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Chocolate ice cream is a staple of parties, an essential component in a Neapolitan and a classic ice cream flavour. Although around 30% of ice cream eaters apparently have a preference for vanilla, a solid 10% are loyal to a delicious bowl of chocolate ice cream. Whatever your flavour preferences are when it comes to ice cream, you may not realise that chocolate ice cream was actually created before vanilla – it’s one of the original ice creams that dates back almost to when ice cream first began.

Where did ice cream come from?

Originally, ice cream was nothing more than shaved ice that was served with various toppings, such as fruit and sugar syrup. The first sorbets were invented in the Middle East using this method but there was no actual diary in those early products. It wasn’t until Renaissance Italy that ice cream really began to spread as a trend after Marco Polo introduced the first diary based ice cream recipes to Europe. Since then we have not looked back, as ice cream has quickly grown into a must have product, both on days out and in the freezer at home. But, back to the key question, vanilla or chocolate – which came first?

The very first chocolate ice cream

It was in 1692 that the first chocolate ice cream recipe was recorded in the book ‘The Modern Steward.’ At the time, consuming drinks frozen was a big trend and so it was natural that many of the drink flavours of the time should be converted into ice cream. That meant that coffee and tea were the natural flavourings for early ice cream – as well as “chocolate.” The first chocolate recipe, published in Naples, was quite different to the chocolate ice cream that we know and love today. It was based on a popular drinking chocolate that was regularly mixed with spices such as cinnamon and anise. This ‘historic chocolate’ was what formed the basis for the first chocolate ice cream and there are still some ice cream makers who produce it today.

The perfect chocolate ice cream

It’s worth noting that before the start of the 19th century, ice cream was actually made with cream. This meant that it was incredibly rich and could, sometimes, take on a texture that was more like butter than the ice cream that we would recognise today. The ideal ratios of dairy today are very individual – many people enjoy a 2:1 ratio of cream and whole milk, for example, – but few, if any, ice creams today are made with 100% cream. The perfect chocolate ice cream also varies depending on individual taste – you might prefer yours made with dark chocolate, white chocolate or mixed with cookie dough or nuts. Maybe you’re a traditionalist and enjoy some added orange, anise or cinnamon like the 17th century Italians. However you prefer to eat your chocolate ice cream, when you do, you know that you’ll be eating one of the most historic desserts there is – and one of the first flavours of ice cream that existed.  Enjoy!