Y’all, you are going to love this strawberry cheesecake ice cream. And because I can’t help but guild the lily, I also include an optional (but not really) magical key lime marshmallow swirl. Oh, and a crunchy Graham cracker crumble. Also optional, but not really.
Read on because I also have a round up of other wonderful ice creams with marshmallow in them. If that’s your thing, you’re going to love this homemade ice cream and all the rest of them too!
Find all my ice cream recipes here. And if you want to really set this over the top, make a sundae and top with your favorite ice cream sauce.
What Is So Great About This Recipe?
For fruit lovers and for cheesecake lovers, this might be the best ice cream ever.
Strawberry and lime and perfect flavor partners, and they play together beautifully in this ice cream.
And there’s a full block of cream cheese in the base, plus egg, making it a cheesecake custard base. Which is kind of awesome.
Here’s why you’ll love this ice cream:
- Scoopable straight from the freezer: the combination of all the cream cheese plus cornstarch in the base keep this base from freezing too firmly. And the key lime marshmallow swirl stays soft and sticky.
- Flavor contrast: mellow strawberry cheesecake base is beautifully balanced by the sharp key lime mallow ribbon, and buttery Graham cracker crumbs are delightful as well.
- Texture Contrast: creamy, sticky, and crunchy are all at this party!
- You can’t find this in stores: part of the fun of making your own ice cream is you can make whatever flavor you can dream up. Ben & Jerry’s hasn’t caught up to your imagination? No worries, because you don’t need them anymore!
About the Base
There are three steps to making the base:
- Make a strawberry puree.
- Make the cheesecake base, which is technically a Sicilian gelato since the base gets some of its body from cornstarch.
- Stir the two together, et voila: strawberry cheesecake proto-ice cream!
- strawberries: fresh or frozen–either will work
- sugar: I’d stick with white granulated so the strawberry flavor really shines through
- lime juice: a touch of acid really brings out the strawberry flavor
- salt: always, and just a touch. It will counteract any potential bitterness and bring the flavors into focus
PRO TIP: When deciding whether to use lime or lemon juice as your acid with fruit, lime goes great with red and purple fruits while lemon does well with orange and yellow fruits.
Making the Puree
Super easy, friends:
- Cook all the ingredients together
- Simmer for a few minutes
- Blend in your blender or with a hand blender
- Strain through a fine mesh strainer
- Chill until cold
For the Base
- cream cheese: gives a subtle tang and cheesecake-iness to the base, plus it helps to keep the base scoopable even when frozen. Use the block kind. Spreadable cream cheese from a tub has too much water in it
- half and half: this is the dairy base and provides the volume you need. You can substitute whole milk here, but increase the cornstarch if you do (See Recipe Notes)
- egg yolks: egg yolks plus cream cheese together give us the cheesecake flavor profile
- cornstarch: helps to bind up some of the water in the base, prevent crystallization (icy ice cream=boo), and keep it scoopable straight from the freezer
- strawberry puree: you’ll need one cup. You may also use ready made puree, which is sometimes available in the freezer section at the grocery store
- red food coloring: totally optional, but if you want a nice pink base, a couple of drops will help with that
Making the Base
The base has a fair number of ingredients in it, but pretty much everything goes into the pot at the same time.
Here’s how it goes:
- Cube the block of cream cheese.
- Add the cream cheese, half and half, sugar, yolks, cornstarch, and salt to a medium saucepan.
- Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking all the time.
- Strain into a large bowl.
- Whisk in the puree and the optional food coloring until completely combined.
- Chill until cold–preferably overnight.
About the Key Lime Swirl
The swirl is pretty much a stiff Italian meringue.
And since most of the water is cooked out and because so much air is whipped into it, it stays soft even when frozen, making Italian meringue an excellent swirl for any ice cream.
Here’s what you’ll need.
