People love ice cream. That’s a universal truth. No matter where you go, you’re bound to find someone who loves eating the popular frozen concoction made from a combination of cream, milk, sugar, and other ingredients and flavorings. Some even have their preferred way of eating ice cream. Some eat them with cookies, some with wafers; some put syrup and sprinkle other treats to make their ice cream snacking even more satisfying.
Then there’s Neapolitan ice cream, combining three flavors in one tub. So, in one scoop, you can have vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, or cherry. It’s quite a delicacy, and a lot of people love it. Groceries sell a lot of tubs of the product annually, and people can’t seem to get enough of it. But have you ever wondered how Neapolitan ice cream came to be? In this article, let’s quickly dive into its origins and evolution.
Who invented Neapolitan ice cream?
Named in the 19th century to reflect the presumed origins in the Italian city of Naples, Neapolitan ice cream was also brought to US shores by waves of Neapolitan immigrants hoping to stake a better future in the country. The immigrants also brought their expertise in frozen desserts, which led to the creation and introduction of Spumoni in 1860 as Neapolitan-style ice cream. Their early recipes had a variety of flavors, but they were commonly three molded flavors to represent the Italian flag. According to most food historians, the combination of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry became the standard because they were the most popular flavors at the time.
However, if we’re to trace the first recorded recipe for ice cream that combined three flavors, food historians point to the head chef of the Prussian royal household, who dedicated the recipe to Prince Hermann Ludwig Heinrich von Puckler-Muskau. The head chef was named Louis Ferdinand Junguis, who probably had no idea that he unleashed a terrific concoction on the world in 1839.
Some food historians also point to gelato as one of the inspirations behind Neapolitan ice cream. Although there are slight differences in the recipe, gelato and ice cream are both famous frozen delicacies that many people enjoy regardless of the weather. It is said that Neapolitan ice cream was the product of innovating gelato as Italians wanted to combine multiple flavors into one package. Historians attributed the invention of gelato to contemporaries Cosimo Ruggeri and Bernardo Buontalenti in the 16th century. Ruggeri created the first gelato known as fior de latte for Catherine de Medici. In 1565, Buontalenti made gelato alla crema, or the egg cream gelato, which is the precursor to modern-day Florentine gelato. He combined lemon, milk, wine, egg, sugar, and honey with bergamot and orange flavoring and captivated the same Catherine de Medici with its impeccable taste.
Neapolitan ice cream’ key contributors (and evolution)
- Cosimo RuggeriRuggeri invented the fior de latte
Cosimo Ruggeri invented the fior de latte in a competition for Catherine de Medici. Ruggeri dubbed his creation “il Piatto più singolare che si fosse mai visto,” which translates to the most unique dish you’ve ever seen.
- Bernardo BuontalentiBuontalenti created gelato alla crema for Medici
Ruggeri’s contemporary, Bernardo Buontalenti, created the gelato alla crema in 1565. He combined lemon, milk, wine, egg, sugar, and honey with bergamot and orange flavoring into a concoction that captured Medici’s tastebuds.
- Louis Ferdinand JunguisJunguis came up with the recipe for the first combined three ice cream flavors
In an homage to Prince Hermann Ludwig Heinrich von Puckler-Muskau, head chef of the Prussian royal household Louis Ferdinand Junguis created the first recipe for three ice cream flavors.
- Neapolitan immigrantsNeapolitan immigrants brought their craft to US shores
Neapolitan immigrants brought their prowess in creating frozen delicacies to the US. They crafted different ice cream flavors, ultimately coming up with the trifecta of flavors for the Neapolitan-style ice cream tub.
- Emery ThompsonThompson invented the first ice cream batch freezer
Emery Thompson invented the first ice cream batch freezer in 1905. The invention helped ice cream makers with their craft.
When was the first Neapolitan ice cream invented?
