How Long Should an Ice Cream Cake Thaw?

Ice cream cake is a delicious option for parties, especially birthdays and weddings, yet timing when to serve it can be challenging. If you try to cut it too soon, the ice cream will be …

vanilla ice cream cake with berries on top

Ice cream cake is a delicious option for parties, especially birthdays and weddings, yet timing when to serve it can be challenging. If you try to cut it too soon, the ice cream will be too hard, and it’ll be impossible to do anything. However, if you let it thaw for too long, you’ll have a soupy mess.

A frozen ice cream cake should thaw for fifteen minutes at room temperature or thirty minutes in a refrigerator before serving. The exact times may vary depending on the size of the cake. In general, it’s recommended to thaw a frozen ice cream cake in the refrigerator.

In the rest of this article, I’ll answer all your questions about ice cream cakes and how to thaw and serve them properly. If you’re ready to enjoy a delicious ice cream cake at your next event, this article is for you.

rocky road ice cream cake with peanuts, marshmallows and chocolate chips

How Long To Leave an Ice Cream Cake Out Before Serving

When determining how long to leave a frozen ice cream cake out before serving, it’s important to consider the type of ice cream used in the cake. Some flavors freeze harder than others because of the different ingredients in the ice cream, so some flavors of ice cream will need more or less time to thaw. 

The size is also a critical factor. Most ice cream cakes are six or nine inches (15.24 or 22.86 centimeters). Six-inch cakes serve six to eight people, whereas nine-inch cakes feed nine to twelve. The above thawing times are for six-inch cakes. Add two minutes to the dethawing time for nine-inch cakes (source: Baskin-Robbins).

The following table outlines the recommended thawing times for common ice cream cake types and sizes:

Cake Type, SizeRecommended Thawing Time in Refrigerator at 40°F (4.4°C)Recommended Thawing Time at Room Temperature
Vanilla, six-inch (15.24cm)30 minutes15 minutes
Vanilla, nine-inch (22.86cm)32 minutes17 minutes
Chocolate, six-inch (15.24cm)35 minutes20 minutes
Chocolate, nine-inch (22.86cm)37 minutes22 minutes
Strawberry or caramel, six-inch (15.24cm)25 minutes10 minutes
Strawberry or caramel, nine-inch (22.86cm)27 minutes12 minutes

As you can see, thirty minutes in a refrigerator is typically the right amount for vanilla ice cream and any ice cream flavors that are predominantly vanilla (Cookies and Cream, for example).

Chocolate ice cream freezes harder than vanilla, so if your ice cream cake is made with chocolate, allow for more time to thaw. I would recommend thirty-five minutes in the refrigerator and twenty minutes on the kitchen countertop.

Caramel and strawberry-flavored ice cream tend to be softer than chocolate and vanilla. You only need twenty-five minutes in the fridge and ten minutes at room temperature.

Refrigerator Vs. Room Temperature

The best way to thaw an ice cream cake is to take it from the freezer and put it in the refrigerator thirty minutes before serving. This is based on most refrigerators’ standard 4040°F (4.4°C) temperature. If your refrigerator is colder, you should allow more time for the ice cream to thaw enough to cut.

Another option is to soften the ice cream cake at room temperature for fifteen minutes, but with this method, you risk the outside of the ice cream melting while the inside is still too hard to cut through and eat. For more consistent thawing, you should use the refrigerator (source: Livestrong).

Also, “room temperature” varies hugely, so if you choose this method, it’s much harder to control timings, especially on a hot summer’s day, which is when ice cream cakes are eaten the most!

Keep in mind that ice cream cakes should be stored in a freezer with a temperature of zero degrees or less. If your freezer temperature is even colder, you may need to allow the ice cream cake more time to thaw.

If required, ask for advice from the store or person who made your cake. They know what ingredients are in the cake and how hard or soft that particular flavor freezes, so they’ll be able to offer the best advice for thawing properly.

vanilla ice cream cake with berries on top

Additional Tips for Serving Ice Cream Cakes

Here are some other tips for serving ice cream cakes so they look and taste their best:

  • Add any fruit garnishing after removing the cake from the freezer. Fruit freezes harder than ice cream, so the fruit would still be hard when the ice cream is thawed and ready to eat.
  • Use a long, serrated knife to cut the cake into triangles. I like this SAKEN Serrated Bread Knife from because it’s made with high carbon steel that stays sharp for longer, and the blade and handle are stain and rust-resistant.
  • Personalize your cake. Try adding crushed cereal, candy, or cookie dough balls to the top.
  • Use sturdy plates when serving. Ice cream cake can be pretty heavy, so it’s best to use plastic or ceramic plates. If you do opt for paper plates, make sure they’re a high-quality brand that can support some weight.

You’ll serve a delicious and beautiful ice cream cake that everyone will enjoy by following these tips!

For a visual example, the following video demonstrates how to cut an ice cream cake properly:


In general, the best way to thaw an ice cream cake is to keep it in your refrigerator for thirty minutes before serving. However, you’ll need to adjust accordingly depending on the type of ice cream and the temperature of your refrigerator.