Like a layered sundae, this Italian ice cream dessert requires zero cooking and is easy to assemble for birthdays and gatherings. Learn how to make spumoni at home.
What Is Spumoni?
Spumoni is a molded Italian dessert that layers three ice cream flavors cherry, pistachio, and chocolate with sweet, crunchy fruit, chocolate, amaretto cookies, and sometimes nuts. Spumoni (the plural of “spumone”) comes from the word “spuma,” meaning “foam,” which likely refers to the dessert’s light, airy combination of whipped cream and ice cream.
In traditional Italian spumoni, gelato (rather than ice cream) gets mixed with whipped cream, lending it a lighter, frothier color. National Spumoni Day on August 21 is a great excuse to enjoy this festive frozen dessert.
4 Tips for Making Spumoni
This decadent dessert is cold and sweet, with no oven needed to make it. Here’s how to make the treat:
- Monitor the temperature of your ingredients. When preparing spumoni, keep your ingredients cold yet pliable enough to mold. If the ice cream starts to melt, place the cake or the ice cream cartons in the freezer to firm up. If the ice cream is too cold, simply let it rest at room temperature for five minutes. You can store ice cream in the refrigerator during assembly, so it stays cool without getting too hard to mold.
- Make sundaes. For individual portions, divide the ingredients into sundae serving bowls.
- Deepen the flavors. To amp up the flavor of the chocolate syrup (for serving), stir in a shot of espresso, then cool. Coffee boosts the deep, earthy cacao flavor of chocolate.
- Lighten the dessert up. Most Italian-American spumoni recipes call for ice cream. Swap in cherry, chocolate, and pistachio gelato or sorbet (a water-based ice cream) for a less intensely rich texture.
What Is the Difference Between Spumoni and Neapolitan Ice Cream?
Neapolitan ice cream, named after Naples, is a variation of spumoni that Italian immigrants brought to the United States. Spumoni originated in Apulia, Italy. It consists of three ice creams (chocolate, pistachio, and cherry) layered in a mold, then topped with maraschino cherries, candied nuts, whipped cream, and a generous drizzle of chocolate syrup.
Neapolitan ice cream is also a molded ice cream composed of three flavors: vanilla ice cream, chocolate ice cream, and strawberry ice cream. Italian immigrants likely swapped in strawberry and vanilla for pistachio and cherry to accommodate US consumers.
Classic Spumoni Recipe
PREP TIME: 20 min
TOTAL TIME: 20 min
- 3 cups cherry ice cream, softened
- ¼ cup maraschino cherries, divided
- 3 cups pistachio ice cream, softened
- ¼ cup toasted pistachios, divided
- 3 cups chocolate ice cream, softened
- ¼ cup dark chocolate chips, divided
- 2 cups whipped cream
- ½ cup chocolate syrup, to serve (optional)
Note: The total time does not include 1 hour and 40 minutes of inactive time.
- Line a 9×5-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving a few inches of overhang on each side.
- In a medium bowl, combine the softened cherry ice cream with half of the maraschino cherries.
- Using the back of a spoon or a small offset spatula, spread the cherry ice cream mixture in an even layer over the bottom of the pan, filling the pan a ⅓ of the way up.
- Fold the plastic wrap over the mixture and freeze until it hardens, about 15–20 minutes.
- In a medium bowl (you can rinse and reuse the bowl from earlier), combine the softened pistachio ice cream with half of the toasted pistachios.
- Unfold the plastic wrap from the frozen cherry ice cream.
- Using the back of a spoon or a small offset spatula, spread the pistachio mixture in an even layer over the cherry layer, filling the loaf pan ⅔ of the way up.
- Fold the plastic wrap over the mixture again and freeze it until it’s hard, about 15–20 minutes.
- In a medium bowl, combine the softened chocolate ice cream with the chocolate chips.
- Unfold the plastic wrap from the frozen pistachio ice cream.
- Using the back of a spoon or a small offset spatula, spread the chocolate mixture over the pistachio layer, filling it to the brim of the loaf pan.
- Once again, fold the plastic wrap over the mixture and freeze it until it is completely hard, about 1 hour.
- Remove the spumoni from the freezer and invert it onto a platter.
- Remove the loaf pan and the plastic wrap from the spumoni.
- Top the spumoni with whipped cream, chocolate syrup, the remaining maraschino cherries, toasted pistachios, and chocolate chips.
- Slice the spumoni using a serrated knife (dip the knife in hot water for smooth cutting) and serve.
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