- sugar: lends sweetness, binds water, and lends a delightful sticky quality to the meringue
- corn syrup: helps prevent crystallization when cooking the sugar
- key lime juice: lends sharp lime flavor. You could use regular lime juice, but I swear by Nellie & Joe’s
- salt: again, always. Just a touch. Mellows the tang and slight bitterness of the key lime juice
- egg whites: the whites provide structure and the foam you need to keep your meringue light and soft in the freezer. Also, you really can’t make a meringue without egg whites!
Making the Key Lime Marshmallow Cream
NOTE: The mallow is optional. I love it, but I also realize it is a bit fussier to make than the other components.
If you don’t want to deal with it, I completely understand.
But if you do, here’s the rundown:
- Put egg whites and a little key lime juice in your mixer.
- Whip on medium-low speed until foamy.
- Bring sugar, corn syrup, the rest of the key lime juice, and salt to a boil.
- Cook sugar mixture until it reaches 240F. You will need an instant read thermometer so you can be sure of the temperature.
- Increase mixer speed and pour the hot syrup down the inside of the mixer bowl into your whites.
- Whip until cool and glossy, about 7-8 minutes.
I recommend you use a stand mixer for making this Italian meringue, but since you’re only using 2 whites to make it, a smaller mixer will work better.
My big mixer, “Tangerine,” is a 6-quart jobbie, and the whisk won’t make contact with the small amount of egg white. You’re better off with a smaller mixer like the Artisan, which is linked in the recipe card.
You can probably make this with a hand mixer and a bowl, but just be sure the bowl is steady so it doesn’t tip when you’re adding hot sugar syrup to it, and figure it will take longer to whip up into the luscious texture you need.
PRO TIP: Use a glass bowl if you use a hand mixer. If you use a metal bowl, when you pour in the hot syrup, the bowl may get too hot for you to hold steady.
About the Graham Crackers
I used store bought for this recipe, but I highly recommend making your own Graham crackers if you have the time.
They’re easy to make and really do taste so much better than the boxed kind.
Either way, here is the short ingredient list you’ll need to make the crumble.
- Graham crackers: homemade or storebought. You could substitute other cookies, but Graham crackers make a classic cheesecake crust
- sugar: Just a touch, both for sweetness and also crispness when baked
- browned butter: brown butter by cooking it until the milk solids have turned a nutty brown color. Here’s my post on how to make browned butter, just in case. You can substitute whole butter (“regular” butter), but browned butter brings a lovely nutty warmth to the ice cream
- salt: always. Just a touch.
Making the Crumble
- Crush Graham crackers
- Combine cracker crumbs, sugar, salt, and browned butter
- Mix until all the crumbs are buttery
- Bake until crisp
Putting It All Together
Here’s your “order of operations” for making this ice cream.
It seems like a lot, but know that you can make components across multiple days, and you can leave out the Graham cracker crumble, the key lime marshmallow, or both if you want to.
- Make the puree up to three days in advance.
- Combine with the ice cream base. You can do this a couple of days in advance as well.
- Make and bake the crumble. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Do this a day or two ahead if you like.
- Make the mallow swirl the day you churn your ice cream. Put it in a Ziptop bag for easy piping.
- Churn your very cold base.
- Layer into a container with piped mallow and the crumbles.
- Freeze for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Ice Cream Q & A
Okay, even I admit that’s a lot. But I also have to tell you it is so so so good!
Anyway, I’ve tried to anticipate some of your questions and give you answers.
If you want the crumble but don’t want to make the Graham crackers, by all means use store bought. I did. And if you want to leave it out, you can. But I’m telling you, the crunch that contrasts with the creamy, stickiness is just the best.
Check your ingredients to make sure, and definitely use gluten free Graham crackers (or leave them out altogether), and you should be good to go.
Consider using some finely chopped, toasted nuts. This will still give you a bit of crunch while keeping the ice cream gluten free
Yes. But you can’t buy key lime marshmallow cream. Stir in some lime zest and maybe 2 teaspoons of key lime juice to approximate the homemade.
Yes you can. It’s your choice how much of this whole recipe you want to make.
