Angela Lee ’20, left, Sabrina Chen ’20, Rahul Rambhatla ’20, Jody Mohammed ’20 and Swetha Thiagarajan ’20 test their creation Thanksgiving Treat, a sweet potato-vanilla based ice cream, at Stocking Hall’s food science pilot plant in November. Lee is a nutritional sciences major, the other students here are chemical and biological engineering majors.

Students’ hot new ice cream offers pinch of cayenne

Sweet meets heat in “We Cayenne Change the World,” a rich, velvety chocolate ice cream, with a hint of cinnamon and a burst of cayenne pepper. It’s fire-and-ice worthy of an extra scoop, as it won Cornell’s annual Food Science 1101 final project.

“It’s a Mexican ‘hot’ chocolate that starts off with a creamy chocolate taste and ends with a lively spice,” said winning team member Emma Moulton ’21. “The ice cream theme this year was ‘Flavors That Connect,’ so we went for the idea of connecting across differences.”

In the team’s class presentation, the students noted that these flavors, seemingly polar opposites, can meet in harmony. Said Moulton: “Blending cold chocolate with hot cayenne, the flavors come together and create a dialogue in your mouth.”

Swetha Thiagarajan, front, and Jody Mohammed add ingredients to Thanksgiving Treat at Stocking Hall’s food science pilot plant in November.

The introductory Food Science 1101 class is offered each fall and explores the application of science and technology to foods. Late in the course, the students obtain hands-on experience, divide into teams, create concepts, experiment in their own kitchens and develop what they hope will be a winning ice cream flavor.

“My favorite part of the class was going into the production plant and actually making the ice cream, figuring out how the flavors connect and balance each other,” said team member Michal Weiss ’20.

Ice cream aficionados will like the chocolate-cayenne combination, said Christopher Loss ’96, M.S. ’01, Ph.D. ’06, the Louis Pasteur Food Science Lecturer who teaches the class.

“Curious consumers will want to try this ice cream,” he said, “and I would guess that consumers who lean toward the neophobic (dislike of anything new) side of the psychographic spectrum, are likely to try – and will likely enjoy – this as well.”

In developing the flavor, the winning team targeted an adventurous demographic of young adults, ages 15-30, who savor a little spice in their life.

Final project ice creams included:

  • Bak-love-a, a baklava and vanilla-based ice cream featuring honey swirl and nuts;
  • PistaCHILLo, a pistachio-vanilla based ice cream with coconut flakes and almond pieces;
  • Thanksgiving Treat, a sweet potato-vanilla based ice cream with a maple swirl and “pie crust” chunks;
  • Tea Time, a vanilla-based ice cream flavored with Earl Grey tea, with swirls of raspberry and shortbread cookie dough pieces;
  • The Allied Powers, a honey-vanilla based iced cream, with an apple swirl and candied pecans;
  • Granny’s Sweet Swirl, a sour-apple and vanilla based ice cream, with walnuts, caramel swirl and chunks of dried Granny Smith apples; and
  • Home Run, a baseball-themed, buttery popcorn-flavored vanilla ice cream, with bits of roasted peanuts and caramel swirl.

Loss said the Cornell Dairy Bar will make “We Cayenne Change the World” available late in spring 2020. Last year’s winning flavor, “Churriosity” is still available there.

Response for “We Cayenne Change the World” was not lukewarm, as judges celebrated its delicious simplicity. However, one judge anonymously noted: “Loved it! Add marshmallow next time.”

The winning team members were from a variety of majors across several undergraduate colleges. In addition to Moulton and Weiss, team members were Henry Liu ’20, Dylan Curtis ’20, Anna Sprouse ’23, Jack Mahoney ’20, Alicia Chen ’21, Ava Ciaccia ’23, Annie Xu ’21 and Adam Liu ’20.

Judging this year’s flavors were Kim Bukowski, director of Dairy Extension Programs; Louise Felker, program coordinator at Cornell Dairy Foods Extension; Julie Goddard, associate professor of food science; Brynn Wilkins, undergraduate program coordinator for food science; and Paul Zullo, quality assurance and development chef at Cornell Dining.

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Abby Butler