Campus History

Babcock Hall Ice Cream

ice cream

The Babcock Hall Dairy Store churns out thousands of gallons of yummy ice cream annually — enough to evoke must-have memories for alumni and impromptu breakfasts for students dashing between classes.

The Babcock Hall Dairy Store churns out thousands of gallons of yummy ice cream annually — enough to evoke must-have memories for alumni and impromptu breakfasts for students dashing between classes.

If ever there were a sign someone is a campus institution, it would have to be getting his or her own ice cream flavor. Barry Alvarez, Bo Ryan, and Chancellor Biddy Martin PhD’85 have all earned attention from the Babcock Hall Dairy Plant — via the tasty tributes named Berry Alvarez, Bo’s Express, and Strawbiddy Swirl. More recently, UW-Madison’s fight song inspired On, Wisconsin! — a cheesecake-flavored ice cream with a dark chocolate swirl and chocolate-covered cranberries.

Since 1951, the UW has been making ice cream (alongside cheese and milk products) inside the dairy plant on the west side of campus. Over the years, the frozen treat has become a tourist attraction, considered a must-do — make that a must-eat — for alumni, students, and visitors.

Production is decidedly small scale. The plant has a single ice cream machine and, depending on a flavor’s complexity, a team of two to four staffers, to crank out approximately seventy-five thousand gallons a year. Operations slow down in January and February, Madison’s coldest months.

The ice cream recipe has remained the same for the past six decades, though some of the offerings have varied. There have been some failures. Peanut Butter and Jelly had poor sales, as did Christmas Surprise and Sunflower Seed, for obvious reasons. Among the standard flavors always available, Vanilla is most popular, followed by Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.

To get an idea of where ice cream fits into campus culture, spend a little time in the Babcock Hall Dairy Store on a weekday morning between classes. That’s when a line of students forms. Some order coffee or grab a bagel, but many decide to start the day off with a waffle cone loaded with Chocolate Peanut Butter or Strawberry. They’re not alone: head ice cream maker Tim Haas has been known to enjoy a large bowl of the stuff for breakfast, too.

Published in the Summer 2010 issue


  • c lazar June 2, 2010

    Dear Babcock,
    I always thought Babcock ice cream was to be one of the best and most natural. However, I will no longer eat any Babcock ice cream with High Fructose Corn Syrup in it.

    This means two things to me.
    1) Babcock is out to make money by cutting corners and making unhealthy ice cream by using cheap products like High Fructose Corn Syrup. This product damages the liver.
    2) Babcock has sold out to big business by adding this dangerous additive. Cheap products make cheap ice cream. This stuff is now no better than store brand ice cream.

    Please stop adding HFCS to Babcock Ice Cream and other food products made by Babcock.

  • jen June 2, 2010

    I have to second that – there’s no reason why sugar can’t be used in real, authentic, made in Wisconsin ice cream. It’s what I would expect – a natural, honest product. If it is a tradition to go to Babcock, then make it truly traditional.

  • c lazar June 3, 2010

    Thank you Jen!! Check out Facebook for facts and more solid proof of why we need to stop HFCS from being added to the food supplies in the US:!/pages/THE-BAN-OF-HIGH-FRUCTOSE-CORN-SYRUP-IN-THE-US/124366064752

  • Bill Klein June 4, 2010

    I am the manager of the Babcock Hall Dairy Plant. Our standard ice cream mix is produced using our original formulation. The sweetener source is cane sugar. We do not add high fructose corn syrup. During our freezing and packaging process and we often add inclusions and/or variegates. Some of these ingredients may contain high fructose corn syrup. For example the caramel in the swirl in our Union Utopia ice cream flavor contains high fructose corn syrup. Feel free to contact me for comments or questions.

  • harvey schiller June 5, 2010

    My favorite ice cream was lemon chip. Do you still make it? Can you share the ingredients?

  • c lazar June 8, 2010

    Bill Klein,

    Thank you for your explanation. I read the ingredients label on the ice cream, from where it was being sold, like at the Union. I can only go from what I read, and that makes my decision to purchase or not purchase.

    I have to say that we must be proactive in providing healthy foods, including ice cream (in all flavors). Do you remember when we were shown lungs that had black tar and ugly deposits from cigarette smoking? I have seen livers that have such ugly deposits in it, from this High Fructose Corn Syrup. It is a dangerous chemical; however the FDA said that it is harmless in minute – minute quantities.

