A Brief History of Ice-Cream Sandwiches

Did you know that the Museum of North Craven Life is home to not one, but two, ice-cream sandwich makers?! Probably not, but now you do!

Americans celebrate ‘National Ice-Cream Sandwich Day’ on August 2nd. Traditionally an American delicacy, the ice-cream sandwich first sold for a penny in 1900 in New York. It soon rose in popularity and recipes for the dessert cropped up in Newspapers around the country, with writers recommending readers recreate the sandwich with shortbread or sponge cake. This adoption of the ice-cream sandwich, and later experimentations with the recipe cannot help but remind one of the viral tiktok trends that dominated the app throughout 2020-21, focaccia or mug cake, anyone? Is it too far to state that the ice-cream sandwich was the original #FoodTrend? Maybe, but then again, maybe not!

Because the ice-cream sandwich did not stay on the other side of the Atlantic, it travelled, and it travelled far. By the 1970s, in Ireland, Wales and England, an ice-cream sandwich was a popular alternative to the better known ice-cream cone. It was alternatively known as ‘an ice-cream wafer’. Did you enjoy eating ice-cream wafers as a little one? Tweet us at @MuseumFolly if you did!

Sadly, since the 1970s, the ice-cream sandwich has been in decline, at least in the homemade sense. This is likely due to the increased demand for frozen food and the appeal of the emerging ‘ready meal’. At this time, family life in modern Britain began to shift. Women spent more time working and subsequently spent less time in the home. Therefore, meals that were quick and easy to cook were the preferred option.

Soon after, in the 1980s, the divorce rates increased…and the frozen food companies did not take long to capitalise upon this.

1980s Britain aka the decade of the ‘Bachelor’. Men were often home alone, and suddenly, they had to prepare and cook dinner for themselves every evening. Gasp! But do not fear, the frozen food companies are here! These companies catered their advertising towards single men, promoting the ease of preparing a pre-cooked meal.

Life had become about convenience.

And our ice-cream sandwich maker (pictured), is the antithesis of convenience.

So, how does it work? Well, you recess the rectangular plate, insert the wafer, spoon in and smooth out the ice-cream, insert the second wafer, push out the plate. Not too complex, but it is far too many instructions when compared with the ready-to-eat ice-cream sandwiches now available in supermarket freezers.

Now, the Museum of North Craven Life is located in Yorkshire. So, it wouldn’t be right to leave our discussion without Yorkshire-fying the ice-cream sandwich. As stated, American Newspapers recommended that you smush the ice-cream between two slices of sponge cake. Brilliant, let’s Yorkshire-fy it! Our British Blog recommends that you spoon the ice-cream between two layers of Parkin! It may be a tricky task sans ice-cream sandwich maker but take it as a challenge! Who can create the most successful ice-cream sandwich without the key ingredient, the maker? We’d love to see your creations, tag us on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.