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Whenever I think about last-minute Christmas desserts, I always recall the ice cream snowballs of my childhood Christmases. One of my favorite uncles worked for an ice cream company, Borden’s, I think, and he would be sure we were well-stocked with these cute coconut-covered vanilla ice cream balls that came in special holiday packaging, each complete with a little candle in the center that we couldn’t wait for Mom to light. They were the ultimate on-hand, no fuss dessert that you could pull out of the freezer at a moment’s notice and serve seamlessly to unexpected guests, along with the always present platter of home-baked cookies.

I haven’t seen them in years, but I know of at least one pastry and ice cream shop, Nasto’s Old World Desserts, Newark, New Jersey, that still sells them—you have to add the candle.

In case you’re not in Nasto’s neck of the woods, and want to experience these, I’ve created a quick recipe that will approximate.

Peppermint Ice Cream Snowballs

Makes 12 servings


1 container (about 64 ounces) excellent-quality peppermint or vanilla ice cream
2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
12 white or red-striped birthday candles
24 small paper or plastic holly leaves
Excellent quality chocolate, raspberry or caramel sauce, optional


1. Line a metal baking sheet with wax paper and freeze the baking sheet least 30 minutes.

2. Place coconut in a pie plate or shallow dish like a soup plate.

3. Slightly soften the container of ice cream, and using a round 4-ounce disher-style ice cream scoop, scoop onto the chilled baking sheet and freeze for at least 1 hour.

4. Working quickly, roll each ball into the coconut, thoroughly coating all the way around. Gently insert candle into center of each ball and freeze until ready to serve. Just before serving add holly leaves, if desired. If desired, sauce each dessert plate, then add a snowball and light the candle.


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