Gingerbread ice cream – Czech style

Christmas is upon us and that calls for gingerbread ice cream!

The pandemic may make travelling difficult, but we’ll do some spiritual “food travelling” and dip into the time-honoured and spice-loving Czech gingerbread tradition!


On gingerbread and Pernek

Much has already been written on this blog about gingerbread – a cookie tradition with roots in medieval times, and during periods also believed to be good for both your health and for your personality (making you kinder), as well as being able to ward off evil powers! In other words  – a perfect Christmas ice cream! This blog already has a number of gingerbread ice cream recipes  in different styles (try “gingerbread” in the search-function!) but there is always room for more, right?

Prague, the beautiful Czech capital. If you go there, don’t miss a visit to the Gingerbread Museum!


Pernik, the traditional Czech gingerbread cookie, similar to the other old European gingerbread traditions, relies upon a multitude of aromatic spices! And with a history spanning the centuries, it is not surprising that there are many varieties of the exact spice mix! Many families and gingerbread bakers favour “their” particular version so I decided to do the same!

Czech classic gingerbread – a true spice symphony! How many can you identify (two are mixed into one heap on this picture)?

My very own Pernik flavour mix is composed of seven different spices and a couple of other ingredients common for several Czech recipes that I’ve studied (mind you: some classic Perniks hold up to nine different spices!). Honey and lemon zest are other classic ingredients, as well as a little alcohol. Rhum seemed to be particularly favoured in the recipes I read, so I went with that: if you don’t want any alcohol, you can exclude it. However, if you add it already during the cooking phase, most of it should evaporate anyway.

The combined amount of spices in this recipe is quite high, but since coldness dulls flavours, we want to ensure that they manage to punch through!


The making of the ice cream – No cookies required, and a simplified custard base

Making cookie ice cream tends to offer the maker two main choices: To use cookies or not.

Using cookies is handy – particularly if you already have cookies made: just make a neutral ice cream base and add the cookies as add-ins.

Not using cookies can also be handy (when you don’t have the required cookies): in this case, prepare your ice cream base with the significant spices/special ingredients that make up the cookies.

Both methods have their advantages (and you could of course also combine them!). In order to really let the spice mix shine, I opted for the latter this time!

For the ice cream base, I wanted something that could provide a rich, pleasant body for the spice flavours while avoiding the many egg yolks that typically go into a classic custard base.

You can go with your own favourite base here, but I opted for a “simplified custard base“: the proportions of cream and milk are similar to what one could find in a Philly-style non-cook base but we’ll add a couple of whole eggs for a “touch of custard” and some further improved consistency. Custard recipes typically only use egg yolks but there is no harm in using the whole eggs in this recipe!

Using raw eggs calls for pasteurisation in order to avoid the small but existing risk of salmonella: in our case, we’ll simply follow the usual steps for custard base ice cream-making and bring our mix to a temperature of about 77-82º C/170-179º F.

Making the ice cream is very simple: put all ingredients in a sauce pan (possibly saving the rhum for later, if using), whisk well and bring to the required temperature.

All those spices need a good whisking!

Once the base has reached the required temperature, take off from the heat and let cool down. Then chill in your refrigerator for a few hours or over night.

The base about to cool down.


Take the chilled base and – if you don’t fancy solid remnants of the spices in your ice cream – pass it through a sieve. Then pour the base into your ice cream machine and churn! (No ice cream machine? – Use your ordinary household freezer and still-freeze the ice cream!)

Churning the Czech gingerbread ice cream. Note the solid remnants of spices visible along the sides of the bowl: I clearly did not sieve the base before churning. While gravity is likely to place any solids in the bottom, you’re advised to simply remove them from the base before the churning (I did not mind, but my son sure did …).


The Czech gingerbread ice cream

Pernik (Czech gingerbread) ice cream


The Pernik ice cream is tasty, complex and pleasantly rich: a perfect, even slightly sophisticated Christmas ice cream, with a nice mouthfeel. Just contemplating what spices you’re able to identify adds to the tasting-fun! The sheer number of spices is clearly part of what makes this gingerbread ice cream so special. Myself and all other adults who have tried the ice cream like it a lot but the flavour complexity admittedly goes well beyond the “standard-modern gingerbread biscuit”. Particularly kids who may be expecting more of a “standard gingerbread” may be disappointed, so adjust expectations or let this be one of the adult treats this Christmas 😉 .


Gingerbread ice cream - Czech style
Czech gingerbread cookies (or Pernik na Figurky) dates back to medieval times. By using a wide blend of many of the characteristic cookie spices we'll make ourselves a delicious Christmas ice cream!
  • 400 ml (1¾ cups) cream
  • 250 ml (1 cup) milk
  • 50 ml (1/5 cup) sour cream
  • 100 ml (1/2 cup) sugar
  • 2 whole eggs
The spices:
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons honey (about 25-30 ml: liquid is fine)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • (optional) 1-2 tablespoons rhum
  1. Put all the ice cream base ingredients (cream, milk, sour cream, sugar, honey, eggs and - possibly also the rhum) in a saucepan. Mix well and add the spices, the lemon zest and the baking soda.
  2. While whisking, bring the mix to about 77-82º C/170-179º F.
  3. Take off the ice cream base from the stove, optionally add the rhum if not already added, and let cool down.
  4. Let the base chill in the fridge for a few hours or over night.
  5. Churn in your ice cream machine (or still-freeze using your kitchen freezer)!
If using, the rhum could either be added together with all the other ingredients in the beginning (in which case most of the alcohol will evaporate during the cooking), OR be added to the finished base. I leave the choice to you, dear reader!

Krtek, the much beloved mole by the Czech animator Zdenek Miler.

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