Raspberry Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches {Vegan, Gluten-Free, Raw-ish, Naturally Sweetened}

Ice cream has always been one of my top three favorite foods (up there with sushi and fancy cheese). When I outgrew Thrifty’s 99 cent cones of mint chip, I graduated to Coldstone Creamery’s white chocolate mixed with raspberries. The two were a match made in heaven, one sweet and rich, the other bright and tangy.

When I moved to Northern California and became interested in things like “health,” Jay and I would frequent a raw vegan restaurant called Urban Forage that occupied the building in San Francisco’s Mission District that now houses Locanda. Urban Forage served up a soft-serve “Nice Cream” made from nuts and natural sweeteners that was so rich and creamy, it was hard to believe it was vegan.

Then one day the restaurant closed suddenly when the owners, who had been involved in tax evasion, fled the country. Employees were left with only a note on the door, while I was left me with a yearning for Nice Cream that wouldn’t be sated for another decade.

Cafe Gratitude opened a few years later with a raw ice cream of their own, but the texture was never as voluptuous as that of Nice Cream. All menu items at Cafe Gratitude were given affirmations for their titles. One couldn’t simply order a salad, one ordered “I am Nourished” or “I am Inspired.” They made an ice cream sandwich reminiscent of an It’s It called “I Am I Am.” I enjoyed these until our local Cafe Gratitude closed its doors a few years ago. My quest for good vegan ice cream continued.

I’d tried my hand at vegan ice cream a few times using coconut milk and agave nectar, but the texture always turned out icy. I was inspired to give it another go when I saw all the amazing concoctions Dana a.k.a. Minimalist Baker has been coming out with lately. She uses pureed soaked cashews to create a creamy base, then adds coconut milk, natural sweeteners, coconut oil, and gorgeous flavors, from mint brownie to chai to salted bourbon caramel to peanut butter cookie dough (hello!). This looked like the creamiest vegan ice cream I’d seen since the days of Nice Cream. I churned up a batch of mint brownie and was hooked.

With all of the raspberries about, I thought back to my favorite Coldstone creation of yore. I traded the coconut oil in the ice cream for cacao butter, which, combined with vanilla bean-infused coconut milk and light maple syrup, makes an ice cream that tastes just like white chocolate. It keeps the ice cream smooth and emulsified and has a dairy-like richness on the palate, making me wonder if this was the secret to Nice Cream. Indeed, I would be hard-pressed to believe that this raspberry ice cream was vegan if I hadn’t made it myself.

I mashed raspberries with maple syrup and a splash of bourbon (mostly to keep the berries from freezing solid) and stirred them into the base. I sandwiched this between two thin layers of raw brownie, also adapted from Minimalist Baker. I whisked up a raw chocolate from cacao butter, cacao powder and maple syrup into which I dipped the sandwiches, and I topped them with cacao nibs.

The ice cream on its own is superb, but sandwiched between vegan brownies and dunked in raw chocolate and crunchy nibs, it is pure heaven. The flavors are clean as though made with refined sugar, thanks to dates and mild grade A maple syrup. And the berries taste bright and fresh against the deep chocolate, keeping the dessert well-balanced and just sweet enough. Each bite is creamy-crunchy-chewy, with the raw chocolate melting on your fingers and tongue. I find the texture of the nibs completely addicting.

I never thought a vegan dessert could make it into my top three foods, but I could contentedly snack on these for the rest of summer.

My only regret was having to depart for a week-long camping trip the day after making these beauties. Leaving this guy behind is hard enough, but taking a last long look at the container of ice cream sandwiches in the freezer was pure torture.

So I took one for the road.

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Related posts:

Raw Vegan Chocolate Cheesecakes
Roasted Cherry Vanilla Ice Cream with Bourbon and Chocolate
Oatmeal Chocolate Stout Ice Cream Sandwiches

One year ago:

Roasted Eggplant, Chickpea, and Summer Vegetable Tagine

Raspberry Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches {Vegan, Gluten-Free, Raw-ish, Naturally Sweetened}

Adapted from Minimalist Baker

Do be sure to give the cashews a nice long soak prior to blending – between 6 and 24 hours. Raw cacao powder, cacao butter and cacao nibs can be found in many healthy foodie stores, or you can order them all here. If you can’t find raw cacao powder, you can use cocoa powder (Dutch-process or natural) in its place. Coconut butter or oil can be used in place of cacao butter in the brownies, and melted coconut oil can be used in the ice cream. Coconut oil will probably work in the raw chocolate in place of cacao butter, as well, though I do love the chocolatey flavor the cacao butter adds to this recipe, so it is well worth seeking out.

