Semifreddo

A classic Italian frozen dessert, Semifreddo is a soft, silky treat that is similar to ice cream, but a bit different.

You may be surprised at how easy it is to make this delicious dessert even though it looks quite fancy. Semifreddo is a no-churn frozen dessert recipe, so you don’t even need an ice cream maker.

It’s fun to make international frozen treats from other countries! See how to make your own Mexican Fried Ice Cream next.

Closeup view of a raspberry semifredo that has been sliced. It's topped with homemade raspberry sauce and fresh berries

This Semifreddo recipe is naturally gluten-free and nut free. It’s a classic Italian dessert. For another class, try an Affogato next.

What is Semifreddo?

The word Semifreddo is an Italian one, that means “half-frozen” or “half-cold.”

This frozen dessert is named this way because while it is fully frozen, it doesn’t feel that way. Instead of being dense like ice cream, semifreddo is soft and airy, due to the way that it’s composed.

Essentially, semifreddo is a frozen mousse. It’s a beautiful cross between ice cream or gelato, fluffy whipped cream, and rich vanilla custard.

Like many of our ice cream recipes, semifreddo starts with a sweet and flavorful custard base made with egg yolks and sugar.

We’ll fold in whipped cream and an easy homemade raspberry sauce to create the most delicious frozen semifreddo recipe ever.

Why You’re Going to Love this Semifreddo Ice Cream Recipe

Rich Custard Base – Semifreddo can sometimes be made with egg whites, but this version is made with egg yolks. The extra fat from the yolks makes our semifreddo amazingly creamy and rich.

An Impressive Dessert – Everyone should be very impressed when you make homemade ice cream in any form, but when you bring out this gorgeous raspberry semifreddo and slice it up, your family and guests will really be stunned.

Easy to Make Ahead – If you’re having a dinner party, make your semifreddo a few days early to save you some time and stress. It will be soft and creamy right out of the freezer, whenever you’re ready for it.

The ingredients needed to make semifreddo from scratch, with raspberries. All of the ingredients are measured into small bowls and arranged on a marble countertop.

Ingredients in Homemade Semifreddo

For the Raspberry Sauce:

Fresh Raspberries – It takes just a few minutes to turn fresh sweet berries into a delicious sauce to swirl into semifreddo. Be sure to wash them first.

Lemon Juice – Lemon enhances the flavor of the berries.

Sugar – Berries are sweet on their own, but not quite sweet enough. A small amount of granulated sugar makes them perfect.

Water – This thins out the sauce to the perfect consistency.

For the Semifreddo:

Egg Yolks – You will use the yolks from 6 eggs to make this frozen dessert. Save the whites for another recipe, or for breakfast tomorrow.

Sugar – For the right amount of sweetness and the perfect texture, regular white granulated sugar is the ideal choice here.

Lemon – You’ll add both juice and zest from a fresh lemon into the mixture. The lemon goes perfectly with the raspberries and vanilla in this dessert.

Salt – Just a bit of salt makes all of the other flavors pop.

Vanilla Extract – Use a good quality, pure vanilla extract for the best flavor.

Heavy Cream – Whipped heavy cream is key to lightening up the egg yolk mixture to give semifreddo its signature softness.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below and I will get back to you.

A collage of 8 images showing the steps you need to take to create a homemade semifreddo

