Gluten-Free Ice Cream Cake (Carvel Copycat)

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Video Gluten free ice cream cakes

Use our step-by-step tutorial to learn how to make a Gluten-Free Ice Cream Cake! Based on old-school carvel ice cream cake with cookie crumble! Personalize with YOUR favorite ice cream flavors.

slice of gluten free ice cream cake on a plate with a strawberry

Gluten-Free Ice Cream Cake

We have a new birthday tradition in our family and it involves a lot of ice cream. My older son is a huge ice cream lover and requested an ice cream cake this year for his birthday instead of a regular cake.

He was very specific about it and wanted three layers – strawberry, vanilla bean, and mint chocolate chip. My husband started talking about old school ice cream cake – like from Carvel and my son was immediately sold on the idea of crumbled cookies being involved.

What Is A Carvel Style Ice Cream Cake?

In case you aren’t familiar, Carvel is a chain ice cream shop that is pretty famous for their ice cream cakes. This isn’t just your traditional ice cream cake though, it’s an ice cream cake with a hidden layer of cookie crumbles inside that add that perfect crunch.

An old-school Carvel ice cream cake is usually two different flavors of soft-serve ice cream, separated by a middle layer of cookie crumbles and chocolate sauce. Super yummy but made with low-quality ingredients. Not anymore! I have cracked the code and now we can make gluten-free ice cream cake that is a Carvel copycat with whatever quality ingredients we want!

What Do You Need For a Carvel Style Ice Cream Cake?

First things first, you need cookies. Oreo style cookies. Since my son is gluten-free, I used gluten-free Oreo style cookies from Trader Joe’s. There are others out there but I can’t vouch for them as I haven’t tried them. If gluten isn’t an issue, Newman’s Own makes a great organic Oreo style cookie.

Chocolate Sauce is optional but really takes this over the top! Whole Foods has an organic 365 one that is very affordable. You can use whatever is leftover to drizzle over the top!

Next up, you need to make some homemade whipped cream. It’s easy and takes minutes. I include the instructions for that below in the recipe.

As for the ice cream, Carvel uses soft serve. I experimented with whipping the ice cream to get that softer texture before re-freezing. It does lighten up the final cake a bit and the texture is nice but overall, I do not think it is worth the extra effort, time and mess it takes so I say skip it and just use your favorite brand of ice-cream.

How To Make A Gluten-Free Ice Cream Cake

I did a bunch of research and played around with the recipe. The version I made for his birthday party was a big rectangle cake with three layers (as requested). It turned out really good but I made a few mistakes and really learned a lot about making the perfect ice cream cake along the way. At least making the perfect old school Carvel style ice cream cake.

I’m not going to lie, this recipe is one that’s going to take a bit of time and patience. It’s not one of those “just throw it together and call it a day” kind of cakes. You’re going to need to follow the steps carefully, but it will all be worth it in the end, I promise. It’s not that it’s hard, it’s just a bunch of little steps and takes some time!

  • Begin by separating the cookies from the creamy insides and discard. (Picture 1)
  • Place cookies in a gallon-size ziptop bag and seal and use a rolling pin to crush the cookies. (Pictures 2 and 3)

how to crumble oreo cookies for an ice cream cake

  • Next, set your ice cream on the counter and allow to soften.
  • While the ice cream is out, line two 9″ round cake pans with saran wrap and then parchment paper. (Picture 4)
  • Dump the softened ice cream into each round cake pan. (Picture 5)
  • Use a spatula to spread out until smooth and even. (Picture 6)
  • Use the crushed cookies to top one of the cake layers, slightly pressing to make sure the cookies are not just sitting on top of the softened ice cream. Leave the other cake layer plain. (Picture 7)

step by step photos of forming layers of ice cream to make a copycat carvel ice cream cake

  • Immediately place both cake pans flat in the freezer and freeze until solid.
  • When you are ready to assemble the cake, start by making whipped cream. Pull mixing bowl and beaters from freezer. Pour whipping cream, sugar, vanilla and salt into a chilled mixing bowl and beat the cream until firm peaks begin to form.
  • Grab a cake plate or other serving plate and line with strips of parchment paper to make handling and decorating the cake easy (you can just pull these out from the bottom). (Picture 8)
  • Lift the cookie-topped cake layer out of the cake pan. Set on the counter and gently peel off the parchment paper. This layer is the “bottom” of the cake and should be placed on the cake plate first with the cookie crumble facing up to the sky.
  • If you are using the optional chocolate sauce, now is the time to give a generous drizzle over the center of the cake (or what is know as the cookie crumble part).
  • Next, repeat with the plain layer. Gently flip this layer onto the cookie layer so that the cookies are now effectively in the middle of the cake and the flat bottom side is now on the top. (Picture 9 and 10)step by step photos of forming an ice cream cake and frosting it with whipped cream
  • Grab the whipped cream and begin “frosting” the cake using either a spatula or an off-set spatula. (Pictures 11 and 12)
  • Finally, finish by pressing the remaining cookie crumbles onto the sides of the cake. (Picture 13)
  • Slide the parchment pieces out from underneath the cake and place into the freezer until ready to serve. When ready to serve, allow the cake to sit at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes to make it easier to cut.
  • Use a sharp knife to cut into 16 slices, serve immediately and Enjoy!

using whipped cream to frost a gluten free ice cream cake

Other Carvel Ice Cream Cake Topping and Flavor Options

To make this recipe as traditional as possible, I used just vanilla and chocolate ice cream, but feel free to use any ice cream and topping combinations you would like.

I do not suggest using ice cream flavors with large chunks. It will be way too hard to make the ice cream into a nice smooth cake. I would stick to flavored but smooth options like strawberry, chocolate, vanilla, mint, caramel, etc…

You could also try to have fun with different flavor cookie crumbles such as peanut butter cookies, vanilla wafers, animal crackers, etc.

Tips and Tricks For The Best Gluten-Free Ice Cream Cake

  • While this Ice Cream Cake is very easy to make, it does require some empty flat freezer space.
  • It needs to be made the day before you plan to serve it to allow for the layers to set and then for the cake to set properly so make sure to plan ahead!
  • SUGGESTION: Lower the temperature of your freezer to as low as possible to help set the layers and cake properly.

slice of ice cream cake on a plate in front of serving platter with rest of cake

More Frozen Dessert Recipes To Enjoy

Dair-Free Peach Walnut Ice Cream With Honey

Skinny Vegan Cherry Ice Cream

Sugar-Free Magic Shell

Green Pina Colada Popsicles

Spiced Mango Popsicles With Ginger

Update Notes: This ice cream cake tutorial was originally posted in February 2017 and was updated in July 2019 with step-by-step instructions and photos as well as more helpful recipe information.

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