I like the lighter flavor of grade A maple syrup here as it gives the sandwiches a cleaner flavor, but grade B will work fine in a pinch. You can also use honey, but you’ll want to decrease the quantity a bit as it is sweeter than maple syrup, and the recipe will no longer be vegan.

The raw chocolate recipe will make more chocolate than you’ll need, but it will allow you enough depth into which to dip the sandwiches. Extra chocolate can be poured into a bowl, chilled, and cut into pieces to eat. Store in the refrigerator. You can use a good quality bittersweet chocolate in place of the raw chocolate if you prefer.

This recipe makes 8 small but rich sandwiches. Feel free to double the recipe, forming the brownies into two 8×8″ pans, or triple it and form the brownies into two 9×12″ pans. The sandwiches can be individually wrapped and hoarded in the freezer for up to a month or two. For the best results, let them soften out of the freezer for about five minutes before eating.

All ounce measurements here are by weight.

Makes 8 sandwiches

For the brownies:
1 1/4 cups (5.5 ounces / 155 grams) nuts (I used equal parts raw almonds and pecans)
1/4 cup+ 2 tablespoons (1.25 ounces / 35 grams) raw cacao powder (or regular cocoa powder)
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup (4.5 ounces / 130 grams) dates, pitted (covered with boiling water and soaked 5 minutes if not super soft and squishy, then drained well)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 ounce (about 2 1/2 tablespoons / 20 grams) chopped cacao butter, melted

For the ice cream:
1/2 cup (2.25 ounces / 65 grams) cashews, soaked 6-24 hours, drained
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces / 300 mL) full-fat coconut milk, shaken prior to opening
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces / 170 grams) raspberries
5 tablespoons (3.25 ounces / 90 grams) grade A maple syrup, plus another 3 tablespoons (1.75 ounces / 50 grams) for macerating the raspberries
1 tablespoon bourbon or vodka (optional)
pinch salt
1/2 ounce (about 2 1/2 tablespoons / 20 grams) chopped cacao butter, melted

For the raw chocolate coating:
1 scant cup (3.5 ounces / 100 grams) chopped cacao butter
1/2 cup (1.5 ounces / 45 grams) raw cacao powder (or regular cocoa powder)
1/4 cup maple syrup (2.75 ounces / 80 grams)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cacao nibs (for topping the sandwiches)

Make the brownies:
In the body of a food processor, process the nuts with the cacao powder and salt until fairly finely ground. Scrape into a bowl and set aside. Place the dates (drained if soaked) with the vanilla in the now-empty blender and blend until smooth, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the nut mixture and melted cacao butter to the date mixture, and pulse until combined and clumpy, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed.

Line two 8×4″ loaf pans (or one 8×8″ square pan) with parchment paper, leaving the sides sticking out for handles. Pack each pan with half of the brownie mixture, pressing firmly, into a thin, even layer. Freeze the brownies until firm, at least 20 minutes.

Make the ice cream:
Heat the coconut milk with the vanilla bean in a small saucepan over a medium flame until hot and steamy, swirling occasionally. Cover and let steep 20 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the raspberries with 3 tablespoons of the maple syrup and the bourbon in a small bowl and mash lightly. Set aside.

In the body of a blender or food processor, pulse together the cashews, maple syrup, and salt. Blend until smooth, about 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Remove the vanilla pod from the coconut milk, discard the pod, and slowly blend the coconut milk into the cashew mixture. Blend until silky smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, a minute or two. Blend in the melted cacao butter, then stir in the mashed berries and their juices, leaving some chunks of berries.

Scrape the ice cream mixture into an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Assemble the sandwiches:
If you made the brownies in one pan, cut in half. Scrape the ice cream onto the top of one brownie and spread evenly. (There is plenty of ice cream, so feel free to “taste.”) Turn out the second brownie onto the top of the ice cream and press gently to even it out. Peel off the parchment and discard. Freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.

When firm, use the parchment handles to pull the ice cream sandwich out of the pan and onto a large cutting board. With a sharp chef’s knife, trim away the edges and cut into 8 sandwiches. Freeze until ready to dip.

Make the chocolate:
In a metal bowl set over a pot of barely simmering water, combine the cacao butter, cacao powder, maple syrup, and vanilla. Whisk until nearly melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool until warm and slightly thickened, whisking frequently to keep the mixture in emulsion.

