This 3-ingredient ice cream recipe instantly transports me 2,779 miles away

Passionfruit and raspberry ice cream. (Monica Herndon/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

When I think about my mami, 2,779 miles away in Ecuador, the kitchen is the last place I imagine her. Her petite frame, dressed in elegant tailor-made suits and stiletto heels, has never screamed “homemaker.” Yet, one of her recipes managed to sneak into every important moment of our lives: homemade raspberry ice cream.

Baking and cooking were not common activities in my home, but when I was assigned to bring a homemade dessert to school in seventh grade, mom had to find a way to make it happen.


After getting home from work at 9 p.m., she decided to make a strawberry mousse, but Murphy’s law was at play: Everything that could go wrong, did. First, we didn’t have enough strawberries. We also only had evaporated milk, not the called-for heavy cream. And our rarely used mixer decided it was a great time to brake down and constantly shut on and off.

With time running out, we didn’t have many options. I turned to mom looking for an answer. Before I said a word, she replied, “Si no pasa nada” — Spanish for “it’s all good.”

“You are taking something different tomorrow,” she said.

As an engineer, my mom relies on exact numbers for everything, but as a Hispanic mom, she throws them out the window when cooking. So, I didn’t find it strange when she broke up some frozen raspberry fruit pulp we had on hand, added it to the milk, incorporated a cup of sugar, and began mixing it.

I didn’t question her process — my mother has an immaculate ability to solve problems before you ever realize there is trouble.

In less than two minutes, she had created a delicious raspberry cream. We froze it overnight, and in the morning I had a liter of ice cream to share with my class. Its consistency didn’t give a perfect scoop, but it didn’t matter. The whole thing was gone within an hour.

I was 27 years old when I found out my mom had no concrete plan that night, but made it up as she went along just so I would have a dessert to take to school.

Inadvertently, the product of her quick thinking became an ever-present fixture in my life. “I was always working, and you were a teenager,” my mom said when I asked how this recipe fits into our lives. “Even if it wasn’t much, taking the time to make it served as an excuse to talk and be present with each other.”

The flavor didn’t matter. From raspberry to strawberry, passionfruit, tamarind or tree tomato, my mom’s ice cream accompanied big life moments.

Mom made it when we moved into our new house, helping it feel more like a home. Three years later, making the ice cream together provided comfort as we prepared for her battle with cancer. When my parents separated, she made a batch so I could have a sense of familiarity as everything around me changed.

Its creamy texture felt thick enough to catch any sorrows, and it began to taste like hope.

But now, I realize it was never the ice cream that eased my sorrows — it was my mom’s ability to help me feel anchored. As I count down the days until her next visit to Philadelphia, I’m learning to make this ice cream in my own kitchen.

Easy 3-Ingredient Fruit Ice Cream


1 12-ounce can evaporated milk

12-14 ounces frozen fruit pulp or concentrate of any variety, slightly thawed (Goya is commonly available, for instance)

150 grams (or about 2/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons) granulated sugar


1. Place the evaporated milk in the freezer for 30 minutes. In a bowl for a stand mixer, pour in the chilled evaporated milk and blend on medium-high speed until soft, frothy peaks form, about 8-10 minutes. (This can also be done with a hand mixer.)

2. Break up the thawed fruit pulp into smaller pieces and add to the whipped evaporated milk along with the sugar. Mix on medium speed until fully incorporated, 2-3 minutes.

3. Pour the fruit mixture into a freezer-safe container and freeze for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight. Makes 4 pints.

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