I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For… Making Fake Ice Cream!

“Forget art. Put your trust in ice cream.” -Charles Baxter, The Feast of Love

A good quote! Thankfully, in this instance, art and ice cream combine for an even better result. This past weekend I took the Faux Food course at Stratford Off The Wall, taught by the lovely and talented Deb Erb. The course was a blast and I learned a ton of techniques in the two short days. I’m going to post some of my work here along with step-by-step instructions on how to make these good-enough-to-eat treats. Keep in mind, all of these are first attempts, and I certainly don’t consider myself a visual artist, so anyone should be able to make something at least as good as these, and any gifted artists out there I’m sure can make something far better!

What You’ll Need:

  1. A tall, glass ice cream dish
  2. Spray cooking oil
  3. Paper towels
  4. Plaster of Paris
  5. An ice cream scoop
  6. Acrylic paint (any colour, depends on your “flavour”)
  7. Benjamin Moore Stays Clear Acrylic Polyurethane (either Low Lustre or Gloss depending on the effect you want, I used a bit of both – from here on I’ll refer to this as “Stays Clear”. These come in paint cans – you may want to pour it into a smaller container for easier pouring. We used those condiment bottles from the dollar store)
  8. Paint brushes, mixing dishes & water (to clean brushes)

Optional Supplies:

  1. For maraschino cherry: plastic grape, bright red paint, Stays Clear, a toothpick, piece of foam (to make a drying stand)
  2. For Sprinkles: plastic beads (or any small, plastic, sprinkle shaped bit – we used some pieces from Deb’s car mat)
  3. For Sauce: water soluble, paintable caulking (NOT silicone) in either white or brown (depending on type of sauce), acrylic paint, Stays Clear (in a high gloss), Gel Medium in Satin Gloss, plastic bag or pastry bag OPTIONAL: Super 77 Adhesive Spray
  4. For whip cream: Dry Dex Spackling OR the sauce mixture listed above, but with more caulk to make it a thicker consistency, plastic bag or pastry bag (optional decorative tip)
  5. Metal spoon (for decoration)

How To Make Your Fake Ice Cream:

1. Prep your dish

Your first step is to prep your dish for the plaster.  Because you want the plaster to pop out so you can paint it, you need to coat the inside with a spray cooking oil. This will stop the plaster from attaching to the glass. Be sure to coat the entire inside (try rubbing it around with the paper towel) but do not leave any drips or pools.

2. Prepare the plaster

Mix up the Plaster of Paris according the instructions on the box. You should wear gloves. This can be a little time-consuming, getting the consistency right, but when you do things move quickly, so be prepared with your dish and ice cream scoop nearby.

3. Pour in the plaster

When the plaster has a smooth, soupy consistency, spoon some into the dish, filling it up about a quarter-inch from the top. Wait until your plaster mixture in the bowl becomes a bit thicker, and scoop up a ball of it with the ice cream scoop, plopping it on top just like you would with real ice cream. If you want to add a decorative element like a spoon stuck in the ice cream, stick it in now. Make sure the placement is right as once it dries you won’t be able to remove it without ruining the whole piece.

NOTE: This is the hardest part. There is a fine line between the plaster being too soupy and not holding its shape, briefly being perfect, and then being too hard and crumbly. It may take a few times to get it perfect. My “mint chocolate ice cream” got more of the consistency I was looking for (it was my second attempt) whereas the “Neapolitan ice cream” was first a little too runny, and then too hard and so crumbled on top. I waited until the plaster had dried a bit and rubbed away the crumbly bits (I used my fingers, you could also use sand paper, if it was already hard).

The oil coated dish is filled with Plaster of Paris
The oil coated dish is filled with Plaster of Paris

4. Pop out the plaster

Once the plaster has dried, carefully pop it out by grabbing the top and turning and pulling. If the plaster is hardened, and you’ve oiled the dish well, this shouldn’t be too difficult. You’ll have something that looks like this:

Pop out the plaster for painting.
Pop out the plaster for painting.

5. Paint the plaster

Now comes the fun part! Pick what colour ice cream you want, and get painting! Feel free to get creative and even layer different kinds on top of each other. I chose to make one mint chocolate chip, and one Neapolitan. Mix up whichever colour paint you choose along with some Stays Clear. I used satin for the majority of the ice cream, and then added some highlights with a high gloss finish after, just on the more raised bits, to give the impression it was starting to melt a little. Onstage, glossy will look better (and more realistic) than matte, so when in doubt go more shiny.

Combine satin finish glaze with acrylic paint.
Combine satin finish glaze with acrylic paint.

6. Add final touches

Once the paint looks the way you like, and you’re certain everything is dry, you can add elements like a cherry, whip cream, sprinkles, or whatever other toppings you’d fancy. Again, great creative!

