Frozen Hot Chocolate from Holy Cacao, Austin TX

Holy Cacao

It started out innocently, really.

We were going to Gourdough's to get some big fat doughnuts. Yay for big fat doughnuts!

But on our way, we were sidetracked by something heaven-sent: Holy Cacao. If you're not familiar with the way the food truck scene is set up in Austin, Texas, let me tell you that it is epic. In my opinion, it's like Portland's food truck scene, but like, times ten. There are food truck "pods" or mini communities, set up in lots all over. Some even have communal seating areas. It makes for a really friendly atmosphere and really promotes trying products from multiple vendors.

And while exploring other vendors on our way to Gourdough's, this was the one that caught this Spy's eye. Specializing in chocolate and cake pops, it was right up my alley. Even more so when I noticed their tag line: Las cosas claras y el chocolate espeso." (Ideas should be clear and chocolate thick.) - Spanish proverb. I like that way of thinking.

You should probably get one of everything here. They offer cake balls in all sorts of flavors, shakes (including! A cake shake!), and drinking chocolate. And it's the drinking chocolate that is the base of their Frozen Hot Chocolate. 

Holy cacao

If you have never heard of frozen hot chocolate, let me educate you. It's an incredibly rich chocolate base that is then mashed with ice cream and ice and blended to smooth, creamy confection perfection. It's not quite a milkshake, but it's more than just chilled hot chocolate. When done poorly, it's like a grainy coolatta. When it's done well, it's magic. It's famous the world at a place called Serendipity 3 in New York City.

At Holy Cacao, they do it right. You start by choosing a hot chocolate flavor - Holy, Cacao, The Mexican, or Peppermint Patty, and then they will blend it with ice and Blue Bell Dutch Chocolate Ice Cream (because in Texas, you're in Blue Bell country), carefully adjusting their blender and mashing down uncrushed ice and blending again to ensure the correct consistency. What you get is, as they aptly declare on their website, "a rich, chilled chocolate experience."

My companion, who grew up in New York City with Serendipity 3 as the guiding light and standard of what a Frozen Hot Chocolate can and ought to be, not only approved, but (watch out) declared it superior. And I can agree that it is very, very, very good. 

It doesn't really get so cold in Austin, it more trends toward hot, and this beverage is the perfect way to cool down, deliciously.

And the perfect warm-up to a doughnut.

1311 So. 1st Street, Austin; online here.

Sweet Love: Frozen Custard from Niko's Gyros, Chicago

Dear Frozen Custard,

Let's make one thing clear. I wasn't seeking you out, but I am so glad I found you. Because sometimes, delight comes from the most unexpected places.

Case in point: whilst heading to do some preliminary mural-sketching chez Michelle of Bleeding Heart Bakery (also a stop on the Tour De Sweet book tour, btw) while stopping for directions, you presented yourself as a bona fide Frozen Custard Opportunity at an establishment called Niko's Gyros. I know, I know. Custard at a Gyro place? 

But here's the thing. You, dear custard, while not what I thought I was seeking (I seriously thought I was looking for directions!) were just what I wanted. While not pinkies-out fare you were somehow perfect: white as snow, rich as Scrooge McDuck, and as thick as a brick—a delicious, sugary, melty brick. A generous scoop of you, dear custard, was not only an ideal mid-day treat, but finding you in such an unexpected spot made it an especially sweet delight.

Love, CakeSpy

Frozen custard from Niko's Gyros, 2775 N. Elston Ave., Chicago.

Gimme S'more: S'more Gelato Sandwiches by Ciao Bella Gelato

As I have mentioned, I've been pretty obsessed with gelato as of late. And while I'm not boarding a plane to indulge in a Gelato Diet in Italy (yet), recently, some sweet treats (packed in dry ice, natch!) hopped a plane right to my house, directly from Ciao Bella Gelato.

Having visited their San Francisco and New York locations, naturally I was excited to see these sweet treats arrive at my doorstep: a pack of sorbet pops, S'more Gelato, and Gelato S'more Sandwiches.

The winner of the batch, for me? The S'morewiches. Filled with rich, creamy belgian chocolate gelato swirled with marshmallow, these two graham wafers acted like bookends to the most delicious story. A story that you'll want to eat up til the end.

The S'more gelato was also delicious, the same stuff used as filling in the sandwiches, but, you know, easily eaten by the pint (wait, there's more than one serving in that?).

The sorbet pops were tasty, but I'll admit: I was wary of their 70-calorie packaging. It made me feel like I was eating health food.

They also sent me a copy of their book, The Ciao Bella Book of Gelato and Sorbetto: Bold, Fresh Flavors to Make at Home. I haven't tried anything from it yet, but people: there is a recipe for a tricolor gelato cake in it. NOM!

But I'd absolutely buy the s'more gelato or the sandwiches again!

For more information or where to buy, visit the Ciao Bella website!

Sweet Chill: D'Ambrosio Gelateria, Seattle

Cue that sultry "At Last..." music...because finally, at last, I have sampled D'Ambrosio Gelateria in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood.

Why "at last"? Because it's been suggested by so many trusted people, including very notably my friend Miss Megan Seling, Whose Word on Sweets Must Always Be Trusted.

