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Vanilla Caramel Swirl Ice Cream in a waffle textured bowl

Vanilla Caramel Swirl Ice Cream

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When I swirled some delectable caramel sauce into some vanilla bean ice cream, this fabulous Vanilla Caramel Swirl Ice Cream was born! This ice cream verified my motto that caramel desserts trump everything else!

Vanilla Caramel Swirl Ice Cream in a waffle textured bowl

Vanilla Caramel Swirl Ice Cream

When we were in Denver last month, Katie and Bill would take a stroll down to the hotel lobby each evening to get their single servings of Häagen-Dazs ice cream. Bill, no surprise here, purchased chocolate and Katie found delight in their dulce de leche. It was Katie’s selection that inspired me to make a rich vanilla caramel swirl ice cream. I knew she and I would be thrilled if I was successful with my recipe testing.

Vanilla Caramel Swirl Ice Cream in a freezer container

Homemade Vanilla Caramel Ice Cream

Katie and I were swooning over each bite of this silky vanilla caramel ice cream with the sweet, gooey streams of caramel throughout. Bill took a cursory bite, but was anxiously awaiting the Oreo ice cream I made for Thursday’s post.

Chocolate trumps caramel in his book. But that’s just fine. Katie and I didn’t want to share! Thankfully, my fears that the caramel might turn to a rock-like consistency when frozen were unfounded. Whew.

Tips for Making this Caramel Swirl Ice Cream

If you’re new to making ice cream and/or caramel, here are a few tips to help make the process a success.

  • When you’re making an ice cream base, it’s basically a custard.  Care must be taken when the eggs are added to the hot cream mixture so they don’t scramble.
  • The process is called tempering. First add a small amount, 1/2 cup, of the hot cream mixture to the eggs while whisking constantly. And repeat. This warms up the eggs slowly instead of cooking them.
  • The custard works best when chilled overnight so it’s nice and cold and the vanilla flavor is well infused.
  • Making caramel can be daunting as it’s finicky. Do not rush the process by turning up the heat as the sugar will burn.
  • Having the cream at room temperature will help prevent lumps from forming when you add it to the hot sugar. Drizzling it in slowly will also help the cream incorporate into the sugar more easily.
  • If lumps do develop, cook the mixture on low until the sugar melts.
Vanilla Caramel Swirl Ice Cream in a white and peach waffle bowl
Vanilla Caramel Swirl Ice Cream

The Recipe: Vanilla Caramel Swirl Ice Cream

A luscious vanilla bean ice cream swirled with caramel

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Additional Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 55 minutes
Yield 8 servings


Adapted from Epicurious:

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar, divided
  • 1 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (may use vanilla extract if desired)

For the caramel swirl:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream, warmed
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  1. In a large Pyrex measuring cup or heatproof bowl, whisk the yolks with ¼ cup of the brown sugar. Set aside.
  2. In a heavy saucepan, stir together the cream, milk, salt, and the remaining ¼ cup of brown sugar and put the pan over medium-high heat. When the mixture starts to simmer, decrease the heat.
  3. Remove about ½ cup of the hot cream mixture while constantly whisking the eggs, slowly drizzle the cream into the egg yolks. Repeat with another ½ cup of hot cream, then pour the egg-cream mixture back into the saucepan, whisking as you pour.
  4. Cook the mixture carefully over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it is thickened, about 1-2 more minutes.
  5. Strain the custard mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean container. Set the container into an ice-water bath (I fill my sink with ice cubes, then adds some water). Stir occasionally, till cool. Remove the container from the ice-water bath, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate
  6. for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  7. While the ice cream base cools, make the caramel.
  8. Set the warm cream by the stove so it's at hand when you need it. Put 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. When the sugar is melted around the edges and starts turn golden, stir the mixture gently and add another 2 tablespoons sugar to the pan.
  9. Continue to add the remaining sugar 2 tablespoons at a time, stirring frequently and allowing most of the sugar to melt before you add more. Watch carefully as the sugar darkens, stirring gently to help it melt evenly.
  10. When the bubbling slows down, gently stir in the cream to blend. If you have any hard sugar lumps, just keep the burner on low and cook till sugar melts. Stir in salt and vanilla and allow to cool to room temperature.
  11. Put the container you'll use to store the ice cream into the freezer.
  12. When the ice cream is frozen, layer about a third of it into your container. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of caramel on top of ice cream, then repeat again two more times. You will have leftover caramel.tablespoons of the caramel. Use a knife or a chopstick to swirl the caramel. If you prefer softer ice cream, eat right away or else freeze for about 4 hours before serving.


      Yield: 1 quart of ice cream.
      Total time includes 2 hours freezing time.

      Nutrition Information:



      Serving Size:

      1 scoop

      Amount Per Serving: Calories: 445Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 19gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 202mgSodium: 136mgCarbohydrates: 40gFiber: 0gSugar: 40gProtein: 5g


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