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Who knew that Mexico was famous for ice cream? I didn’t, until my first trip many years ago, and saw all the heladerias stirring up ice cream and pushcarts, parked on sidewalks, handing out popsicles. It was my first visit and I had no idea what a remarkable range of flavors Mexicans incorporated into their scoops and paletas. There was chocolate, corn, coffee, cheese, peanut, and rice ice creams, as well as lime, soursop, cucumber, and hibiscus sorbets. I tried them all.

I was in the Yucatan, which was so blazing hot that by midday, you had no choice but to retire in your hotel room for a siesta, waking up later in the day when the sun was tolerable, as people returned the streets and zocalos (town squares), lapping up the local flavors late into the evening.

So no one was excited than me to have a copy of Mexican Ice Cream by Fany Gerson, owner of La Newyorkina ice cream shop. There are recipes for many of these flavors (others are in her books, My Sweet Mexico and Paletas), as well as candied pecans, chile-spiked fruit sauces, a variety of toppings, and Cajeta, caramelized goat milk, which – if you haven’t tried it – you are missing out on one of the best things you’ll ever put in your mouth.

I went to the book release party, where I enjoyed a cup of Mexican coffee cajeta ice cream, a caffeine-fueled scoop dotted with chocolate chunks and served with a ribbon of warm cajeta. To combat the heat wave that struck a few weeks later, I found myself churning up a batch of it at home, to beat the heat.

Fany’s recipe said to use chopped Mexican chocolate, which I had on hand, but then remembered some melted chocolate from another recipe experiment that I’d poured into a container, and was threatening to disappear in the back of my refrigerator. So I melted that, scribbled it on a parchment-lined baking sheet, froze it, then crumbled the thin scribbles into little “chips.” I wasn’t able to find fresh goat milk so I made my own dulce de leche.

(Tip: If you’re anything like me, you might want to make a double batch. I am pretty sure that I ate half of it before it even touched any ice cream.)

Fany uses the cajeta as a sauce on top in her shop, but my third-grade teacher was right – I’m not good at following instructions and swirled it through the ice cream as it was coming out of the machine, sprinkling dark chocolate chips in as I went.

There are lots of ways to make (and serve) ice cream. Some people just use milk, cream and eggs for their ice cream base. Others add starch, gum or invert sugar. Fany and I both go the route of keeping it simple (and pure), however, we do diverge; In my coffee ice cream, I use whole coffee beans and Fany goes with ground coffee.

Diversity is good and while my coffee ice cream recipe (in The Perfect Scoop) I stick with whole beans, I’m open-minded (to a degree…) and gave it a go with Fany’s recipe using medium-grind coffee, which lends the custard a more rugged coffee flavor. But next time, I’m going to strain the ice cream mixture a second time, after it’s chilled, to get the little bits of coffee out. You can leave them in if you don’t mind a little extra texture, and a little more caffeine.

Coffee Cajeta Ice Cream

Adapted from Mexican Ice Cream by Fany Gerson Fany uses cajeta, which is usually made from goat milk. It might be hard to find where you are (check Latin markets, or get it online). You can make your own cajeta or dulce de leche, which the French call confiture de lait. At her shop, she simply douses the ice cream with warmed cajeta. If you wish to ribbon it in the ice cream, as I did (step #7), you may need to warm it ever-so-slightly, so it's spoonable, but not enough to melt the ice cream. Sometimes just stirring it vigorously will help room temperature cajeta or dulce de leche become pourable. But you can also serve it as a sauce on top, adding the chocolate chips to the ice cream during the last minute or so of churning, or mix them in by hand when the ice cream is finished churning.
Servings 1 quarts (1,25l)

For the coffee custard

  • 1 cup (250ml) whole milk or half-and-half
  • 2 cups (500ml) heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup (150g) sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (30g) medium-ground coffee
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 6 large egg yolks

