Arctic Roll

Me and Hungry Hubby have restarted our old habit of going for a walk after dinner.  It’s so humid this week that it’s practically compulsory.  Yesterday, we’d eaten our dinner and were having a chatter as we toddled about our beautiful, leafy green neighbourhood when hubs suggested I should bake a cake the next day.  Good suggestion oh Hungry One, but what shall I bake?

It seemed he was after something he would really enjoy rather than another one of my experiments or spontaneous decisions to bake, which is usually triggered by a gorgeous picture or write up I’ve read somewhere that day.  So, I left it to him – what would he like?  He listed his favourites – Madeira cake, Bakewell tarts, Victoria sponges.  He’s a traditional guy at heart.

Then, out of the blue, he came up with a genius idea!  Arctic Roll!  A childhood treat we both hold dear to our hearts, as I am sure all those who were made in the eighties* in the UK love and adore.
(*= shhh, don’t tell anyone but Hungry Hubby was actually made in the back end of the 70s, although he certainly grew up in the eighties so we’ll let him off…)

For those of you who haven’t heard of such a thing as an Arctic Roll, let me explain. What it is, is a tube of vanilla ice cream encased in a fat-free sponge which has been painted with jam on the inner surface, created by the company Bird’s Eye. The dream “you’ve been good today, let’s have a dessert” dessert for any self-respecting person under 10 years old. As with most childhood favourites, I’ve grown to see in a different light now; if you were to buy yourself one from the deep freeze of your local supermarket today, it ain’t actually all that.

The sponge is mean and thin (not to mention often dried out from languishing in commercial freezers for weeks or months before eating) and they are very tight on the jam. The ice cream is a bit too hard for my liking although that could well be because I was always too impatient to wait for it to ripen before using! Nevertheless, it is the dessert of our younger days and once the gauntlet was laid down I couldn’t wait to start!

You will see I have uncharacteristically bought a tub of Wall’s ice cream to use in my Arctic Roll. So sue me. I love homemade ice cream very, very much but this particular store-bought ice cream ticks the box for me and Hungry Hubby when we are after some nursery vanilla sweetness. It’s very soft and has a delectable mouthfeel as it melts on the tongue into creamy, vanilla dreaminess.

It’s obviously has a lot of air whipped into it to make it so light and soft which actually gives the added bonus of being comparatively very low calorie for ice cream. That being said, now I know just how easy it is to make, I will be trying it with other flavour combinations and I will direct you to my ice cream recipes here – raspberry ripple, orange choc chip, panettone and stem ginger to get you started.

We needed to nip out to buy the ice cream which was great as it never seems as solid in the freezer cabinets of the supermarkets as it does in a home freezer so it was easier to use. Whilst we were out browsing the store, I was mooching about looking for something I could use which was cylindrical and the right sort of diameter to mould the ice cream in.

I couldn’t find anything suitable plus didn’t really want to buy more non-essential kitchen kit but when I got home, my EasiYo yogurt pot caught my eye and it turned out to be the perfect vessel for my new creation! I lined it like a cake tin with waxed paper slightly higher than the sides to make it match the width of my baking tin to be used for the sponge. Again, I used a tray bake pan as I don’t have a Swiss roll tin but you absolutely could use one of those if you have one. Necessity is the mother of all invention!

Once the ice cream was shaped and safely in my freezer, I set about making a fatless sponge which if you haven’t made before, is the easiest thing ever! Simply whole eggs and sugar whisked until very much paler and larger in volume with self-raising flour sifted over, it’s perhaps the easiest cake of all to make. If you have ever made a Swiss roll, it is the same basic recipe. Mine didn’t lose any volume really on baking and I was left with a wonderfully even, sunny yellow coloured sponge.

I love the eggs I’ve been buying lately, they have the most magnificent yellow yolks which really carry through to give a warm hue to light coloured bakes. The only decision left was which jam to use and as I had exactly the right amount of blackberry ginger chai spiced jam from the wedding cake I made for Hungry Hubby’s best friend last week, I went with that. I did hover for a minute over my bottle of butterscotch sauce and also I paused by my jars of strawberry, lime and vanilla jam – next time! Be generous and slather it on as thickly as you like.

