Cappuccino Sherbet

I’m always in need for make ahead sweets for holiday entertaining. Usually I tend towards biscuits, macaroons and similar bites, but sometimes you need something that looks a little classier than a plate of cookies. And, I wanted to avoid those heavily creamy concoctions or sticky sweets beloved of Greek zacharoplasteions (sweet shops).

So, when I recently ran across a Gelato Messenia recipe for an espresso sorbet in an online collection of cookbook recipes, it got me thinking. I had already made a mocha sorbet which has a nice strong espresso flavour, best served in small amounts. Could it be converted into a sherbet? I wanted the end result to be a little creamier, perhaps reducing the concentration of espresso, without compromising the flavour, so a larger scoop wouldn’t be out of the question. I had already converted Nick Palumbo’s chocolate sorbet successfully into a light creamy chocolate sherbet, so it looking good for my chances of coming up with something equally good with coffee.

My cappucchino sherbet was born, but only after a few false trials. The problem I had was the texture. When I made it with the standard amount of stabiliser (i.e. 5g), it was too gelatinous. In fact, it prompted a comment from one of my taste-testers that it was like a cappuccino marshmallow. It actually bounced when struck with a spoon. I suspected at this point that xanthan gum reacts with a combination of coffee and milk in a different way than citrus or other fruit juices. It couldn’t be the addition of milk as I did not have this problem with the chocolate sherbet. It was (and still is) a mystery.

Whatever the root cause, less gum worked and balance was eventually achieved. It proved to be a refreshing and pretty ending for a seasonal meal. Plus, it could be stashed away in the freezer to be used at a moment’s notice and served with chocolate shavings on top with a few of those macaroons or biscotti on the side.

Cappuccino Sherbet
The flavour is complete when the individual scoops are served with sprinkles of chocolate, like cocoa on cappuccino froth.

  • 250g espresso coffee
  • 200g semi-skim milk (or lactose free milk)
  • 200g water
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 60g dextrose
  • 60g maltodextrin
  • 2g xanthan gum (be careful not to add too much!); approximately 3/4 teaspoon
  • 1 to 2 pinches of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Grated chocolate for serving

Make and weigh the espresso. Put it in a large bowl and add the vanilla to the coffee. Weigh the milk and water and add this to the coffee.

In a separate bowl, weigh and mix your sugars (sucrose, dextrose and maltodextrin), salt and the xanthan gum so that all the dry ingredients are well blended.

If the liquid coffee/milk mixture needs heating (it should be warm) put the bowl in the microwave for about 30 seconds to 1 minute until it becomes warm, but not too hot. Alternatively, you can warm it in a saucepan on the stove.

Whisk the sugar mixture into the liquid. The xanthan gum will react by forming a gel, so whisk briskly so no gel lumps form. Cover and cool it in the refrigerator until quite cold – overnight is best. Just before putting it in your ice cream machine for churning, blend it again with a wand blender to make sure that it is completely mixed. Pour into your ice cream machine and churn according to the instructions.

Put the iced sherbet in a container to freeze. Keep it in the freezer overnight before using. To scoop, take it out of the freezer and place it in the refrigerator for about half an hour before serving. Shave a bar of good quality dark chocolate with a grater or a vegetable peeler and sprinkle on top of the scoops.


  1. well done for persevering with it. just wondering why you use xanthan gum in this recipe? it seems very chef-y:=) not having a go at you, just curious…cheers and merry xmas.


    • I used to think that sorbets, sherbets, gelatos etc. should be able to be made with common ingredients available in the supermarket, but after attending a short course on gelato/sorbetto making in Italy, I was sold on the idea of a more scientific approach. This uses various sugars (sucrose, dextrose and multodextrin – the first is the common table variety of sugar, the the last is only used in some sorbets). These different sugars have slightly variant crystallising and anti-freeze properties that allow for a smooth product. The “gum” is otherwise known as a stabiliser in the recipes which allows it gel well plus it helps with keeping the texture smooth when re-freezing. I was told that locust bean gum (a refined carob bean product) was the best “gum”, but it is more difficult to get, so I us xanthan gum which is more readily available. The book, Gelato Messina by Nick Palumbo really explains this a lot better. So, I guess it is kind of chef-y, but it works! Curiosity is actually a good thing! Merry Christmas to you, too!


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