Food historians point to the head chef of the Prussian royal household, Louis Ferdinand Junguis as the inventor of the recipe for three ice cream flavors in 1839. It was said that he offered homage to Prince Hermann Ludwig Heinrich von Puckler-Muskau with the recipe. His invention helped usher in different flavors for ice cream until the Neapolitan immigrants who came to the shores of the USA came up with the trifecta of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.
A brief history of Neapolitan ice cream
Food historians trace the first recipe of Neapolitan ice cream to the head of the Prussian royal household, Louis Ferdinand Junguis. He created the recipe for three flavored ice cream as an homage to Prince Hermann Ludwig Heinrich von Puckler-Muskau in 1839.
However, some historians say that Neapolitan ice cream traced its root to gelato. Gelato was invented by contemporaries Cosimo Ruggeri and Bernardo Buontalenti, who wowed the taste buds of Catherine de Medici in the 16th century. According to various records, Cosimo Ruggeri came up with the fior de latte for Medici in a competition. He dubbed his creation “il Piatto più singolare che si fosse mai visto,” which translates to the most unique dish you’ve ever seen.
Bernardo Buontalenti, in 1565 came up with the concoction wherein he combined lemon, milk, wine, egg, sugar, and honey with bergamot and orange flavoring. He called his creation gelato alla crema, which became Florentine gelato’s precursor. It’s said that Medici also loved his gelato.
Food historians state that the gelato craze in Italy spawned the idea to create ice cream with different flavors in one package. Junguis’ recipe represented the apex of that idea as he successfully combined the three flavors in his homage.
Neapolitan immigrants, known for their skill in creating frozen delicacies, brought their prowess to the United States during their travels. Several of them came up with shops that catered to clients who wanted delicious desserts. They introduced the frozen delicacy as Spumoni. They created several combinations, and ultimately the trio of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry became widely accepted as the Neapolitan-style ice cream. The trifecta was an homage to the Naples flag, which was white, black, and red. Other people tried to come up with their combination, with some adding pistachio to the mix. Others replaced strawberry with cherry, and others innovated on the three-flavor variety by adding a fourth layer, which created Harlequin ice cream.
The Neapolitan ice cream timeline
- 16<sup>th</sup> centuryRuggeri and Buontalenti created gelato for Medici
Contemporaries Cosimo Ruggeri and Bernardo Buontalenti invented their versions of gelato for Catherine de Medici, one of the great patrons of the time. Ruggeri created his gelato, fior de latte, which he dubbed “il Piatto più singolare che si fosse mai visto,” which translates to the most unique dish you’ve ever seen. Meanwhile, Buontalenti created his gelato alla crema, combining wine, egg, sugar, lemon, milk, and honey with orange and bergamot flavoring. His creation also captured Medici’s taste buds in 1565.
- 1839Ferdinand Louis Junguis paid homage with the first Neapolitan ice cream recipe
The royal Prussian household head chef Ferdinand Louis Junguis paid homage to Prince Hermann Ludwig Heinrich von Puckler-Muskau with his ice cream recipe. Food historians point out that the recipe was the first recipe for Neapolitan ice cream.
- 19<sup>th</sup> centuryNeapolitan immigrants brought their skill to the USA
Neapolitan immigrants brought their skills in creating frozen delicacies to the USA, where they came up with different flavors for Neapolitan-style ice cream. They called the treat Spumoni. Finally, they settled on vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry, as they were the most popular flavors during the time.
- 20<sup>th</sup> century onwardsInnovators contributed to Neapolitan ice cream development
Inventor Emery Thompson came up with the first ice cream batch freezer in 1905. His equipment helped ice cream makers prepare their batches easier. Other immigrants also innovated the Neapolitan recipe, with some substituting strawberry with cherry and others adding pistachio as another layer to the recipe.
Where was Neapolitan ice cream invented?
