Everything You Need to Know About Rolled Ice Cream

Everything You Need To Know About Rolled Ice Cream

Everything you need to know about rolled ice cream. In this post, I want to talk about one specific style of ice cream – rolled ice cream. Specifically, what it is, how you make it, and most importantly whether you should consider it for your ice cream business? If you want to learn about all the other different styles of frozen desserts including what the difference is between gelato and ice cream, or the difference between sherbet and semifreddo then check out my post on the topic here: What Are The Different Types Of Frozen Dessert. In the interim, it times to grab some metal spatulas, and a giant frozen plate and talk about rolled ice cream. But, first – what is rolled ice cream?

What Is Rolled Ice Cream?

Rolled ice cream is a popular ice cream concept that originated in Thailand. Rolled ice cream is made by hand by mixing and scraping an “ice cream” mixture on a frozen plate using a pair of metal spatulas. It has less air than regular ice cream and often contains less sugar. The price point of rolled ice cream is higher than regular ice cream due to the staff costs required to make it fresh to order.

Everything You Need To Know About Rolled Ice Cream - ice cream roll cup

How Is Rolled Ice Cream Different From Ice Cream?

You have probably seen it on Instagram or maybe there is some rolled ice cream concept near you. Someone has a frozen plate in front of them and then pours on some ice cream mixture and adds in a whole bunch of toppings. They then go crazy chopping and mixing everything together with a pair of metal scrapers. Once the ice cream is fully mixed and chilled it is smoothed out and then scrapped up into individual rolls.

Rolled ice cream distinguishes itself from other types of frozen dessert in two ways. First, in how it is made. Rolled ice cream is unique because by using a frozen plate to freeze and mix the ice cream on you can mix pretty much anything to create a frozen roll.

I have seen Mountain Dew turned into an ice cream roll.

Secondly, in how it is presented. Unlike traditional scooped or soft-serve ice cream, rolled ice cream is served in rolls. This makes for a unique presentation which can then be topped with sauces and additional toppings.

Everything You Need To Know About Rolled Ice Cream - ice cream rolls

Everything You Need to Know About Rolled Ice Cream? – FAQs

Now that you know what rolled ice cream is, it’s time to answer some of the other most frequently asked questions about this unique dessert. These include why is rolled ice cream so popular? And most importantly is rolled ice cream profitable? In this post, I will be going through everything you need to know about rolled ice cream.

What Is Rolled Ice Cream Made On?

Rolled ice cream is made on rolled ice cream frozen pans. These can be frozen via traditional refrigeration methods or pre-frozen in a freezer.

Are Ice Cream Roll Machines Hot or Cold?

Ice cream roll machines (i.e. plates) are cold – they operate at freezing temperature.

How Does an Ice Cream Roller Machine Work?

As a general rule, think of a “rolled ice cream roller machine” as the opposite of a frying pan i.e., it is a freezing pan. The plate is at freezing temperature and so when the ice cream mix is poured onto the plate it freezes very quickly. The ice cream server then scrapes it off the plate rolling it as they do so.

This process is not that different from how a traditional ice cream batch freezer works. In a batch freezer, you have a cylinder where the ice cream is placed. This cylinder is then frozen. As the cylinder freezes so does the ice cream mixture in contact with the cylinder. Scrapers then come along and scrape the frozen mixture away to allow another part of the ice cream mixture to freeze. And so, the process repeats until all your ice cream mixture has been frozen and scrapped into ice cream.

In the case of rolled ice cream, you are acting as the scraper. By using two metal spatulas you can control how the mixture is combined and how long one side is frozen before being scrapped.

What Do You Need for Rolled Ice Cream?

Do you want to make rolled ice cream at home? As a general rule, you need four things to make rolled ice cream:

1. Ice cream cold plate (like this one from Amazon)

2. Two stainless steel spatulas – the ice cream cold plate on Amazon includes two of these);

3. Ice cream base; and

4. Toppings.

If you don’t want to fork out for a machine, then there are other ways to make it. For example, this book on rolled ice cream recipes shows you exactly how to make rolled ice cream at home without a rolled ice cream machine. You can find it on Amazon here.

How Do You Make Ice Cream on A Cold Plate?