    So businesses found that this cheap sweetener could be added to food, to increase their profits, and if you looked at their serving portions, the HFCS appeared to be “minute – minute” and therefore allowable in the public food supply.

    But now every food manufacturer decides to do the same thing and then we now have 99% of our food products having HFCS in it. That now makes it 99% times “minute” and we have pounds of this, 60 pounds per person in ONE years’ time.

    These people, who think it is ok to put this in all our foods, think that we are stupid people who will just consume what is put in front of us. The internet is saving us. I mean please, we ALL didn’t eat and eat and eat to get as big as we are….. Look at the other countries around the world. THEY don’t allow this chemical in their food supply.

    Please be proactive and remove this from the Babcock ice cream. Do you really want your children or grandchildren to be eating a chemical that is likened to gasoline?

    I hope I can soon eat Babcock ice cream in the flavors that I like, not just what is provided without HFCS.

  • Bryant Plano June 23, 2010

    I must say, Babcock Ice Cream is definitely something that I will be bringing my children and my grandchildren to eat. Cookie dough is awesome… if only they had peanut butter chocolate chip cookie dough!

  • Huyen Nguyen June 25, 2010

    I was just in Asia for the month and had some really good icecream. The icecreams I had were made with fresh ingredients like mint (with flecks of fresh mint leaves in vanilla icecream), mango (tiny slices in the icecream) and coconut (shavings). Does Babcock make any of these flavors?

  • B Cat Garcia June 29, 2010

    I second that, Huyen. I have had wonderful ice-cream in South America, and I find that the fresh, truly present ingredients make the difference.
    Has Babcock thought about a fruit icecream line (not sugary sherbert, but real, local, fresh fruit and cream flavors)?

  • J Smith June 29, 2010


    you would have to eat a ridiculous amount of babcock ice cream for the minute amount that is in there to harm your liver. plus as the kind plant manager said it is not in all their flavors, only the ones with additives. you would be safe in eating the vanilla or chocolate. if your that much of a babcock lover you should want to eat any flavor, right?
    plus you say you’ve seen livers with damage from HFCS, but how can you be sure that it is really the HFCS that causes the damage to the livers and not some other preservative or chemical? i think you need to just chill out and stop worrying so much about HFCS, the studies on its effects are very inconclusive.

  • k darling July 1, 2010

    I like the idea of using fresh ingredients as suggested by Huyen…they could call it “Lovin’ Spoonfuls.”

  • skinz July 2, 2010

    I totally agree with jsmith. For real, if you have that much of a problem with HFCS then just don’t eat the ice cream. I mean I could sit here and tell you that there are “bad calories” in the ice cream and therefore you shouldn’t eat it either. Come on, you live once. If we ate only things that wouldn’t hurt us… well we wouldn’t be eating much.


  • Mary Langkamp July 5, 2010

    I will be coming to campus week of July 19th is the dairy store opened in the summer?

  • July 5, 2010

    Here is the information about location and hours for the dairy store. Enjoy!

  • ELP July 6, 2010

    OMG People! It’s ice cream it’s supposed to be sugary and sweet. YOu don’t think that regular ice cream is any healthier? NO! So get over yourselves. It’s good ice cream that’s a tradition at Madison. i hope it’s still there when i go to school there in 5 years. My fav is jump around! YUM!

  • Mary Langkamp July 7, 2010

    Ohhh thank you so much for the information. We are staying up in the dorms on the 20th for the soar program and I will be stopping in sometime during my stay. I had heard about this ice cream place a few years ago. I thought it was on state street but I knew it was not the Chocolate shoppe I was thinking of. I can’t wait!!!!

    My daughter is going to be going to UW-Madison we are BADGERS!!!

  • Chris Marshall November 27, 2010

    Where can I find nutritional information on the Babcock Ice cream flavors? I am particularly interested in the chocolate peanut butter flavor.

  • Serve Over Counter May 3, 2012


    Babcock Hall Ice Cream such a wonderful ice cream its testa and color is o same. thank you for sharing on this topic….


    Serve Over Counter

  • Ice cream display May 3, 2012


    Babcock Hall Ice Cream is the nice taste and its blue color is very attractive…thank you for sharing….


    Ice cream display

  • Kathy January 8, 2015

    I think you should bring back Very Barry Alverez ice cream in honor of U-W’s recent victory with Mr Alverez at the helm!

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