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What Are the Different Types of Frozen Desserts?

By Britt Archer
Updated May 16, 2024
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Frozen desserts are a cool and tasty way to finish off a meal. These frozen sweets have been consumed by mankind for thousands of years and date back to the ancient Chinese, Egyptians and Romans, who developed a fondness for the refreshing sweetness of flavored crushed ice. Frozen desserts in modern times still include crushed ice, such as the snow cones and water ices that are a favorite of all age groups, but there are many more types of concoctions available today. A modern frozen dessert menu can include gelato, sorbet, ice cream, custard, smoothies and yogurt, plus mousses, soufflés and even frozen fruit salad.

Making desserts that are frozen is usually not difficult, but it depends on the specific recipe. Busy cooks can choose to make simple but appetizing frozen desserts that take little time, such as a parfait, which whips up quickly, looks pretty and can be made well in advance of a meal. Another quick choice is a simple ice cream sandwich. Frozen desserts that take more time include homemade ice cream, which can be as plain as vanilla or as complicated as pistachio and rose petal. Other homemade desserts can be more sophisticated, including a French bombe, also known as a dome, which requires a mold to prepare properly.

Frozen and chilled desserts do not have to be unhealthy choices. People who choose a healthy lifestyle can enjoy many dessert options. Choices include a frozen trifle made with raspberries and blueberries and low-calorie whipped cream, and low-fat versions of frozen cakes and tiramisu, among others.

The origin of frozen desserts can be traced back to about 3000 BCE, when Asian societies began enjoying flavored crushed ice. Pharaohs in Egypt about five centuries later treated their honored visitors to crushed ice covered in fruit juice. Ancient Romans used honey to sweeten their ice. Centuries later, in the 1500s, Italians created gelato, which many people still love today. The sweet treat is similar to ice cream but its ingredients are proportioned differently.

TFrozen gelato was so appealing in the 16th century that an Italian noblewoman, Caterina de Medici, insisted on serving it at her wedding. The man who made it for her, called Ruggeri, had made his living by raising chickens, but he rose to prominence when he won a frozen dessert contest sponsored by the Medici family. The new dessert was so favored that Caterina de Medici brought Ruggeri to France in a bid to outshine French desserts.

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Discussion Comments
By fBoyle — On Jul 16, 2013

@burcidi-- Yes, that's Korean shaved ice dessert. It's called patbingsu. It is made with shaved ice, sweetened condensed milk, fruit syrup and fresh fruit, adzuki beans and glutinous rice. It's very good.

The best part about patbingsu is that you can add whatever ingredient you want. It's great for kids because they can make their own patbingsu and it's very cooling on hot days. The downside is that you need an electric shaved ice machine.

I'm lucky because my husband is Korean and we actually have an ice machine at home. He usually makes the patbingsu for me.

By burcidi — On Jul 15, 2013

There is a Korean iced dessert that's really good. I had it once during an international festival at college. Does anyone know what it's called? I remember it having ice, cream, fruit and some type of bean in it.

By literally45 — On Jul 15, 2013

I think gelato has less milk than ice cream right?

I had gelato for the first time this weekend. It was very good, but it definitely was different than ice cream.

Italian ice is also different from gelato. Italian ice is fruit syrup flavored crushed ice that's served with cream. My friend, who is actually Italian, treated me to Italian ice once. I had the mango flavored one and it was one of the most delicious frozen desserts I've ever had. Unfortunately, it's hard to find, not many places serve it.

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