Dip the sandwiches:
Remove the frozen sandwiches from the freezer and line a small sheet pan with parchment paper. Working quickly, dip a sandwich into the chocolate halfway on the diagonal. Shake off the excess chocolate, place on the pan and immediately top with a sprinkle of cacao nibs before the chocolate hardens. (You’ll only have a matter of seconds to get them on there, but you can always re-dip the sandwich if need be.) Work quickly and return the sandwiches to the freezer to firm up again, at least 30 minutes.

The sandwiches are best when they’ve had a few minutes to soften out of the freezer. If not serving immediately, wrap airtight and store for up to a month or two.

68 thoughts on “Raspberry Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches {Vegan, Gluten-Free, Raw-ish, Naturally Sweetened}”

  1. Omg, look at them!! They're adorable little cubes of amazingness. (Real talk: I have this fear that if I make raw/non-totally fat-tastic desserts, I will eat myself sick on them because it seems justifiable [for my health or something, you know?]. That would definitely happen with these guys.)

    Also, isn't it weird when business shut their doors fly-by-night style and leave you wondering how messed up things were behind the scenes? That happened with this Mexican place around the corner from Johnny's apt when we were dating. But that was mostly fine, because I was eating WAY too many burittos with it there.

    1. Haha – totally! I even wondered whether the Nice Cream was vegan at all after they closed… but this recipe cured me of my skepticism. And I also ate way too many…

  2. Omg!!! I remember THAT ice cream, it was SO GOOD!!!!!
    Thanks for sharing the recipe, Alanna; this will be added to my TO-MAKE list along with many recipes of yours :)

    1. Yeah! I'm so glad you got to have one. The filling you got was a little different that first round. You'll have to come over to try version #2 before they're all gone!

  3. Oh my goodness! I need to try these! I've been following your blog religiously for the past couple months now and have scrolled through all of your recipes. I love your photography! I have been making quite a few of your dishes but have modified them to fit our families lifestyle, which is free of gluten and dairy! This time you truely hit the jack pot (with healthy ingredients) and it was worth the wait. I don't have to modify this recipe at all and I have all the ingredients in my pantry! Super stoked! Thanks for all your beautiful creations.

    Mandy Dugas @ MandysHealthyLife.com

    1. That would be way awesome! Now I'm dreaming of an Honestly Bojon collaboration. :) BTW, I've created many Pimm's Cup converts thanks to you (myself included).

  4. Oh my word, these are completely gorgeous! I made traditional ice cream sandwiches earlier this week (chocolate-whiite chocolate chunk cookies, cherry garcia ice cream… delicious, but a complete mess to eat :)

  5. Mmm, these look perfect in every way! I was planning on heading back into the lab to make a traditional, Southern peach "ice cream" and looks like I've found the base! Dana's creations are truly hunger-inspiring, for sure. But you had me at white chocolate and raspberry – that was my go-to choice at the "mixin's" places, too!

  6. Oh my goodness, Alana! These look amazing! We have a cold stone creamery right near our house, that I love, but I also love experimenting with vegan ice cream and this one looks perfect! fruity ice creams have always been my favorites and to combine raspberry ice cream with brownies is just the best idea ever! Gorgeous photos as usual :)

  7. holy yum. i want to spend a whole day making these. and i love the part where you say "i became interested in things like "health" – sounds similar to how i stumbed upon treating myself better too. xo!

  8. So many brilliant moves in one post, Alanna! Goodness.

    Also, I'm laughing to myself at ordering salad called "I Am Nourished." I mean… I'm sure it's delicious. But still. Do they have an "I'd Feel Ridiculous" menu option?

  9. I made those last night,o boy,they disappeared like in sec :) the best ice cream ever,all we need now is a chocolate version diary free of course ;) pics end everything amazing like always

  10. hi! its look super yummy! but in the ice cream Ingredients writes cacao butter meltted but it dosent write when to mix it with the ice cream mixtur…….

    1. Oh dear! Thanks for catching that! I've updated the recipe; it gets added in after the coconut milk and before the berries. Let me know if you give it a go!

    2. Its not terrible, happens to everyone. But thanks for answer me so quick.
      I made the ice cream without cocoa butter and I got a great and very tasty ice cream. in addition instead of cashew I used walnuts and still its came very good. Great recipe and great blog I personally do not eat milk products and this a great snack for me. I wanted to say that you're a very nice replaying everyone.
      I will keep bake and cook from your blog :)

    3. Thanks for saying so! I'm relieved I didn't scare you off with my shoddy recipe writing. ;) I'm so glad to know that walnuts will work in the ice cream in place of cashews – brilliant! Thank you for giving this recipe a go, and for the nice note. :)

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