Great British Bakes - Make your own Arctic roll at home

Arctic roll is fun to make at home Picture:Sarah Lucy Brown

Arctic roll is fun to make at home Picture:Sarah Lucy Brown - Credit: Archant

As part of our series celebrating the cakes and bakes of the UK, group food and drink editor Charlotte Smith-Jarvis shares her recipe for a schooltime classic with a tasty twist.

I remember the first time I had Arctic roll. It was, of course, at primary school. Following a disgusting plate of soggy fishfingers, similarly soggy crinkle cut chips, and wrinkled peas served up in a ‘dressing’ of their own cooking water, my tray pointed swiftly in the direction of the dessert trolley. Which was really a separate table draped in a plastic cloth, set out with gigantic trays of ‘sweets’, jugs of cool milk, a bowl of fruit (never saw anyone eat that), and industrial sized vats of custard.

Sponge slice was a favourite. As was chocolate crunch. As a youngster I hadn’t yet come to appreciate the spoon-coating gloriousness of custard, so would have to pick it up and eat it with my hands, nibbling at its dense corners carefully lest I crack a tooth.

On this particular day, though, there was frisson of excitement in the air. For alongside the lacklustre apples and oranges, and in place of the lurid pink sponge cake, were circular slabs of ice cream, each piece wrapped in a thin sponge jacket. Just the way the frosty mist evaporated from them was mesmerising. It’s easy to look back with rose-tinted glasses. Having tried the ‘real’ Arctic roll as an adult, I can categorically say what I was eating as a child was a mere imitator. A solid block of hydrogenated fat, sugar and milk.

You might be surprised to find out the creation is British. It started life in Eastbourne – somewhere that still today boasts what I think is one of best gelato shops in the country. It was invented by solicitor Dr Ernest Veldon who went on to open a factory producing Arctic oll in the late 60s, gaining an OBE in 1983. Manufactured eventually by Birds Eye, the dessert was dropped from production in the 90s as demand (they used to sell 25 miles of the stuff a month) tailed off, but a surge in customer demand brought it back to supermarkets in 2008.

The very best versions of the cake/dessert are homemade. My recipe hinges on summer – the vanilla ice cream rippled with a conserve of rhubarb, strawberry and ginger. It’s a little bit of work, but so worth it.

Rhubarb and ginger ripple Arctic roll

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Ice cream:

2 egg yolks

70g sugar

1tbsp cornflour

150ml milk

150ml double cream

1tsp vanilla exctract


100g rhubarb, chopped into 1cm slices

100g caster sugar

Handful strawberries hulled and chopped

Juice ½ lemon

1 piece stem ginger, finely chopped


3 eggs

100g caster sugar

80g plain flour

20g custard powder

1/2tsp baking powder

1/2tsp vanilla extract

Pink or red food colouring


First make the compote. Place the rhubarb, strawberries, ginger, sugar and lemon in a small pan with half a mug of water. Bring to the boil then simmer until thick and syrupy. It doesn’t have to get to setting point - this is more of a compote. Pop in a shallow dish and chill in the fridge.

For the ice cream warm the milk in a small pan – do not boil. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour until creamy. Slowly pour over the warm milk, whisking all the time. Beat in the cream. Wash the bottom of the pan so it doesn’t burn, and pour the custard/ice cream mixture in, adding the vanilla. Cook on a low heat, stirring constantly, until it’s thick and spoon-coating.

Allow to cool. Line a 1lb loaf tin with a double layer of clingfilm and pour the ice cream in. Pop in the freezer for a couple of hours. It should be firming up but still malleable. Spoon in 4tbsp of your rhubarb mixture and swirl through. Roll the clingfilm around the ice cream and form it into a cylinder roughly 6cm wide by 20cm long. Freeze for another hour or so.

For the sponge, line a Swiss roll tin and pre-heat the oven to 200C.

Whisk the eggs and sugar until fluffy, thick and pale with an electric whisk. Fold in the flour, custard powder, baking powder and vanilla.

Optional: Remove a quarter of the mix and colour it with your food colouring. Pop in a piping bag and pipe a pattern (stripes, dots, whatever you fancy) on the prepared tray. Freeze for 30 minutes. Spoon the rest of the mix over the top and bake for 15 minutes until spongy. When cool enough to handle place a damp (not wet) teatowel on top and roll it up. Leave to cool completely.

Uncurl and spread lightly with some of the remaining compote, unwrap the ice cream and roll the sponge around it. Pop in the freezer for 30 minutes before slicing and enjoying.

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