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Tortoni Is an Ice Cream Lover’s Dream — And This Recipe Makes It Easy to Treat Yourself

Our simple twist gives this Italian dessert a citrusy makeover!

Sure, frozen treats are a great way to beat the summer heat, but truth be told, we can’t get enough any time of year. A bowl of ice cream often does the trick, and it’s even better when various mix-ins and toppings are added. In fact, if you enjoy the creaminess and crunchiness of cookies and cream ice cream, we can do you one better. Meet tortoni: a rich dessert that combines velvety frozen custard with chewy cookies, crunchy nuts and sweet fruit. The best part? You can tweak the ingredients so the dessert fits your flavor desires. Here’s how to make the tastiest tortoni that’s sure to become a new dessert favorite.

​​What is tortoni?

Tortoni is a frozen whipped custard that’s typically flecked with amaretti cookies (Italian almond cookies) and topped with chopped nuts and cherries. Traditionally, this treat is served out of individual-sized paper cups. However, larger quantities of tortoni can be made out of a bowl or round dish.

Authentic tortoni is known for its nutty and sweet taste mainly due to the cookies. But some recipes flavor the dessert with lemon or chocolate instead for a zingy or decadent twist.

The history of tortoni

Tortoni’s mysterious origins reportedly date back to 19th-century Paris. “The dessert is named after the French-Italian restaurateur and chef Giuseppe Tortoni, who was known for his Parisian café that attracted artists, writers and other creatives,” says Lucas Guizo, a recipe developer who specializes in Italian cuisine. “While the exact origin of the dessert is debated, it is believed to have been created in Tortoni’s café.”

Toward the late 19th century, tortoni made its way to the US and soon became a mainstay at many family-style Italian-American restaurants. Fast forward to today, this treat is considered to be more of a rarity as other Italian desserts have dominated restaurant menus. Yet, you can still experience the mouthwatering magic of tortoni simply by making it yourself!

How to make tortoni

Most tortoni recipes involve folding whipped egg whites and heavy cream into a yolk base before adding in the cookies and other ingredients. However, our Lemon Tortoni recipe uses store-bought ice cream for the base, which saves you the effort of separating and whipping eggs.

This recipe also takes a different approach by layering the cookies and custard in a springform pan to create an eye-catching tortoni. Plus, this dessert is topped with fresh blueberries for a hint of tanginess and natural sweetness that complements the citrusy zing.

Lemon Tortoni


  • 1 (9.25 oz.) package soft iced lemon cookies (Buy from Acme, $4.59)
  • 2 Tbs. butter, melted
  • 2 lemons, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced
  • 2 (16 oz.) container lemon sorbet, softened 
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • ½  tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 (16 oz.) container vanilla ice cream, softened 
  • 1 (6 oz.) container blueberries
  •  Mint sprigs (optional) 


  • Active: 45 mins
  • Total time: 4 hrs, 45 mins
  • Yield: 12 servings
  1. Coat 8-by-3-inch springform pan with cooking spray. In food processor, process cookies until finely ground; transfer to bowl. Add butter; stir until crumbs are evenly moistened. Press half of crumb mixture into bottom of pan. Freeze until set, about 15 min. Reserve remaining crumb mixture.
  2. Arrange some of lemon slices, straight side down, spacing about ½-inch apart, on crust along edge of pan. Place remaining lemon slices in bowl; cover and chill until ready to use. Spread sorbet evenly over crust. Freeze until set, 1 to 2 hours. Top with reserved crumb mixture, pressing firmly and evenly to form smooth layer. Freeze until set, about 15 minutes.
  3. On medium-high speed, beat heavy cream, sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. Spoon vanilla ice cream over crumb layer; smooth top. Top with whipped cream. Cover; freeze 2 hours or overnight. Let sit about 15 minutes before removing side of pan. Transfer cake to serving plate. Arrange remaining lemon slices in 2 layers on top edge of cake as shown. Fill center with blueberries. If desired, garnish with mint.

Want to give a more traditional version a try? Follow along with this recipe from Chef Joe Borio of Cooking Italian With Joe:

3 tips for serving, storing and transporting tortoni

Is this your first time making tortoni? If so, there’s no need to panic as First for Women food editor Emily Boyette shares three tips to help you serve, store and enjoy it with ease.

  1. Heat up the sides of the springform pan for clean edges. To remove the tortoni from the frozen pan without hassle, Emily suggests applying heat to the outside for about 5 to 10 seconds. “Simply dip a cloth in hot water and touch the exterior sides briskly,” Emily says. “The heat will warm it up and allow the ice cream to release from the sides.”
  2. Use salted ice to keep the dessert chilled in transport. A cold dessert in a hot car is a recipe for disaster. Luckily, Emily shares a simple trick for preventing tortoni from melting as you’re transporting it to a gathering. “Simply add ice to the bottom of a cooler, then sprinkle on a bunch salt,” she says. “While the salt does melt the ice faster, it actually makes it colder in the process. This ensures the cake will stay solid enough during transit so that it makes it to its destination good as new!”
  3. Fully cover the dessert when storing in the freezer. Tortoni is best kept in the freezer to maintain its solid shape, but Emily notes that freezer burn can happen if the dessert isn’t completely covered. “Wrap your cake tightly with plastic wrap, then place it in a sealed container,” she recommends. “This will create a double barrier, preventing any dry air from ruining your dessert.” 

For more ways to indulge your sweet tooth, check out the recipes below:

This 2-Ingredient Berry ‘Ice Cream’ Is the Only Dessert You’ll Ever Want to Eat Again

What’s Better Than a Strawberry Shortcake McFlurry? The Healthier Version You Can Whip Together at Home

21 Fun Summer Desserts Too Good to Pass Up — And They’re All Perfectly Sized Just for You

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