Semifreddo is a semi-frozen dessert with many variations.

The popularity of gourmet, ethnic and “foodie” type dishes continues to grow in America. According to, the retail sales of specialty bread and baked goods rose by more than $1 billion, from $1.63 billion to $1.75 billion. Retail bakeries need to take advantage of this continuing trend by offering more of these specialty items.

Bakeries have some wiggle room when it comes to the definition of specialty. A product doesn’t necessarily need to come from exotic origins or take hours and hours to make. It can be something as simple as a nice frozen dessert that the bakery didn’t carry before. High-quality ingredients, fun flavors and a good presentation and marketing will work. Enter semifreddo.

What is it?

"Semifreddo is the pastry evolution of gelato (ice cream)," says Marino Marini, chef, culinary investigator and author of articles and books on many aspects of Italian cuisine. Classified in the US as a semi-frozen dessert, you can debate exactly how to make it, and the exact ingredients to make it. Many different recipes exist and use a number of different ingredients from ice cream to gelato to zabaglione (an Italian egg yolk, sugar and sweet wine concoction) to Swiss meringue, but the one ingredient that remains constant is whipped cream.

Finding the formula that you use to create a semifreddo requires a little experimentation and a lot of customer feedback. Recipes for semifreddo can be found in abundance and what a bakery chooses to use depends on a number of variables unique to each bakery. The good thing about semifreddo is that flavor combinations are endless and there is no need for any special equipment to produce and store it.

Italian frozen dessert purists will likely say that certain frozen desserts labeled as semifreddo are not semifreddo, but in the US, any whipped cream and ice cream, gelato, custard combination, folded together and frozen qualifies. The texture mimics a frozen mousse. It is creamy, light and airy, and melts faster than a traditional ice cream or gelato.

"As an iced dessert semifreddo has not a long history," states Marini. Semifreddo most likely evolved from the French parfait around the end of the 19th century.