Dolley Madison and Ice Cream by Barbara Schlichting


In 1790, the first ice cream parlor opened in New York. In late June 1791, a notice appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette announcing the details of that ear’s July 4th celebration. On the menu that year at Grays Gardens were the confections of Mr. de la Croiz, including “iced creams of a great variety.” Great estates, including Mount Vernon and Monticello, had their own “cream machines for ice.”


Dolley Madison, the first lady of the United States and wife of James Madison, fourth president of America, popularized ice cream in the White House. It was still a very impressive dessert because modern freezers were not introduced yet. To make ice cream, an estate relied on an ice house with large blocks of ice cut from frozen water, packed on straw and held in a cool place.

Dolley preferred oyster ice cream. She used small, sweet oysters from the Potomac River near her home to churn up an interesting dessert. In 18th century cookbooks, chefs didn’t stick to the basics. Recipes for parmesan ice cream, asparagus ice cream, chestnut cream and many other flavors that don’t grace our modern day tables were popular.

I couldn’t find her recipe for oyster ice cream, but she’d probably poach oysters in a cream base. The amount of oysters would dictate the intensity of the oyster flavor.

Here is Dolley’s Peppermint Stick Ice Cream.

3/4 c. sugar
2 tbsp. cornstarch
3 c. whole m ilk
3/4 c. light corn syrup
2 whole eggs, beaten lightly
1 c. cream
4 drops natural peppermint extract
2 drops red food coloring
3/4 c. peppermint candy, crushed

Mix the sugar and cornstarch in the top of a double boiler. Stir in the milk, syrup and eggs. Cook over boiling water, stirring all the time for 10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened. Chill. Stir in cream, extract and coloring. Freeze in a 2 quart ice cream freezer according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When partially frozen, add crushed peppermint and continue frequently. Yields 2 quarts.

I write the First Ladies Mystery Series and the first in the series is Dolley Madison: the Blood Spangled Banner.   I love Dolley Madison, and I’m sure that you’ll love one of my books.  Historical characters make Modern history.

The Blood Spangled Banner    If Words Could Kill  First Lady Blog


15 thoughts on “Dolley Madison and Ice Cream by Barbara Schlichting

  1. Interesting! Maybe those flavors didn’t survive because they weren’t that good or popular. But very inovative! Making ice cream used to be a social activitiy as each visiting child got to turn the crank on the ice cream maker. So much more fun than plugging it in as I do today! Would have never thought of making oyster ice cream.


  2. I didn’t realize ice cream was invented so long ago. I remember making home-made ice cream on the farm in Iowa. Like Abbie, I don’t think I could stomach oyster or other “weird” ice cream flavors; I prefer chocolate, too! 🙂


  3. That’s an interesting recipe, Barbara. I’m wondering if the oyster ice was intended to be a palate cleanser between starters and first courses rather than a sweet dessert? Long protracted meals of many courses often had little tasty tidbits- like a sorbet- to chase away one taste before a new heavy one was served.


  4. Ice cream really couldn’t hit the big time until electricity and freezers. Popular at world fairs, give the common folks a taste of the cold, tasty stuff. I’m with Cherley… one of my great memories from childhood was helping the older relatives churn ice cream the old fashioned way when we’d travel from California to Ohio on vacation. The ice cream maker would be on the back porch, and all the relatives would be gathered in grandma’s backyard — and I mean lots and lots and lots of relatives.


  5. Oyster ice cram sounds rather disgusting. I would put it right up there with the pumpkin ice cream my mother attempted to make years ago. Making ice cream back then truly was a task. I have an antique ice cream maker hubby got for me years ago.

    The rule for antiques in our house has always been if we buy it we have to use it. It took 4 of use taking turns to crank out this wonderful dessert. We opted for vanilla instead of oyster, or asparagus.


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