Ice cream for the hot weather but you need snow to make it!

Posted on September 06, 2022

English recipes for chilled chocolate treats, were collected by the Earl of Sandwich in 1668, some hundred years before his grandson allegedly invented the sandwich.

The Earl’s own recipe reads: “Prepare the chocolatti [to make a drink]... and then putt the vessell that hath the chocolatti in it, into a jaraffa [i.e. a carafe] of snow stirred together with some salt, & shaike the snow together sometyme & it will putt the chocolatti into tender curdled ice & soe eate it with spoons.”

It’s not chocolate ice-cream, but more like a very solid and very dark version of the iced chocolate drinks you get in coffee shops today. Freezing food required cutting-edge technology in 17th-century England, so these ices were seen as great luxuries.

Chocolate was first advertised in England around 1640 as an exotic drink made from cacao beans. In the 1660s, when the Earl of Sandwich collected his recipes, chocolate often came with advice about safe consumption. One physician cautioned that the ingredients in hot chocolate could cause insomnia, excess mucus, or haemorrhoids. People worried that iced chocolate in particular was ‘unwholesome’ and could damage the stomach, heart, and lungs. There were ways round this, however. Sandwich thought the best way to ward off the dangers of eating frozen chocolate was to ‘Drinke Hott chocolatti 1⁄4 of an houre after’ it.

There are a range of chocolate recipes in the Earl of Sandwich’s journal, written after he became enamoured with the drink while ambassador to Spain in the 1660s. The manuscript includes King Charles II’s prized recipe for spiced and perfumed chocolate, which Sandwich reported cost the King £200.

From the 1640s, chocolate was sold as an exotic drink that could cure illnesses and act as an aphrodisiac. However Captain James Wadsworth, claimed as early as 1652 that chocolate was “thirsted after by people of all Degrees (especially those of the Female sex) either for the Pleasure therein Naturally Residing, to Cure, and divert Diseases; Or else to supply some Defects of Nature”.

As chocolate sellers sprung up across London in the 1650s, a milky version of the drink began to be sold in coffee-houses. The novice chocolate drinker of the 1650s and 1660s ran greater risks than money ill spent: he had to bear in mind that the new product might damage his health and there was the real possibility of loss of face through having his inexperience exposed.

By the 1690s elite ‘chocolate houses’ were selling the drink to an aristocratic and leisured clientele. Chocolate was widely mentioned in literature, and had already acquired some of the associations with indulgence and pleasure that it has today

Although the English liked to put milk and eggs in their chocolate at the time, Sandwich's recipe didn't call for dairy. So he technically wasn't making ice cream

The gastronomical achievement that is now known as ice cream was first documented in English around the same time by Lady Ann Fanshawe, the wife of another Spanish ambassador. Her recipe for 'Icy Cream' was roughly equivalent to Sandwich's, except she left out the salt in the snow. So it wouldn't actually freeze. In the 17th century recipes, it was common to not mention things that are actually quite important.

It would take 25 more years before similar icy desserts made their way into an official cookbook: Treatise on Various Kinds of Sorbets, or Water Ices, published in 1792 by the Italian Antoine Latini.


The Countess’s Chocolate Sorbet

Lady Sandwich makes a delicious modern version of the 1st Earl’s recipe, vouched for by her son Luke. Follow the reciple below to make this delicious treat yourself!


50g cocoa powder

50g grated dark chocolate 200g sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract CHEF’S TIP

Allow to soften in a fridge for an hour before serving. Top with grated orange zest to taste.


Whisk the sugar and cocoa into half a litre of boiling water and simmer for five minutes. Remove from the heat and add the grated chocolate and vanilla while still warm. Freeze the mixture in a bowl that allows easy whisking; whisk and continue to freeze at regular intervals, to avoid the formation of ice crystals


Information in the article comes from Historic Houses Association with additional content from the Friends of Sheffield manor.  More information is available at the following links:

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