Know Your Sweets: Rocky Road Ice Cream

Know Your Sweets

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[Photographs: Robyn Lee unless otherwise noted]

The Basics

The first superstar ice cream flavor outside of the freezer section's big three (chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry), this combination of marshmallow ribbons and almond bits in a creamy chocolate base is a sweet textural treasure.

Similar Desserts:

Rocky Road (candy bar), Rocky Road Fudge, Moose Tracks

Key Ingredient Spotlight: Marshmallows

While the majority of commercially produced rocky road now opts for a smooth swirl of marshmallow fluff instead of puffy marshmallow pillows, legend has it that ice cream maker William Dreyer made the original marshmallows for rocky road small enough for the mixture by cutting them up with his wife's sewing scissors. Even if you're pretty crafty in the kitchen, store bought, hot-chocolate-ready mini-marshmallows are probably the best bet for making your own rocky road today. Absolutely committed to making your own marshmallows? Make sure to use a candy thermometer, don't under-whip your marshmallow mixture, and—if possible—don't attempt making them on a soggy day.

Key Region: Oakland, California


Oakland [Photograph: Wikipedia]

Frozen sweets moguls William Dreyer and Joseph Edy ran their ice cream empire from the heart of this California city, where rocky road was first created and marketed. However, the ice cream's origins are something of a "rocky road". (Sorry, couldn't help it.) Soon after the new flavor exploded nationally, George Farren of Fenton's Creamery claimed that he was the ice cream's official creator.

A candymaker, Farren had been chopping up his rocky road-style candy bar (full of walnuts, chocolate, and marshmallow) then adding it into a chocolate ice cream base. He told his friends Dryer and Edy about it, who Farren claimed then stole the idea for themselves. While Dreyer gets most of the national credit for the dessert, the Fenton's in Oakland still markets itself as the home of "original" rocky road ice cream.


In England, cherries and raisins are common additions to rocky road, as is a thick spread of jam in Australia. In the United States, rocky road now appears in many forms, including with or without chocolate chip pieces.



William Dreyer began making ice cream in 1906, when he immigrated to the United States from Germany. After moving the California, Dreyer partnered with Joseph Edy, a candy maker, and the two opened a store on Grand Street in Oakland. (Edy's Grand Ice Cream, get it?) Prior to 1929, Americans were eating roughly nine quarts of ice cream per person annually. After the Great Depression set in, this dropped off to only five quarts per person, and new marketing tactics were necessary in order to boost sales. Dreyer concocted the original rocky road recipe by adding walnuts—which were later changed to almonds—and small marshmallow bites to their chocolate ice cream. The new flavor became a national sensation and set the stage for the diverse range of ice cream flavors, textures, and styles we know today.


After the stock market crash and on the outset of the great depression, Dreyer and Edy decided to give their newest ice cream concoction a name that was timely, but also would lift the spirits of those eating it. Behold, "rocky road" was born.

Pop Culture

The 32 flavors wizards at Baskin Robbins recently released a not-so-scientific study about what a person's favorite ice cream flavor says about their personality. Folks who are fond of rocky road are supposedly, "more likely to be aggressive, engaging and a good listener."

Get the recipe! Really Rocky Road Ice Cream >>

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