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.