How to Make Semifreddo from Scratch

  1. Line a 9×5-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap or parchment paper, leaving about 3-4 inches of overhang on all sides so that your semifreddo will be easy to remove later. Place the prepared loaf pan in the freezer to chill. 
  2. For the raspberry sauce: Add the raspberries, lemon juice, water, and granulated sugar to a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 5-10 minutes or until the raspberries burst and the sauce has thickened. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer. Set aside to cool completely. 
  3. In a large glass bowl over a pot of simmering water, add the egg yolks, granulated sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt. Whisk constantly until the egg yolk mixture is thick and pale and has reached a temperature of 165°F. 
  4. Remove the egg yolk mixture from the heat. Whisk until the mixture has cooled down, then stir in the vanilla extract. Set aside.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, add the heavy cream. Beat until medium-soft peaks form, about 3-4 minutes.
  6. Work gently to fold the heavy cream into the egg yolk mixture. Now you should have one bowl of cooled raspberry sauce, and a bowl of fluffy semifreddo.
  7. Spread half of the semifreddo mixture into the prepared loaf pan. Spoon ⅓ of the raspberry sauce into the semifreddo and swirl with a knife. Top with the remaining semifreddo mixture, and then swirl another ⅓ of the berry sauce into that. Place the remaining berry sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for serving. Cover the pan with the overhang of the plastic wrap, and freeze for at least six hours or until firm.
  8. When ready to serve, remove the semifreddo from the pan and invert it onto a serving platter. Top with the remaining berry sauce, and garnish with fresh raspberries. Slice and serve.

These numbered steps match the numbered photos above and are for illustration purposes. For the complete list of ingredients and instructions, please see the recipe below.

a rounded rectangular platter holding a rectangle shaped semifreddo topped with raspberry sauce and fresh raspberries. Viewed from overhead.

How to Store Semifreddo

Store this homemade Semifreddo in the freezer, being sure that it’s wrapped well and airtight.

It’s best enjoyed within 1 week of making it, as the texture will start to become icy if it’s stored this way for too long.

Tips for Making This Semifreddo Recipe

Use quality ingredients – When making homemade ice cream, you’ll want to make sure you are using high-quality ingredients for the best outcome.

Chill out – If possible, start with chilled cream when making this recipe. It will be easier to whip when it’s cold.

Don’t skimp on the fat – High-fat heavy cream is essential when making homemade semifreddo. Opting for a low-fat option just isn’t an option in this recipe.

Don’t go crazy with the add-ins – If you’re adding in additional ingredients, pick one or two and make sure they are chopped into pieces no larger than a blueberry or pea.

Don’t skimp on the sugar – Sugar not only adds sweetness to homemade ice creams, it also helps with the texture. Sugar is essential for the creamy texture of of semifreddo as well.

How Should Semifreddo Be Served?

You can serve slices of semifreddo on dessert plates drizzled with sauce and toppings.

You can also scoop semifreddo from the pan if you prefer with an ice cream scoop.

Both methods work, but we think that it looks best sliced.

Is Semifreddo the Same as Gelato?

While both of these things are frozen desserts with their roots in Italy, they are very different.

Classic Italian Semifreddo is a very airy, light, and soft dessert because it is essentially a fluffy mousse that has been frozen.

In contrast, gelato is a slowly churned frozen dessert, very similar to ice cream, so it is denser and has much less air incorporated into it.

Are There Different Types of Semifreddo?

There are overall two different types of semifreddo, both are excellent ice cream desserts.

Traditionally, semifreddo is made with either an Italian meringue that uses egg whites or with a custard made with egg yolks as we’ve done here.

I love the flavor of the custard-style egg yolk version so that’s what we’ve used here. I think that custard is easier to make than a meringue is too, so it’s simply the better choice.

If you were wondering, this specific type of custardy, fluffy mixture is called pâte à bombe in Italian. It’s used as the base of frostings, mousses, and non-frozen desserts as well.

A sliced raspberry swirled semifreddo on a platter, topped with raspberries.

Semifreddo Variations

You can use other berries in place of the raspberries used here. Blackberries, strawberries, or blueberries can be substituted, or use a mix of berries for interest.

Other fruits such as peaches or mangoes can also be used to make semifreddo.

Instead of fruit, you can swirl chocolate or caramel sauce into the base.

You can also skip the inclusions, and leave your semifreddo au natural. Add your favorite ice cream toppings before serving.

Can I Make Semifreddo Without Eggs?