I made a maraschino cherry by painting a plastic grape bright red and coating it with a high gloss. I stuck the end with the hole onto a toothpick that I supported in some foam, so I could paint all sides without leaving fingerprints in it. If paint isn’t sticking to your cherry, spray it with Super 77.

Maraschino cherry made out of a plastic grape, red paint, and high gloss finish
Maraschino cherry made out of a plastic grape, red paint, and high gloss finish

You can add fake nuts by crumbling up bits of cork, or sprinkles by using beads or other bits of plastic.

To add caramel or chocolate sauce, mix up the following:

  1. Non-silicone caulking (the type that is water soluble and paintable, like in the link above) in either white or brown
  2. Stays Clear in a glossy finish
  3. Acrylic paint

You may have to fiddle with this a bit to get the exact look you want. If you’re making caramel, try adding more Stays Clear and less caulk, to give it that translucent appearance. If you want chocolate fudge that’s thick and slapped on, add more caulk. If you’re looking for something that’s easy to drizzle, add more Stays Clear and paint, and you can even mix in some water to get the consistency you like. Practice drizzling onto another surface before you try it on your ice cream.

Neapolitan ice cream with whip cream, chocolate sauce and a cherry
Neapolitan ice cream with whip cream, chocolate sauce and a cherry

To add whip cream, use the following:

  1. The above mixture, but in white, with a thick consistency OR
  2. Dry Dex, no colour needed

Squeeze your whip cream mixture of choice into a plastic bag or pastry bag, and squeeze out onto your dessert. If you want it to look like whip cream from a can, you can use a decorative tip. If you are looking for something more smooth and “flopped on”, opt for a more liquidy mixture (likely with the caulking solution, not the Dry Dex) and just squeeze on a blob. If you want to attach a maraschino cherry or any sprinkles, do so while it is still wet.

Dry Dex starts pink but dries white
Dry Dex starts pink but dries white

If you want to add nuts or sprinkles without any whip cream, attach with more of the Stays Clear, a hot glue gun, or spray with Super 77.

In the end, you should have something that looks like this:

Mint Chocolate Chip and Neapolitan ice cream
Mint Chocolate Chip and Neapolitan ice cream

I’m pretty happy with how these turned out (though I plan on adding a bit more glaze to the chocolate sauce to make it more realistic). They look good, are easy to make, and are relatively sturdy. Of course, they are solid, so don’t work if you want someone to “eat” your ice cream onstage, they are a little heavy, and they can chip, but I think they’d be great for background, maybe a couple extras chatting away in a booth in “Grease” or something.

Got any interesting ideas or toppings you’d like to share? Post them here in the comments!

All for now,

Author: BygoneTheatre

Bygone Theatre was founded as a collective in October of 2012, and became an incorporated not-for-profit company in October of 2015. Our mandate is to produce theatre written or set in the early 20th century, focusing on historical aspects in design and incorporating a classic cinema aesthetic. ​ In 2019 Bygone Theatre was nominated for 14 Broadway World Toronto Awards, including Best Community Theatre and Best Play (Equity). We took home a total of 5 awards, 4 of which were for The Rear Window, including Best Direction of a Play (Equity); Best Original Lighting Design; Best Leading Actor (Play, Equity); and Best Featured Actress (Play, Equity). We took a hiatus our 2020/21 season because of the COVID19 pandemic, and used that time to develop our charitable initiatives. In August of 2021 we were nominated for the Toronto Star Readers' Choice Award for Best Live Theatre. Part of our mission involves inclusion and accessibility, and we strive to allow artists of all backgrounds and levels of experience the chance to have hands-on experience in whatever capacity they are most interested in; this has included youth outreach programs for high school students interested in production design, and acting opportunities for those who have never performed onstage.

7 thoughts on “I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For… Making Fake Ice Cream!”

  1. I’m new to making props, but as an art teacher, I’ve done a similar project with kids at camp. Acrylic paint and white glue makes a great chocolate sauce and Twisteez wire cut into small pieces is perfect for sprinkles.

  2. I followed your instructions explicitly and I have ruined 5 glass soda fountain glasses that I purchased for this purpose. The now have gray plaster of paris sodas in them forever… I have tried freezing one overnight , using the hose on high pressure, holding them under hot water, to NO avail. I even tried using thick Vaseline on the last one and it will NOT release either!

    1. Sorry to hear that, I didn’t have any trouble with them, not sure why it didn’t work for you. All I can say is you really need to make sure that the cooking spray coats the whole thing, and then I grabbed the top and sort of wiggled them out. I don’t know that vaseline would work, I was taught with cooking spray so that’s all I’ve used.

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