I make this with almond or coconut milk? Thank you!

    • Meg says

      Go for it Shauna, report back on how it works out. The reason I go with the “creamer” is due to the increased fat. Lower fat liquids like regular soy milk make for very icy and crumbly ice creams that taste ok…but really don’t scoop well. I bet there’s enough fat in the almond and coconut milks to make these recipes work.

  4. says

    I’ve been following you for years now, but this is the first year I’ve started playing around with ice cream (thank you!). I love your marshmallow trick. I just made a soy based strawberry for my youngest who still lives at home. She was complaining that no one sells strawberry soy ice cream, and when you buy neopolitan it has strawberry in the least amount. It was awsome! Now my oldest came by for lunch today and said “when are you going to make me some ice cream?”. So here’s the thing, she’s a bit of a gourmet and she can only do coconut milk, which is…well…coconutty. So we came up with a flavor, coconut with caramel and chocolate (like those Girl Scout cookies). Here’s where I hope you can help me. I know chocolate doesn’t always freeze well. In what form do you think it would do best? Hershey’s syrup swirl, straight shaved chocolate bar, any other suggestions? In my opinion you are the master of alternative ice creams, so I would love any input that you have to give me! Thank you so much!!! P.S. Sorry that was so long winded. I don’t blog anymore and I guess sometimes I miss it a little. :)

    • Meg says

      That sounds AWESOME. I love those cookies. If allergies permit, you should swirl in some crushed vanilla shortbread cookies, like Vanilla oreos or Lorna Dune and you’ll have the whole cookie deal! For the chocolate, you’re right, frozen chocolate is a problem. Hersey’s syrup would work, it will stay soft. I’d partially freeze the ice-cream in its container, then make little moats in the ice cream and fill with syrup and freeze fully. The more pain-in-the-butt, but pretty cool method is to make “Magic Shell” from your chocolate. Melt chocolate chips and some coconut oil, about 2:1 by weight of chocolate to coconut oil. Coconut oil is hard when frozen, but melts at body temp…so it makes the chocolate melt in your mouth! Good luck.
      Blogging is lots of work, you’re missed! We’ve been on a 1 month camping trip, so blogging has seriously fallen by the wayside.

  5. says

    Oh my gosh I’m glad I asked, you are a genious! The “magic shell” effect is exactly what I was wishing for. Also, my oldest can do wheat, so the cookies are definitely going in! I never would have thought of that. Thank you!!!


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