Earlier this year, Cupcake Royale pastry chef Nicki Kerbs posed a challenge to a handful of Seattle chefs via two questions: What was your favorite type of ice cream growing up? And if you could create a flavor of ice cream, what would it be?
The first one to respond was Renee Erickson. "Marcona almonds are near and dear to my heart," she told them. "But I love Rocky Road." Tyler Palagi of Radiator Whiskey had his bartender whip up a smoked old fashioned for Kerbs and her team—that's the flavor he wanted. Josh Henderson asked for an ice cream version of a strawberry milk shake with french fries.
Naturally, requests like these prompted some hardcore ice cream R&D for the Cupcake Royale crew. In a few weeks, the cupcake-store-slash-ice-creamery will roll out the first flavors in its new chef ice cream series.
Kerbs says the idea was born in part from this town's love of collaborating, but also to show off just how intense her team can be when it comes to making its own ingredients; every caramel ribbon and brownie chunk in the cupcake shop's ice cream line is made in house.
The flavors are more appetizing than bizarre (in Portland, Salt and Straw's chef ice cream series yielded flavors like foie gras s'mores or fish sauce caramel with kaffir lime and lemongrass). But they did pose some challenges.
Henderson's request, says Kerbs, prompted an entire meeting: "How are we going to put french fries in ice cream?" They experimented with actual fries, to soggy effect, until Henderson himself showed up with a can of Pik-Niks, which proved to be the salty, crunchy answer. They're ground up and tossed with salt, white chocolate, something called strawberry dust, and crunchy bits of baked crumble. These guys aren't messing around.
Kerbs, I should mention, is the mastermind behind the new Rodeo Donut popup at Cupcake Royale's Ballard location.
The first round of chef series flavors arrive just in time for Cupcake Royale's annual ice cream social on May 11, wherein the stores dispense free scoops so customers can mingle. Chef-created ice creams will be available by scoop and pint at all of Cupcake Royale's ice cream–enabled locations (Downtown, Ballard, Capitol Hill) and in pints form at West Seattle and Madrona.
Here's the full flavor lineup...
May 11–June 30
Renee Erickson, Whale Wins: Salted Rocky Road (with Marcona almonds)
Tyler Palagi, Radiator Whiskey: Maple Old Fashioned with Luxardo Cherries
(Per annual tradition Cupcake Royale's Gay Dance Party will be the third seasonal flavor)
John Sundstrom, Lark: Brown Butter with Salted Caramel Pecans
Rachel Marshall, Rachel's Ginger Beer: White Peach Cobbler with Bourbon Caramel
Ethan Stowell, many things: Honey Ricotta with Pistachio Brittle
Josh Henderson, many other things: Strawberry Frappe and Fries
Tamara Murphy, Terra Plata: Saffron with Honey Almond Crunch
Brady Williams & Brian Canlis, Canlis: TBD (Give the guy a break; he just got here.)