Watch Out, Cupcakes — Artisanal Ice Cream Sandwiches are Moving In

By Carlynn Woolsey, Foodable Contributor

“I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream” (sandwiches)!  An amendment may have to be made to this iconic battle cry as we embark on what just might be the summer of sandwiches. With the longstanding cupcake craze on the decline, and donuts having had a moment in 2013, when it comes to sweet treats — especially with the warmer months approaching — this year is poised to be all about the ice cream sandwich.

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Foodable WebTV Network

Peddling Sandwiches

Have you ever wondered who invented ice cream sandwiches in the first place? The answer is, there is no definitive answer. As early as 1900, the now defunct New York Tribune ran a piece on a pushcart peddler who apparently made a killing — by pushcart standards — during the spring and summer seasons by selling ice cream smeared between two thin wafers. Who knows, the idea may have been implemented before, but this peddler was the first person to popularize it. So it goes that consumers loved the sandwiches not only because were they portable, but also because holding the sandwiches conducted heat between them and the eaters’ hands, slightly melting the ice cream, and overall making it easier to eat. Maybe everyone had just had enough brain freeze? Either way, ice cream sandwiches are still largely popular today, for the same reasons they were in the early 1900s, and even have an entire day (August 2nd), dedicated in their honor.     

Pioneering Sandwiches

When thinking about ice cream sandwiches, most of us envision the frozen treats that came about in the 1940s, with a layer of vanilla ice cream set between two soft chocolate cookies, conveniently packaged in paper wrappers. While that version may still be the gold standard, vendors are currently capitalizing on how easy it is to customize these confections in a wide array of combinations. Across the nation, concept shops are popping up, and food trucks are rolling into town with ice cream sandwiches at the core of their menu options. 

Coolhaus, based out of Los Angeles, CA, is considered to be the ultimate pioneer in the ice cream sandwich biz. In 2008, friends Natasha Case and Freya Estreller began baking cookies and making ice cream, combining their creations, and selling them as what they deemed “cool houses.” The “architecturally inspired” ice cream houses caught on big-time, with the partners now at the helm of 11 mobile trucks and carts, two storefronts, and distribution of prepackaged goods in over 1,500 gourmet markets nationwide. Coolhaus sells some [ever-changing] crazy cool flavors based on local and seasonal ingredients, including “Fried Chicken & Waffles,” “Gin & Tonic,” and “Pistachio Truffle,” with gluten-free and vegan selections also available.

Smitten Sandwiches

Hailing from Northern California, Smitten Ice Cream is also worth mentioning here for two reasons. The first being that their specially made shortcake sandwiches, known as “Smitten Brrrgers” are wildly popular. The second reason being that the company is at the forefront of a trend within the trend, dubbed “instant ice cream.” Smitten founder Robyn Sue Fisher wanted to create a “new, old-fashioned” ice cream that emphasized quality over shelf life.  She did this by building a machine that perfected an ultra-cold churning process through the use of Liquid Nitrogen. As a result, Smitten is churning out made-to-order treats in 90-seconds or less, and inspiring copycat ideas nationwide. 

If you aren’t in reach of one of Smitten’s four locations, and at-home chemistry experiments aren’t your thing, you can easily make your own sandwich by smooshing (That’s a technical term!) together your favorite store-bought cookies and ice cream and join the trend!