According to food historians, Neapolitan ice cream came from Naples, Italy, in the 19th century. However, records also state that the first recipe for Neapolitan ice cream came from the Prussian royal household, where head chef Ferdinand Louis Junguis paid homage to Prince Hermann Ludwig Heinrich von Puckler-Muskau when he created the delicacy in 1839.
The importance of Neapolitan ice cream
- Neapolitan ice cream improved on the gelato recipe
Ice cream makers made the Neapolitan ice cream in response to the challenge of creating different flavors of the delicacy in one package. They improved on the gelato recipe and created the ice cream recipe.
- Neapolitan ice cream highlighted artisan skill
The invention of Neapolitan ice cream highlighted the artisanal skill of Neapolitans as premier frozen delicacy makers. They brought their craft to the shores of the US when they immigrated in the 19th century.
- Neapolitan ice cream spurred further development to the recipe
Neapolitan ice cream makers and their counterparts improved on the combination of flavors. Some replaced the strawberry flavor with cherry, while others added another layer of pistachio making the Harlequin ice cream.
- Neapolitan ice cream pushed food industry innovation
Neapolitan ice cream also helped spur the food industry into making equipment that could help make ice cream better. Several inventions and innovations led to equipment and recipe upgrades throughout the years.
Neapolitan ice cream by the numbers
- 3This is the number of ice cream layers in most Neapolitan molds. These layers are usually chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. Some recipes substitute strawberry with cherry. Historians say that the three layers represented the Naples or Italian flags.
- 120In a 0.5 cup serving of Neapolitan ice cream, weighing 65 grams, one can get 120 calories alongside 15g of total carbohydrates, 6g of fat, and 2g of protein.
- 1839The head chef of the Prussian royal household Ferdinand Louis Junguis created the first recipe for Neapolitan ice cream in 1839. It is said that the recipe was an homage to Prince Hermann Ludwig Heinrich von Puckler-Muskau.
- 4Some ice cream makers also made Neapolitan ice cream with four layers – adding pistachio to chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, or cherry.
Five facts about Neapolitan ice cream
- Neapolitan ice cream pays homage to the Italian flag
Neapolitan ice cream pays homage to the Naples flag and the Italian flag, depending on the flavors present on the batch.
- Neapolitan ice cream is easy to make
With the right ingredients, you can make Neapolitan ice cream at home. It takes about 6 to 7 hours to freeze the ice cream batch completely.
- Neapolitan ice cream has variations
Neapolitan ice cream can have three or four flavors depending on the manufacturer or preference. The usual combinations include chocolate, vanilla, strawberry or cherry, and pistachio.
- Neapolitan ice cream is different from gelato
Neapolitan ice cream is different from gelato because of the ingredients present. For example, gelatos don’t use eggs and only a small amount of cream, while the Neapolitan is custard-based.
- Neapolitan ice cream is used in ice cream cake recipes
Yes. Neapolitan ice cream is one of the more sought-after ingredients for ice cream cake recipes.
FAQs about Neapolitan ice cream
- Is Neapolitan ice cream healthy?
Neapolitan ice cream is a relatively healthy dessert, especially if taken in moderation. A single serving of 65 grams contains 120-130 calories.
- Is Neapolitan ice cream different from gelato?
Yes. Neapolitan ice cream is different from gelato because of the ingredients. Gelato doesn’t use as much cream, and it doesn’t incorporate eggs.
- Is Neapolitan ice cream the same as Harlequin ice cream?
Yes. Although traditional Neapolitan ice cream only has three layers, ice cream makers added another layer of pistachio to the mix, making Harlequin ice cream.
- Is Neapolitan ice cream different from Philadelphia ice cream?
Yes. Neapolitan ice cream is made from custard, while Philadelphia ice cream is made from pure cream.
- How many calories are in a Neapolitan ice cream serving?
For a 0.5 cup serving or 65 grams of Neapolitan ice cream, one can get 120 calories. It also has 15 g of carbohydrates, 6 grams of fat, and 2 grams of protein.