Once constructed a brief spell back in the freezer was required before slicing and most importantly eating. I watched The Karate Kid trilogy as I waited in between each of the few stages involved, which itself was ironically also made in the ’80’s!  Another highly valued and loved part of my childhood.  The pre-packaged Bird’s Eye version would look sad and puny in comparison to this sponge, so well risen with generously proportioned with its fillings. No bad thing really – it being a fat-free sponge and relatively low cal ice cream after all…

As for the eating, ooo my was it good! The lack of butter from the cake means it doesn’t really freeze and remains soft and using such soft ice cream meant we were good to go and dig in immediately after removing from the freezer and slicing. It shouldn’t really be a surprise but this homemade version is so much better than even the romanticised memories of my childhood Bird’s Eye version. I can’t recommend you try it enough and think it would be so much fun to serve after dinner with friends especially as it needs to be made ahead.

Or perhaps spend the day making it with your kids.  My big kid Hungry Hubby was delighted – his idea worked out perfectly and it didn’t besmirch the memory of eating it on Friday nights after school as little tots ourselves.   A little fruit coulis to serve alongside would deliver just enough elegance to class it up for company without belying its retro-fantastico roots.


Arctic Roll
How could you not smile at this retro ice cream dessert classic? Fun to make and delicious to eat!
Servings: 8
: 143 kcal
Author: Just Jo
  • Approx 1.25-1.5 litres ice cream
  • Approx 125ml jam
  • 4 large eggs
  • 120 g caster sugar
  • 120 g self raising flour
  • Extra sugar to sprinkle with
  1. First allow your ice cream to ripen – either in the fridge or on the work top, depending on how warm your kitchen is.
  2. When easily scoopable, scoop into a lined* cylindrical container the same height as your baking tray’s width OR simply scoop into a sausage shape on a piece of wax paper or baking parchment, rolling it up in the paper like a christmas cracker. Work quickly and get it in the freezer ASAP to freeze solid again. (*= line like a cake tin and leave a little longer than the height of your container so you have something to get hold of to pull the ice cream out when set.)
  3. Preheat oven to 170°C and line a Swiss roll tin or tray bake tin approx 8 by 12 inches in size with baking parchment. Grease the paper lightly only.
  4. Put your eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk on medium high until they are very much paler, thicker and hold a ribbon when you pull the beaters through them. They should at least treble in volume.
  5. Sift over the flour and using a large metal spoon, fold it in only until the last blob of flour disappears. Gently does it.
  6. Very gently and not tipping from a great height, pour the sponge mix into the prepared cake tin, level the surface and bake for 12-15 minutes until the surface is golden and the centre springs back to the touch.
  7. Cool on a rack for a few minutes before sprinkling generously with caster sugar which will act as ball bearings to prevent it sticking to the paper you will use to roll it up. Confidently, invert the sponge onto either another piece of baking paper or (my preference) a silicone sheet and leave until completely cooled.
  8. When cold, remove the baking paper you baked the sponge on and spread this surface with your favourite jam. See the pictures in the blog post for further guidance.
  9. Remove your solidified ice cream from the freezer and unmould, quickly laying it along one of the short edges of the sponge. Roll up using the silicone sheet or extra baking paper to get a good, tight roll and wrap in cling film and/or foil and return to the freezer until needed.
  10. If using an ice cream which freezes hard, you will need to remove the roll and allow it to ripen in the fridge as you would normally before serving. If using soft scoop store bought ice cream or making one of my no churn ones, it will be good to slice generously straight from the freezer.
Nutrition Facts
Arctic Roll
Amount Per Serving
Calories 143 Calories from Fat 18
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 2g 3%
Cholesterol 81mg 27%
Sodium 31mg 1%
Potassium 45mg 1%
Total Carbohydrates 26g 9%
Sugars 15g
Protein 4g 8%
Vitamin A 2.4%
Calcium 1.5%
Iron 2.9%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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  1. Laura 14/07/2014 at 08:13 - Reply

    Wow, that picture of it being sliced shows this amazing pudding off the best because you can see the true size of it (scale, I know what I mean!!) and even though I’ve just finish breakfast I now really, really want a piece. A shop bought artic roll simply won’t measure up after reading this!

    • Jo Blogs 14/07/2014 at 08:15 - Reply

      Lol I know – Hungry Hubby took that photo and I wanted to include it to show how monstrous it turned out! In a Monster Inc., cute sort of monstrous way of course lol… ;)

  2. lorna buffey 14/07/2014 at 09:52 - Reply

    As a 60s vintage I have to say in the 70s this was a favourite Saturday teatime treat!

    • Jo Blogs 14/07/2014 at 09:56 - Reply

      Next on the list Lorna – Viennetta lol ;)

  3. dogwuff 14/07/2014 at 11:02 - Reply

    I remember this being the height of sophistication in the late 50s when ice cream came in vanilla or Neapolitan (with a layer of pistachio, not chocolate) and notthing else. I’ve been eating Viennetta recently (Tesco, £1) and that has stood the taste test better than AR. A revival based on yours would be such a hit.