For assembling the ice cream

  • 2/3 cup (160ml) cajeta or dulce de leche,, plus additional for serving, if desired
  • 6 ounces (170g) chopped chocolate, or handmade chocolate chips, (see post)
  • In a medium saucepan, warm the milk or half-and-half with 1 cup (250ml) of the heavy cream, 1/2 cup (100g) of the sugar, ground coffee, and salt. Once the mixture is warm, remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 15 minutes.
  • In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks with the remaining 1/4 cup (50g) of the sugar.
  • Make an ice bath in a large bowl and set a medium-size bowl in the ice. Set a mesh strainer over the top and pour the remaining 1 cup (250ml) cream into the bowl.
  • Gradually add the warm coffee-infused milk into the egg yolks, while whisking constantly. Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a flexible spatula (or similar utensil), until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spatula. Immediately pour the custard through the strainer, into the cream, pressing gently to make sure as much of the coffee-flavored custard passes through the strainer as possible.
  • Stir the ice cream custard over the ice bath until cool, then refrigerate the ice cream mixture until thoroughly chilled, at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.
  • Churn the ice cream in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. (You can strain the custard right before freezing if you want to get rid of any coffee grinds that may remain, for appearance and texture, although they are edible.) While it's churning, drizzle some of the cajeta into a freezer container and sprinkle with some of the chocolate chips. Place the container in the freezer.
  • When the ice cream is ready, spread the ice cream in batches in the container, layering cajeta and chocolate chips between the ice cream as you remove it from the machine. Avoid swirling or stirring the ice cream, to keep the layer of cajeta as distinct as possible.

Related Recipes

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake

Dulce de Leche Brownies




Persimmon Margaritas

Orange Margaritas



    • witloof

    Just this week I noticed a stand at the Union Square greenmarket that sells cajeta!

    When I was in Mexico back in 1984, I saw cajeta for the first time at an open air market, and asked the vendor what it was. His response was to open the jar and invite me to stick in my finger! Yes, I did, yes, I bought the jar, yes, I consumed the entire thing within a day or two, and yes, I suffered horrific intestinal distress on that trip!

    Big birthday coming up and this looks like the perfect thing to adorn the cake. All of my very favorite things contained therein! Thank you!

    • Taipan Lalo

    Looks yummy! Will try that when I get home. I am sure it’s not easy to find cajeta in Paris.

    • Becky

    I live in a city that has a Mexican ice cream store, which I have carefully avoided for months. One of my friends says I must go and try the pine nut ice cream, so I may break down and go. I fear it will play havoc with my weight! They have like a hundred flavors, uh-oh. I make my own paletas from Fany’s book, and they are divine. And I have been making ice cream at home which somewhat limits my consumption – small batches. This looks so good, David. Thanks for the notes about straining the coffee out of the custard. Sounds like a smooth move!

    • Rob O’Meara

    David, that looks like a beautiful dish. May I ask which brand of ice cream maker you would recommend please?

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I use several different kinds but for this one I used the ice cream attachment for my KitchenAid mixer. I did a post Meet Your Maker, which describes some of the differences and qualities of each.

    • Chris

    Oh this ice cream looks divine. Unfortunately, cajeta nearly ruined ducle de leche for me, until I had dairy-based dulce de leche again. I will def make this with the cow’s milk kind!! I have spent my life trying to like goat’s milk-based cheeses, sauce, etc but alas, it is not meant to be…

    • MJ

    Hi David, thanks a bunch for this delicious sounding recipe. I will try it! I’m wondering if I could use a double shot of espresso instead of the ground coffee to infuse the milk. I have a coffee maker that grinds a small amount of whole beans when it makes a cup of espresso, so I only have whole beans and I don’t want to purchase a whole bag for this recipe. Thanks for any feedback and advise. You rock!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Sure. You might need more espresso than that, but you can add to taste. You may wish to add a sprinkle more sugar (around 20-25% of the amount of espresso) since adding liquid can make ice cream “icier.”

    • holly

    Would have that now.

    • Linda

    I will have to try this recipe as I am very fond of your salted caramel ice cream recipe. If you are ever in Cambridge Mass check out Taza chocolate, a small chocolate company that we have been following since they opened. This year at their Cinco de Mayo festival they introduced new products.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, Taza has really good chocolate, including their Mexican-style disks. I wrote more about them here.

        • Linda

        Thanks David, next time I’m in Cambridge I will go on one of their tours.

    • Nadia

    I have never heard of cajeta. Highly unlikely to find that at my local market in the dordogne Sounds highly addictive.

    • Deborah Dal Fovo

    This looks divine and something I will try. Where to find (or how to make). I’m totally intrigued…

    • Janet

    I bought a cookbook called Dulce de Leche recently…lots of recipes for making dulce de leche from scratch, several different varieties. Plus recipes to use them in. I used to have a Colombian mother-in-law and she would bring cans or wooden boxes of manjar blanco, which I loved. I’ve also boiled cans of condensed milk, and made it with your recipe. I’m so looking forward to a trip to Argentina later this year.

    • Steph

    Sorry, I was having a little trouble understanding: do the coffee grounds get filtered out before the milk mixture is added to the eggs or after warming the custard and passing it through the strainer?

