ice cream, sweet frozen dessert, made from milk fat and solids, sugar, flavoring, a stabilizer (usually gelatin), and sometimes eggs, fruits, or nuts. The mix is churned at freezing temperature to attain a light, smooth texture. Water ices existed in the Roman Empire, and Marco Polo brought back from East Asia reports of iced, flavored foods. From Italy the confection spread to France and England, reaching America early in the 18th cent. Ice cream sundaes had become popular by the 1890s, and the ice cream cone was introduced in 1904. The manufacture of ice cream in the United States on a commercial scale began in 1851 in Baltimore and has become an important industry. Commercial ice cream is pasteurized and homogenized. Federal, state, local, and industry regulations as to percentage of milk fats and solids, purity of ingredients, and cleanliness of preparation and dispensing are designed to maintain the dietary value of ice cream and to inhibit bacterial multiplication, for which ice cream is a favorable medium. Similar frozen confections include the fat-rich bisque (with added bakery products), parfait (containing eggs), and mousse; frozen custard, generally low in fat; frozen yogurt, also low in fat; and ices and plain or milk sherbets, based on fruit juices and sugar.
See V. Cobb, The Scoop on Ice Cream (1985); W. S. Arbuckle, Ice Cream (1986).