As a general rule, this is how to make rolled ice cream on a cold plate in a step-by-step process. The key to making rolled ice cream is to have a traditional ice cream base. This is then added to whatever flavor you want to mix on the frozen plate.

  • Step 1: Pour the ice cream mixture onto the cold plate.
  • Step 2: Add any toppings on top.
  • Step 3: Use the edges of your two spatulas to chop the toppings into the ice cream mix.
  • Step 4: Use your spatulas to smooth the ice cream mix out into a smooth thin layer.
  • Step 5: Wait for it to freeze (this shouldn’t take long so long as the cold plate is cold enough).
  • Step 6: Used the edge of your spatula to slice strips of the ice cream.
  • Step 7: Then scrape off each ice cream stripe, rolling it as you do so.

What Kind of Milk Is Used in Ice Cream Rolls?

Technically any kind of milk can be used in ice cream rolls. However, for the best and creamiest ice cream rolls it is best to use milk with a high-fat content as possible. This means if you want dairy ice cream rolls use whole milk. If you want dairy-free ice cream rolls then use a high-fat content coconut cream (20% +).

Does Rolled Ice Cream Taste Different?

As a whole, ice cream is denser than regular ice cream and has a heavier and creamier mouthful. This is because rolled ice cream doesn’t have air whipped into it like regular ice cream.

Rolled ice cream tends to have less sugar in it than regular ice cream, so it may taste less sweet than regular ice cream, but this depends on what toppings you have mixed into your base.

Is Rolled Ice Cream Healthier Than Regular Ice Cream?

On average there is less air in rolled ice cream than regular ice cream so on a “bite” basis it can contain more calories than regular ice cream.

Rolled ice cream tends to contain less sugar than regular ice cream, but the sugar content of rolled ice cream will depend on what toppings you get chopped into it as well as what is added in top of the rolls in it’s cup.

Everything You Need To Know About Rolled Ice Cream - mixture

Why Is Rolled Ice Cream Popular?

As a general rule, rolled ice cream is popular for the following reasons:

  1. Novelty. Here in the US rolled ice cream is a pretty novel concept and very “trendy” at the moment with lots of rolled ice cream posts on social media i.e. rolled ice cream is having a bit of a moment.
  2. Visually pretty. Rolled ice cream can be very pretty and “Instagram-able”.
  3. Customization. At any other ice cream shop, you are getting a scoop of ice cream from a pre-made batch or a swirl from a product in a soft-serve machine. With rolled ice cream, you are getting your own customized ice cream made to order.
  4. Freshness. As rolled ice cream is made to order it is fresher than other forms of ice cream. Only minutes before you eat your rolled ice cream it was still liquid base.
  5. Less Sugar. Rolled ice cream usually has less sugar than regular ice cream. Therefore, it can be perceived as healthier. Bear in mind though that less air is whipped into it than regular ice cream so it may still contain more calories (also the sugar content depends on what toppings you have mixed through or what flavor of rolled ice cream you chose).

Is Rolled Ice Cream Profitable?

Is rolled ice cream profitable? Now, this is the big question. Whilst rolled ice cream is a truly unique and novel style of ice cream, I would not say that it is a profitable and scalable model.


As someone who has owned ice cream businesses for the past decade, I have some concerns over the profitability of rolled ice cream. These concerns are mainly due to the ability to serve large numbers of people over a given short period of time.

Ice Cream Scoop Shop vs Rolled Ice Cream Shop

The beauty of scooped ice cream is that a customer can be served in as little as 30 seconds. Therefore, when you have a line of customers out your door on a Saturday night (which you need to be a successful ice cream shop) one or two team members can get through the line quickly. Being able to serve many customers in a short period of time = profits. This is especially important when you are serving a product that can have a low average ticket value (like ice cream where a single scoop can sell for around $5).

Despite the possibility of being able to charge higher for rolled ice cream the time it takes to serve a single customer goes from 30 seconds to minutes (even 10 minutes plus).

An Example

There was a rolled ice cream shop that opened close to where I lived. I noticed a few things.

Opening Hours

The opening hours changed very quickly from a 1 pm opening to a 5 pm opening. When a business stops having its business open during certain times this is a sure sign that the business wasn’t making profits during these hours. Why else would you close during these hours if you were making profits? This meant demand for a novelty ice cream was not there during the daytime hours.

