As the sun beats down onto a golden beach what better way to celebrate summer than enjoy a deliciously decadent ice cream.

You can buy one in February if you really want to and risk frostbite to your tongue as your gloves clutch desperately to your soggy cone on a windswept, rain-lashed, promenade but somehow it just doesn’t feel the same.

No, there’s a reason ice cream month is July, the driptastic treat has become as much a part of summer in Britain as paddling pools and cricket.

Somehow a lick of vanilla takes your mind off the worries of the world and allows you to ponder the more important questions of life – such as how a 99 got its name.

There are many theories about why a small flake shoved in ice cream should get such a name. My own favourite is that everyone knows the Italians invented ice cream and the initials IC are the Roman numerals for 99.

Sadly, this theory falls down on two points. Firstly, it’s more likely that ice cream originated in China and secondly there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that Cadbury’s flake existed at the time Hadrian was building his wall.

It’s certainly true that Italians perfected ice cream as we know it and spread the treat across the world during the 20th century. These ice cream missionaries will have known the elite bodyguard of the King of Italy used to comprise 99 crack soldiers and that anything elite was said to have been known as the 99, possibly this is the root of the name.

Ice cream vans brought the treat to the doorstep and in Britain it was Mr Whippy in the driving seat, created by businessman Dominic Facchino. The company’s original logo featured a smiling boy wearing a distinctive beret. This is said to be a tribute to Henry VIII who wore such headgear and was reputedly a hero of Mr Facchino. It may also explain why the vans played the tune Greensleeves to attract customers – folklore has it that the English ballad was penned by the English monarch.

Since the 1980s the go to tune for ice cream vans has been the operatic classic “O Sole Mio” perhaps better known as “just one cornetto” from the famous TV advert where a Venetian gondolier spurns the romantic advances of a tourist in favour of her cornetto.

A standard dad joke played on kids and passed down from generation to generation is that the vans play the tune to let people know they have run out of ice cream, though it only works once and only if the child is under 6.  

Whilst dad jokes are not yet against the law there are strict rules governing the playing of such ice cream van ditties, encapsulated under section 62 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974.

Namely, you can only play 12 seconds at a time, only once every two hours in the same street, no louder than 80 decibels, not within 50 metres of a school, church or hospital and only between the hours of noon and 7pm. I feel sorry for any bureaucrats given the task on a scorching summers’ day of checking no ice cream vans infringe the regulations. I picture them in pinstripe suit and bowler hats, clipboard in hand, along with stopwatch, tape measure and noise detector, furtively peeping out from behind walls and bushes.  What they could really do with is a deckchair, knotted hanky and a raspberry ripple.  

99 ice cream

  • 250ml whole milk
  • 3 large free-range egg yolks
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 227g tub clotted cream
  • 250ml double cream
  • Pre-bought ice cream cone
  • Cadbury Flakes
  1. To make the ice cream heat the milk in a pan, until almost at boiling point, then remove. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar then slowly pour over the hot milk, whilst stirring continuously. Pour the mixture back into the pan and cook slowly over a gentle heat until it forms a custard. Pour through a sieve into a bowl and set aside to cool completely.
  2. Put the clotted cream in a bowl and stir. Put the double cream in another bowl and whip until it starts it goes soft peaks. Fold both into the cooled custard, then put into an ice-cream maker. Freeze.
  3. When you are ready to have the ice cream, remove from the fridge and scoop into the cones, adding a flake and and ice cream sauce if you wish.
About Jane Beesley
Development & Innovations Chef of SK Foods.
Your food. Our Passion.