Dream Cream: DIY Balboa Ice Cream Bars

by Lisa Butterworth

Beat the heat with these easy to make frozen treats.

As far as I’m concerned, there is only one dessert that singularly captures the carefree, sun-kissed essence of summer at the beach: the Balboa bar. This perfect treat—a rectangle of creamy vanilla ice cream dipped in melted chocolate and rolled in your choice of toppings—was invented on California’s Balboa Island in the 1950s and is made for eating while you stroll the boardwalk or sit your bathing-suited butt right in the sand. (Fun fact: the iconic shop that created Balboa bars is still serving them up today and was the inspiration for the Bluths’ frozen banana stand on Arrested Development.) You don’t have to ferry over to Balboa Island to get one though; you can easily make your own right at home. This version is based on the big, classic Balboa bars us SoCal kids grew up with.

DIY Balboa Bars

Makes 8 bars


1. Let the ice cream soften on the counter for about 10 or so minutes. Line an 8″ x 12″ cake pan with plastic wrap so that you have a bit of an overhang. Spoon the softened ice cream onto the plastic wrap, pressing it evenly into the entire pan. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least a couple hours, or overnight.

2. Once the ice cream’s hardened, line a large baking sheet (or two small ones) with plastic wrap (this is where you’ll transfer the bars). Then use a sharp knife to cut the ice cream evenly into rectangles. Start by making one cut lengthwise down the middle of the pan, and another widthwise across the middle. Make two more cuts widthwise evenly on either side of the first cut so you have 8 equally sized bars, about 3″ x 4″ each.

3. Using the plastic wrap overhang, lift the whole cut slab of ice cream out of the cake pan (this will make it easier to separate the bars without smooshing their shape). Use a metal spatula to separate the cut bars and move each one to the baking sheet. Insert a popsicle stick into the

middle of one of the short sides of each bar, pushing it a little more than halfway in. Once you’ve prepped each bar, cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and return to the freezer for at least 2 hours but up to overnight. The more frozen your bars are, the better they’ll dip.

4. When you’re ready to start dipping, bring an inch or two of water to a simmer in a small saucepan. Place the chocolate chips and coconut oil in a heatproof bowl and set it over the saucepan—make sure the bowl fits snugly over the top without touching the water. Stir the mixture until it’s completely melted and smooth. Remove from heat and let cool for about 15 minutes.

5. While the chocolate mixture is cooling, prep your toppings by pouring each one onto a large plate or into a wide, shallow bowl.

6. Now it’s time to dip! Work with one ice cream bar at a time, pulling it out of the freezer and holding it by the popsicle stick. Dip one side and then the other into the bowl full of chocolate, holding it upside down to let the excess chocolate drip off. While the chocolate is still melty,

quickly press each side of the bar into your desired toppings (my favorite method), or hold it over the toppings plate and use a spoon to sprinkle your toppings onto each side. Eat immediately (the first bite when the chocolate is still hardening is heaven), or return to the freezer until all your bars are dipped and topped. Pairs well with the coconutty smell of sunscreen and the shrieks of summer fun in the background.


1½ qt. classic vanilla ice cream (I like Tillamook’s Old-Fashioned Vanilla)

8 food-grade popsicle sticks

20 oz. high-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips

(like Ghirardelli)

4 Tbsp. coconut oil

Toppings (rainbow sprinkles, chocolate sprinkles, and chopped peanuts are classic choices, but feel free to get creative. Crushed Oreos and toasted coconut are tasty too.)


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