Customer Wait Times

The shop looked very busy in the evenings when it was open. Whenever I drove past it there were always plenty of people sitting at the tables and waiting inside. Good sign, right? However, when I looked at all the reviews online, I realized it was because customers could be waiting up to an hour for their ice cream during a busy spell. Eek!

An hour-long wait time for ice cream?!

But I can see how that can happen due to each customer’s order being custom-made.

Sadly, despite always looking busy in the evenings and having decent reviews online (customers’ main gripe being the wait time) this shop closed after a few years (and this was before COVID started).

What is the lesson you should take away?

I suspect it just couldn’t turn a profit. It was based in a city with a high minimum wage. High minimum wage + custom orders + low average ticket price is a recipe for a loss. If you have a high minute wage and low-ticket prices, you really need to get able to serve many customers quickly for it to work financially.

Another aspect of rolled ice cream that could reduce its profitability is the fact that it doesn’t take advantage of overrun. Very little, if any, air is whipped into rolled ice cream. This makes the cost point higher than traditional ice cream which does have overrun. If you want to learn more about overrun, check out the whole section I dedicated to it in my post: What Are The Different Types of Ice Cream.

This brings me to the next question.

How Much Does Rolled Ice Cream Cost?

As a whole, rolled ice cream costs more to buy than scooped or soft serve. This is due to the fact that rolled ice cream is made fresh to order. Whereas you can expect to get a scoop of ice cream or a swirl of soft serve for around $5, rolled ice cream can often cost closer to $10.

Rolled Ice Cream Franchise Cost

As a general rule, the cost of opening a rolled ice cream franchise is less than that to open a scooping or soft-serve ice cream franchise. The main reasons for this are:

  • the lower ice cream machinery costs; and
  • the fact that rolled ice cream franchises are newer and so hold less brand power than established ice cream brands like Ben & Jerry and Cold Stone, etc.

On average, a rolled ice cream franchise can be opened for as little as $100k.

How Much Do Ice Cream Rollers Make?

Ice cream rollers will tend to be paid an hourly salary close to the minimum wage in the area they are working in. As a general rule, ice cream rollers will be on less than $20 per hour. However, ice cream rollers can increase their net pay by as much as 50% with tips. You can read more about how in my post: Everything You Need To Know About Working In An Ice Cream Shop.

Ice Cream Roll Business Plan

As a general rule, the best way to structure a rolled ice cream business plan is as follows:

  • executive summary
  • mission statement
  • projected organizational growth
  • company structure
  • industry outlook
  • key external drivers
  • success factors
  • marketing analysis summary
  • sales forecast for 5 years
  • works cited.

You can read more about how to write an ice cream business plan here – Everything You Need To Know About Writing An Ice Cream Business Plan.

Rolled Ice Cream Trucks

Rolled ice cream can be served from an ice cream truck, in the same way, scooped ice cream can be served from an ice cream truck. The main difference would be the power and equipment set up for the truck, but this is possible to do from a truck.

If you want to read more about how to start an ice cream truck in general, you can here – What Equipment Is Needed For An Ice Cream Truck.

Everything You Need To Know About Rolled Ice Cream - the final lick

Everything You Need To Know About Rolled Ice Cream – The Final Lick

Everything you need to know about rolled ice cream. In this post, we have learned what rolled ice cream is and most importantly how it is different from traditional ice cream. As a concept there isn’t really anything like rolled ice cream – it is a truly unique and novel way of offering a different style of frozen dessert. However, is it viable as a business model? If you are a street vending or truck – possibly. But as a store concept, it is not something I think is viable. It just takes too long to serve one customer some rolled ice cream. Time is money especially when it comes to ice cream. You need to be able to serve lots of people…quickly.

Chilled Startup - Ice Cream Solves Everything

Time To Learn Some More

Want to learn more on your path to ice cream entrepreneur success. Then check out some of my other articles.

Chilled Startup Team

Since 2012, the Chilled Startup team has been in the ice cream business. From creating retail store ice cream concepts from scratch to ice cream trucks to selling ice cream pints wholesale to grocery store outlets to private and public events. We have even set up vegan and plant-based ice cream concepts. The ice cream business is one we understand inside and out.

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