You can substitute melted Earth balance or even coconut oil for the butter in the crumble (check to see if there is dairy in your Graham crackers though). And you can also substitute a plant-based milk for the half and half in the recipe. In that case, I’d up the cornstarch a bit to help with body. You can even use a vegan cream cheese alternative–there’re are so many vegan options these days. You may need to stir in the “cream cheese” after cooking the base rather than stirring it up right along with everything else.
Actually, yes you can. Once you churn the base, layer it into molds, with or without the other components. Since it’s thick, be sure to run a knife down through it to get rid of any air pockets. Then freeze. Tada!
Yes. You can find a recipe for a no churn version at Grandbaby Cakes. Hers includes Graham cracker crumbs as well. You can add the mallow swirl from here, or not. Up to you!
More Mallowy Ice Cream Recipes
Some of my friends got in on the mallow action, so check out their really creative recipes too!
- Traverse City Cherry Cordial Frozen Yogurt from Kirsten of Comfortably Domestic
- Strawberry Marshmallow Ice Cream from Donna of Cookistry
- Horchata Ice Cream with Mocha Mallow Swirl from Allison of Decadent Philistines Save the World
- Kahlua Marshmallows and Marshmallow Sauce from Betsy of Desserts Required
- No-Churn Coffee Amaretto Ice Cream with Almond Marshmallows from Stacy of Food Lust People Love
- Blackberry Cheesecake Swirl Ice Cream from Jeanne of Inside Nana Bread’s Head
- Strawberry Cheesecake Key Lime Marshmallow Ice Cream from Jenni of Pastry Chef Online (you’re here!)
- Frozen Coconut S’mores Bars from Karyn of Pint Sized Baker
- Strawberry Ice Cream with Marshmallow Swirl and Toasted Walnuts from Dionne of Try Anything Once
If you have any other questions about this recipe or any other, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
You can leave a comment here, and I will be back in touch in about 24 hours.
If your question in more urgent, you can email me and I answer within about 4 hours.
Either way, I promise to help!
A Note About Measurements
NOTE: Most of my recipes are written by weight and not volume, even the liquids.
Even though I try to provide you with volume measurements as well, I encourage you to buy a kitchen scale for ease of measuring, accuracy, and consistency.
This is the scale I use, love, and recommend.
I really hope you love this recipe, you guys!
I’d also love to have you join my PCO newsletter, The Inbox Pastry Chef!
Thanks, and enjoy!
For the Strawberry Puree
- 12 oz (by weight) fresh, lovely strawberries (but frozen would be okay too), topped and tailed
- 3.5 oz (by weight, about 1/2 cup) granulated sugar
- 1 Tablespoon freshly squeeze lemon or lime juice, (lime makes more sense here, but either will do)
- pinch of salt, (less than 1/8 teaspoon)
For the Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream Base
- 1 8 oz block of cream cheese, , softened
- 16 oz (2 cups) half and half (or one cup each cream and whole milk)
- 7 oz (about 1 cup) granulated sugar (plus another ounce more, optional)
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 teaspoons corn starch
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup (by volume) strawberry puree, chilled
- 1-2 drops red food coloring, , completely optional
For the Key Lime Marshmallow Cream
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup key lime juice plus 2 teaspoons (divided use)
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 large egg whites at room temperature
For the Browned Butter Graham Cracker Crumbs
- 10 double graham crackers, (I used Honey Maid)
- pinch kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1.5 oz (3 Tablespoons) browned butter
For the Strawberry Puree
- Put all the ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat.
- Bring the berries to a boil, pressing down on them to break them down as they soften.
- Let simmer over low heat for 10 minutes until the juices look a bit syrupy.
- Carefully transfer to a blender and puree on high. Strain through a fine mesh strainer
- and then cool.
- Chill in the refrigerator until you need it.
For the Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream Base
- Cube the cream cheese.
- Place the cream cheese, half and half, 1 cup of sugar, yolks, corn starch and salt in a large sauce pan.
- Heat over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil.
- Let boil for 10 seconds, still whisking constantly.
- Strain into a large bowl.
- Add the chilled strawberry puree and whisk until well combined.