    • Jo Blogs 14/07/2014 at 11:18 - Reply

      I am half tempted to make a Viennetta and very tempted to make a Neapolitan too Sue. Ooo it sounds wonderful with pistachio in :)

  4. NickkiT 14/07/2014 at 11:22 - Reply

    Oh childhood memories are flooding back! I’ve wanted to make artic roll for a long time..along with baked alaska. John won’t stop talking about this, I don’t think he’ll stop until I make it….:-)

    • Jo Blogs 14/07/2014 at 11:23 - Reply

      Lol already? Bless him! I know what you’ll be doing tonight then Nic lol ;)

      • NickkiT 14/07/2014 at 11:26 - Reply

        Put it this way, if I didn’t have a pavlova in the oven right now I’d be making this – but it will definitely be a feature on our dinner table this week! I bought an artic roll a few years ago for a bit of nostalgia but it was pretty disappointing. Yours looks magnificent xxx

        • Jo Blogs 14/07/2014 at 11:30 - Reply

          I know – the processed ones don’t stand the taste test of time do they? Luckily if it is this easy we never need buy one again! Imagine doing one with a chocolate sponge and your mint choc chip ice cream mmmm :D

          • NickkiT 14/07/2014 at 11:39

            This is so weird!! We were all just talking about artic roll and John has requested a classic vanilla with strawberry jam and the boys want mint choc chip with chocolate sponge! How spooky you just mentioned that!

          • Jo Blogs 14/07/2014 at 11:46

            Again, our synchronicity is spooky – I was myself thinking after I pressed send “but I bet John wants the original raspberry and vanilla combo” :O

          • NickkiT 14/07/2014 at 11:50

            Lol yep…I’m sure are brains are spiritually connected somehow!

          • NickkiT 14/07/2014 at 11:50


  5. Erika 14/07/2014 at 13:08 - Reply

    Wow! You’re so brave! I’ve always been afraid of ‘moulding’ ice cream. I always thought it would lose its lightness and creaminess. But that’s surely worth a try :)

    • Jo Blogs 14/07/2014 at 13:23 - Reply

      Oh it’s not that hard and it didn’t do either of those two things :)

  6. Kelly-Jane 14/07/2014 at 15:58 - Reply

    It looks fab need to make soon. Where would I get one of the easy yo pots please? Xx

    • Jo Blogs 14/07/2014 at 16:04 - Reply

      Well Lakeland sell them but you could try eBay KJ – ooo John Lewis do it too :)

      • Kelly-Jane 14/07/2014 at 16:58 - Reply

        Ordered from ebay, cheers Jo. I’ve seen these before, but a builders pipe seems wrong somehow, and I couldn’t cope with a wonky roll! #ocd! xx

        • Jo Blogs 14/07/2014 at 16:59 - Reply

          I’ll admit now KJ that it occurred to me my loo brush holder was an even better shape (slightly smaller diameter) but I couldn’t bring myself to even buy a new one to sterilise then use lol…

  7. gottagetbaked 14/07/2014 at 18:08 - Reply

    Jo, this dessert is a dream come true. I loved reading about your childhood memories about this cake and isn’t it amazing how things that used to taste so good to our child-selves taste so awful now? Your homemade version of the arctic cake is probably a thousand times better than the commercially manufactured one. It looks amazing! Perfect way to cool down too with that gloriously thick tunnel of ice cream running through the middle.

    • Jo Blogs 16/07/2014 at 07:52 - Reply

      Thank you! It is a bit crazy how our tastebuds change over the years – I think it’s quite nice that even the most foodie of people tend to have something like this Arctic Roll in their food memories which they loved back in the day… ;)

  8. huntfortheverybest 15/07/2014 at 02:59 - Reply

    oh wow that’s one of the most amazing desserts i’ve ever seen!

    • Jo Blogs 16/07/2014 at 07:52 - Reply

      Why thank you! It’s easy as pie – give it a try :D

  9. Sarah 15/07/2014 at 04:45 - Reply

    I’ve never heard one refer to ice cream as needing to ‘ripen,’ but it makes sense. I’ll have to use that. Great recipe and I’m sure there are many more variations of this in your future.

    • Jo Blogs 16/07/2014 at 07:54 - Reply

      Yup, I’ve got plenty of ideas for more variations! As for the “ripening” of ice cream, I’m very predictable I’m afraid – Nigella speaks of ice cream needing to ripen in the fridge so I’ve picked it up from her. She’s my food writing hero :D

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