When I was a kid, animal crackers were cool. Everybody loved them. But there was one snack that even was better: frosted circus animal cookies. I’m not talking about the ones that were dusted with a skimpy, see-through “icing;” I’m talking about the fully-frosted, pink and white shortbread cookies covered in colorful non-pareil sprinkles. Those treats took a top spot in the ranks of childhood snacks, up there with the squeezable Kool-Aid bottles and Dunkaroos.
I’m not going to pretend that I hit a magic age of adulthood where I stopped loving childhood favorites like circus animal cookies; I still love ‘em, and I’m still going to love ‘em when I’m old, decrepit, and eating them with dentures. There’s no denying that crisp shortbread coated in a thick vanilla icing and rainbow sprinkles is both whimsical and pancake-flippin’ delicious. Every time I walk down the cookie aisle in the grocery store, my eyes meet that bag of pretty pink and white cookies, and a longing takes a hold of my heart. Finally, a few weeks ago, I said to myself: “Who cares if I’m almost 19 years-old? I’m buying some freakin’ cookies.”
It only took one frosting-covered elephant for me to fall in love again. A few bags later, I found myself pondering what else I could do with the cookies. Ice cream crossed my mind…but what flavor does one pair with circus animal cookies? Naturally, you pick another circus-friendly food. And what treat is more synonymous with circuses than cotton candy? So, my friends, I whipped up the creamiest, dreamiest, richest cotton candy ice cream and studded it with the crisp circus animal cookies. This is the ice cream straight from your circus dreams. It’s Circus Dream Ice Cream!
This flavor is sure to make any kid go wild, because what kid doesn’t love cotton candy ice cream and frosted circus animal cookies? However, don’t be surprised if it brings out the kid in you too. You’re never too old to enjoy something whimsical and delicious.
If custard-based ice creams scare you, never fear. They’re super easy, and I’ll prove it to you in my how-to video below. A custard-based ice cream is so rich and creamy in comparison to no-cook recipes. Give it a try; you won’t be sorry.
Now, grab a spoon and take a trip to the circus!
A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:
- Make sure you watch the video to catch a step-by-step breakdown of how to make the ice cream base.
- I didn’t entirely love the Duncan Hines Cotton Candy Frosting Creations, so if you can get your hands on an alternative cotton candy flavor method, go for it.
- Don’t like cotton candy ice cream? Plain vanilla would still be incredible, or try white chocolate.
- Quite honestly, I don’t think you need a thermometer for making the ice cream. When the mixture thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon, you know it’s time to take it off the heat.
- Add sprinkles to the mix if you like.
- Marshmallow sauce would be a fun topping.
- Cut recipe in half for a 2-person serving.
- The vanilla extract is not added until the end because it burns easily.
Circus Dream Ice Cream
Adapted from Café Lynnylu
Yield: about 1 quart
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 6 large egg yolks
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 packets of Duncan Hines Cotton Candy Flavor Creations
- Blue food dye, optional
- 1 cup chopped frosted circus animal cookies
- Bring milk and cream to a boil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the yolks and sugar together until very well blended and just slightly thickened. Still whisking, drizzle in about one-third of the hot liquid-this will temper, or warm the eggs so they won’t curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remaining liquid. Pour the custard back into the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring without stopping (so it doesn’t burn), until the custard thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon; if you run your finger down the bowl of the spoon, the custard should not run into the track. The custard should reach at least 170°F, but no more than 180°F, on an instant-read thermometer.
- Immediately remove the pan from the heat and pour the custard into a 2-quart measuring cup or clean heatproof bowl. Stir in vanilla extract.
- Refrigerate the custard for at least 2 hours before churning it into the ice cream. Meanwhile, stick an empty mixing bowl in the freezer to chill.
- Scrape the chilled custard in the bowl of an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Immediately pour the ice cream into the chilled bowl you put in the freezer earlier (this will keep it from melting immediately). Gently stir in the cookies just until evenly distributed. Pack the ice cream into an air-tight container and freeze it for at least 2 hours, until it is firm enough to scoop.