- Taste and add the additional sugar if you think it needs it. You want the base to be just a smidge sweeter than you think it should be since the sweetness will be dulled in the freezer.
- Add the food coloring if desired.
- Chill until at least 40F.
For the Graham Cracker Crumbs
- Pulse the crackers in the food processor until you have coarse crumbs. You can also put them in a zip top bag and smash them. That's what I did.
- Add the salt and sugar to the crumbs and stir around to distribute evenly.
- Drizzle in the melted butter, stirring well to make sure all the crumbs are coated.
- Dump the crumbs out on a Silpat-lined baking sheet and press/pat into a disc about 1/4" thick. It won't bake back together into one big cookie, so don't expect it to. Doing it this way makes sure everything browns evenly in the oven.
- Bake at 350F for 10 minutes. Remove and spread out the crumbs to cool completely. Place them in the freezer about 30 minutes before you need them.
For the Key Lime Marshmallow Cream
- Put the sugar, corn syrup, 1/4 cup of key lime juice and salt in a small sauce pan.
- Put the egg whites and 2 teaspoons of key lime juice in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
- Bring the sugar mixture to a boil over medium heat. Stir until it reaches a boil, then put the lid on it and let boil for 2 minutes to wash down any sugar crystals. With the high proportion of corn syrup, crystallization isn't a huge issue, but better to be safe than sorry.
- While the syrup is boiling with the lid on, start the mixer.
- Whip the whites on medium speed until foamy.
- At this point, take the lid off the syrup and let cook until it reaches 240F. This will only take 2-3 minutes, so keep an eye on it.
- Whip the whites on high speed until they reach medium peaks. Try and time it so that the whites and syrup are ready at the same time. If not, err on the side of the syrup. Better whites underwhipped by a bit than syrup that is too hot.
- Turn the mixer down to medium speed, and stream the syrup down the inside of the mixer bowl.
- Turn the mixer back up to high and whip for a good 7-8 minutes or so, until it is cool.
- You will end up with a dense yet poofy cream that is super shiny and glossy and sticks up in straight, punk rock peaks.
- Use a spatula to scoop all the marshmallow cream out into a large piping bag fitted with a round tip (any size, depending on how thick you want your mallow swirls to be) or into a gallon-sized zip-top bag.
- Try not to make a huge mess, but this is pretty messy.
- Store in the fridge until you're ready to use.
Putting it all together
- Churn the ice cream base according to manufacturer's instructions.
- About 20 minutes into churning time, get your ice cream container ready.
- Snip off just a bit of the corner of the bag with the meringue in it.
- Pipe the marshmallow cream into a random ribbon in the bottom of the container. Use more or less, depending on your taste.
- Top with 1/3 of the crumbs.
- Once the ice cream is at a lovely soft-serve consistency, spoon 1/3 of it evenly over the mallow and crumbs.
- Pipe on more mallow cream and add another 1/3 of the crumbs.
- Add an additional third of the ice cream, spreading it evenly.
- Finish with more mallow cream, the rest of the crumbs and the rest of the ice cream.
- Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the ice cream and freeze for at least 8 hours. This ice cream is fairly soft, so make sure it is good and frozen before serving.
- You can leave out both the key lime swirl, the Graham crumbles, or both. Your call.
- Layer in storebought marshmallow cream rather than making your own.
- You can substitute regular butter for the brown butter in the Graham crumble if you don't have/don't want to make browned butter.
If you are substituting whole milk or a plant-based milk for the half and half that is called for, increase the cornstarch by an additional 2 teaspoons.
This ice cream will be best within a week of making it. Be sure to keep it tightly covered either with a lid or with plastic wrap pressed down on its surface.
The nutritional information provided is based on 10 servings of ice cream. If you only get four servings out of the container, do the math!
Please Sign Up for the PCO Newsletter!
Get notifications when I post a new recipe, plus the occasional newsletter with tips and tricks, announcements, and more! I’d love to see you there!
Thank you for spending some time here today. Enjoy the strawberry cheesecake ice cream, with or without the Graham and/or the mallow!
Take care, and have a lovely day.