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      The coffee grinds get cooked with the eggs. Then in step #4, when the coffee infused custard is strained into the cream, most of the coffee grounds get filtered out.

      I mentioned in the headnote of the recipe that you can strain the custard again, just before churning, in case any bits of grounds remain that you want to get rid of, but it’s not necessary and some people might like a few grinds in the finished ice cream.

        • Steph

        Ah yes. I see that now. Thank you!

          • Steph

          I made this for a book club today and it turned out perfectly! Thanks for the recipe!

    • Lisa O

    Oh, David. Three words: nut milk bag. Not one medium grind coffee remnant in my infused custard! Can hardly wait to freeze it!

    • Sandra

    David, I just churned this with my teenage son, who’s taken quite an interest with your cookbooks. It is incredible! We plan to do a lot of your ice cream this summer.
    Thank you!

    • Robin

    How warm is warm? Feels like to get the right amount of extraction from the coffee, it needs to get reasonable hot (coffee is optimally brewed at 92-96 C)

    • Elizabeth

    I can’t wait to make this!!! Is it ok to make 24 hrs ahead, or better if it doesn’t set up that long?

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Ice cream mixtures should always be made far enough ahead so they are as cold as possible before churning. The longer the churning time, the more ice crystals can build up. I always chill my mixtures at least overnight although 24 hours is fine as well.

    • Gaye Breakstone

    If you use whole beans instead of ground should you steep mixture longer than 15 minutes? Also, if you use ground beans could you place them in a piece of cheesecloth to make filtering easier?

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      You could steep the mixture longer if you wish. Cheesecloth might work, or it might make it more difficult since it’s finer than a mesh strainer. If you try it, let us know how it works out.

        • Gaye Breakstone

        Thanks David for the response. To clarify, I was wondering whether it might make filtering easier if the coffee grounds were initially put into cheesecloth, warmed with the milk/heavy cream, steeped and then removed.

          • David
          David Lebovitz

          Another reader recommended a nut milk bag, which your idea sounds like, but I’ve not tried it so can’t say whether it would work or not.

        • Gaye Breakstone

        I use cheesecloth and steeped the grounds for around 40 minutes. Worked perfectly. The flavor was great and clean-up was so easy since the grounds were contained in the cheesecloth. Definitely recommend.

    • Kelly Vaughan

    I just got my own ice cream maker for graduation! Can’t wait to try this recipe out on it. Looking for new ingredients to add to old favorites and this is perfect!

    Happy 4th!


    • Colleen

    Is there a temperature that you cook your custard to? It is so much clearer than trying to figure out when the back of a spoon is properly coated. Thanks.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, I cook mine to about 160ºF (72ºC) but sometimes a few degrees higher.

    • sharon Berg

    Summer has arrived in Haifa with a 30+ degree temps and this recipe arrived just as I was craving some good ice cream. By chance, I had egg yolks in my fridge and chocolate in a piping bag that I was loathe to toss. I’ve never made an ice cream that was so quick to thicken and it froze rapidly in my Donvier ice cream maker. I layered the dolce de leche into the ice cream mixture when repackaging it into a freezer container and then sprinkled the chocolate bits on top. It passed the family and friends taste test with a solid thumbs up. People loved the strong coffee flavour and the wonderful texture.

    Thanks for a great new ice cream recipe!

    • Ttrockwood

    I have been a huge fan of La Newyorkina for years! During the summer their paleta cart on the highline is often my destination/motivation at the end of a long hot bike ride :))
    I had a wonderful blueberry corn scoop at their shop a week or so ago, what an unexpected and delicious flavor!
    It’s probably a good thing i don’t have an ice cream maker, as a household of one my limited self control would be tested with cajeta coffee ice cream on hand…

    • Bobster in Vancouver

    Not sure if anyone has mentioned that you can make coffee concentrate for iced coffees by soaking fresh ground coffee in water for 24hrs.

    One could then replace 1/4cup milk with the concentrate. Easy.

    • Carmela

    Since u are the guru of ice cream I respect your opinion. I have your book the Perfect Scoop and have made 80 % of the recipes. We have loved them all. Every year I do an ice cream social and I make 25 flavors. I was reading somewhere that to make your homemade ice cream not build ice crystals and have a longer shelf life to use stabilizers. What is your opinion on stabilizers? I love everything natural and I really detest the idea of it. Please tell me your opinion I really would like to know what you advise. Thank you

    • Janine Bracewell

    OMG I’ve made this twice now and I’m so hooked!! The cajeta adds a real grown up layer to this.
    Thank you so much for your gorgeous recipes xxxx


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