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What Are the Different Types of Cold Desserts?

By Emily Pate
Updated May 16, 2024
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Cold desserts range widely, from beverages, ice cream, and novelty treats to chilled cakes, puddings, and pies, as well as gelatin-based dishes. Ice cream comes in simple and complex flavors as well as individual novelty treats. Cakes and pies may contain frozen fillings, toppings, or dairy ingredients chilled to achieve a thick, creamy texture. These may include desserts that are served warm when fresh and chilled for later snacking. Gelatin desserts are also typically chilled to thicken the key ingredient.

Sweet beverages are occasionally served as cold desserts. Notable frozen beverages include shakes and malts, traditionally containing a mixture of ice cream, milk, and add-ins. Malts contain a powder featuring the ingredient that gives them a noticeably different flavor from shakes. Smoothies are a fruit-based beverage that may be frozen or chilled, and can be a healthy alternative to shakes, depending on the ingredients. Sweet beverages like chocolate milk or Italian sodas are less typical cold desserts.

Ice cream is perhaps the most popular frozen treat, with an endless array of flavors, both traditional and seasonal. Basics like vanilla or Neapolitan work well alone or for sundaes and banana splits. More decadent flavors like rocky road or turtle may be eaten on their own or whipped into a shake.

Novelty treats like cones, sandwiches, and popsicles are individually-portioned alternatives to hard-packed ice cream. Cones may be sugar or waffle-based and dipped in chocolate and nuts. Sandwiches range from classic chocolate graham with vanilla filling to novelty cookies layered with flavored ice cream.

Cakes and pies may also feature frozen ingredients. Ice cream cakes are typically sold by ice cream shops and specialty retailers, but homemade recipes allow for custom flavors and ingredients. Pies may also feature ice cream or filling meant to be eaten frozen.

Many cold desserts are simply chilled to achieve a certain texture, especially dairy-based treats. Cheesecake, certain frosted pastries, and desserts containing cream are usually chilled to attain a thick texture and to keep ingredients from spoiling. Mousse and meringues are also usually served cold. Puddings, compotes, and preserves may be served warm, but are also eaten chilled, especially as leftovers.

Various cold desserts feature gelatin. Fruit gelatin squares and a variety of custards and pies call for the dessert to be chilled to set the filling or topping, much like dairy treats. Gelatin may also be used in preserves and fruit desserts for thickening as well.

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Discussion Comments
By SarahGen — On Jul 16, 2013

@fBoyle-- Many cold desserts are made with milk or cream, but there are definitely ones that are not made with milk. Fruit salads, sorbets and ice pops don't include milk. Most cold gelatin desserts don't either.

I bet you could also use dairy dessert recipes and use coconut milk, rice milk or almond milk in place of regular milk.

There are food blogs with dairy-free recipes that you can check out for ideas.

By fBoyle — On Jul 15, 2013

Are there cold desserts that are not made with dairy?

I'm not a fan of milk and milk products. What can I make for a hot summer day that doesn't involve milk?

By ZipLine — On Jul 15, 2013

My favorite cold dessert is cheesecake. I don't like frozen desserts because they melt and I don't like hot desserts either. Cold desserts are perfect, especially when it's creamy and thick like cheesecake.

I have a no-bake cheesecake recipe that my mom gave me. I make it all the time and it's a hit with my kids.

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