A traditional semifreddo cannot be achieved without eggs. You need to use either the egg whites or the yolks to make the base for this dessert. The eggs create the structure that gives semifreddo its texture.

However, you can make a sort of faux semifreddo with a base that is mostly heavy whipping cream, mixed with sugar and yogurt.

I haven’t tried this, but It seems like it could be tasty. It just can’t actually be a semifreddo unless it’s made with eggs.

Can I Make Semifreddo in a Round Pan?

You can use a round cake pan to shape semifreddo into a dessert that can be sliced into wedges.

You can even freeze the mixture in a round-bottomed bowl to create a frozen dessert in a dome shape!

If you like this, you might also like Baked Alaska.

More Homemade Ice Cream Recipes

We have so many amazing homemade ice cream recipes here! Choose a few from the list below and get ready to enjoy the best ice cream you’ve ever had.

Our Favorite Ice Cream Making Tools:

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Closeup view of a raspberry semifredo that has been sliced. It's topped with homemade raspberry sauce and fresh berries

Easy Semifreddo Recipe

Yield: 8 Servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Chilling/Freezing Time: 6 hours
Total Time: 6 hours 45 minutes

A classic Italian frozen dessert, Semifreddo is a soft, silky treat that is similar to ice cream, but a bit more special. This is a no-churn recipe that's fun to make.

Ingredients

For the raspberry sauce:

  • 2 cups raspberries
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar

For the semifreddo:

  • 6 large eggs yolks
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups heavy cream

Instructions

  1. Line a 9x5-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap or parchment paper, leaving about 3-4 inches of overhang on all sides. Place the prepared loaf pan in the freezer to chill. 
  2. For the raspberry sauce: Add the raspberries, lemon juice, water and granulated sugar to a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 5-10 minutes or until the raspberries burst and the sauce has thickened. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer. Set aside to cool completely. 
  3. In a large glass bowl over a pot of simmering water, add the egg yolks, granulated sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and salt. Whisk constantly until the egg yolk mixture is thick and pale and has reached the temperature of 165F. 
  4. Remove the egg yolk mixture from the heat. Whisk until the mixture has cooled down. Stir in the vanilla extract. Set aside. 
  5. In a large mixing bowl, add the heavy cream. Beat until medium-soft peaks form, about 3-4 minutes. 
  6. Gently fold the heavy cream into the egg yolk mixture. 
  7. Spread half of the semifreddo mixture into the prepared loaf pan. Spoon ⅓ of the berry mixture into the semifreddo and swirl with a knife. Top with remaining semifreddo mixture. Swirl another ⅓ of berry sauce into the semifreddo with a knife. Store the remaining ⅓ berry mixture in the refrigerator in an airtight container for serving. Cover the semifreddo with the overhanging plastic wrap. Freeze for at least 6 hours until firm. 
  8. When ready to serve, remove the semifreddo from the pan and invert it onto a serving platter. Top with remaining berry sauce and fresh berries for garnish. Slice and serve.

Notes

  • Line the loaf pan with plastic wrap or parchment paper for easy removal from the pan. Leave an overhang to wrap up the semifreddo while it freezes and also so you can grab onto the overhang and pull it out of the pan.
  • It’s best to make the raspberry sauce first to allow it to cool completely, so it doesn’t melt the ice cream mixture.
  • Instead of raspberries, you can use strawberries, blackberries, or blueberries. A mix of berries would also be delicious. 
  • Traditionally, semifreddo is made with either an Italian meringue that uses egg whites or with a custard made with egg yolks. I love the flavor of the egg yolk version so that’s what we’ve used here. I think it’s easier to make as well so it’s always my preference. 
  • You can slice semifreddo or scoop it. I think the slices are really pretty so I prefer to slice mine. 
  • Nutrition Information:
    Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 359Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 230mgSodium: 204mgCarbohydrates: 26gFiber: 2gSugar: 24gProtein: 7g

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