But it just hadn't happened. As Seattleites know, Capitol Hill to Ballard can be such a hike. Honestly. I've had people come to my store in Capitol Hill from Ballard, and say that they are "on a day trip". For real.

But as soon as I saw their flavor case, I knew I was in for a treat. With a gorgeous array of the classics and some exotics, there was plenty to choose from, including a tempting Tiramisu, Stracciatella (aka fancy chocolate chip) and even something called Bacio di Dama, "a woman's kiss" (I am not sure what the flavor was, but it had nuts. Lots of them.)

After much debate, I settled on a 2-scoop consisting of the caramel-fig, paired with the pistachio. 

Let's now talk about how delicious this pairing was. The caramel-fig was rich, creamy, and mellow, with the fig mixed in with little seedlets exploding in my mouth every now and again (joy). The pistachio was sweet but a little salty, which was a gorgeous pairing for that mellow caramel-fig. The entire package was extremely well executed too: the gelato was unbelievably creamy and infinitely savor-able.

I will confess that as it was a hot day and some of it melted, I looked both ways, tipped my cup back, and drank the last few spoonfuls like a greedy child. And I regret not a moment of it.

D'ambrosio Gelateria, 5339 Ballard Ave, Seattle; online here.

D'Ambrosio Gelato on Urbanspoon

Sweet Chill: Cannoli Ice Cream Recipe for Serious Eats

Everybody knows that the best part of the cannoli is the cream. But what happens when you take that delicious filling and combine it with ice cream?

What you've got on your hands is an ice dream, that's what. This is an adaptation of a recipe from the brilliant book All American Desserts by Judith Fertig, wherein high-quality vanilla ice cream is doctored up with the makings of cannoli cream. The result is a memorable frozen treat: rich with ricotta, spices, and flecked with bits of candied fruit and chocolate chips. It's the best of two creamy worlds.

For the full entry and recipe, visit Serious Eats!

Sweet Times: Paletas by La Newyorkina

Sweet Dispatch: Popsicle Time on the High Line, NYC.

Let's get one thing straight. In general, the creamsicle is about as close as I am going to get to having fruit in my popsicles—just way too healthy, and it always seems like I am wasting valuable time and energy eating them that I could be devoting to pudding, ice cream, or gelato.

But the other day something happened while strolling the High Line in NYC.

In case you've never been to the High Line, let me tell you that it is a highly magical place. It almost seems like it was tailor-made to illustrate this Andy Warhol quote:

People's pace slows slightly on the High Line. They smile at each other. They point at pretty buildings and flowers they see. At least, they did on the day I visited. And as I walked uptown from the Chelsea Market entry point, many of the people that I saw strolling opposite me had popsicles. Those popsicles looked good.

When I finally passed the popsicle point--a little stand called La Newyorkina--I kept right on walking—but when I turned around to get back to my starting point, I simply couldn't resist its siren call. And I recognized them from the cover of the newly-released cookbook Paletas: Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Shaved Ice & Aguas Frescas.

I chose the papaya lime flavor, as it had the prettiest color.

This was a sophisticated sweet, with the mellow papaya flavor brightened up by the zing of lime, and flecked with little bits of rind for extra flavor.

Maybe it was the sunshine; maybe this was just an extremely well-made version of the sweet frozen treat. But all I can say is, after this experience, I may be making a segue from paleta-hater to pal of the paleta.

Find out more about La Newyorkina here; to find out where they are at this instant in NYC, follow them on Twitter.

Via Delicious: Via Dolce Gelato, Leavenworth, WA

Dear Twitter: I love you. Because when I say "I am going to this town, what bakeries should I visit?" I get many many great suggestions. I believe this is what they call "crowd sourcing". And when it comes to seeking out sugary sweets to eat, it rules.

And this is how I came to discover Via Dolce Gelato in Leavenworth, WA (thanks, Dalipardon). Now, one might not think that a traditional Italian treat would be the thing to seek out in a Bavarian village, but One Would Be Wrong.

Via Dolce is passionate about their art, with a website which will not only educate you, but will make you very hungry. But not as hungry as looking at their lovely chilled case, which contains a rainbow of possibilities. I kept it pretty beige, with a scoop of Toasted Almond and a second of Stracciatella.

What both scoops had in common was that they were both highly delicious, creamy and dreamy and yet somehow still light--they didn't linger thickly but rather kept you coming back for more (and made me wonder why gelato is served by the scoop rather than by the vat).

But the real standout was the Stracciatella (don't ask me to pronounce it, I tried to when ordering and then was corrected, and had been so wrong that I blushed). What does Stracciatella taste like, you ask? Well, it's kind of like meeting chocolate chip ice cream's relative from the Old Country, who does everything the old (and better) way. Made up of creamy vanilla speckled with shreds, rather than chips, of chocolate, and it is clearly the way to go--they melt as you go and don't have a distracting texture like chips. You can find a recipe for it here.

Via Dolce Gelato, Leavenworth, WA; online at

Whoopie Pie Frozen Custard from Old School Frozen Custard, Seattle

Three guesses as to what was the most decadently delicious thing I tasted this week.

That's right: Whoopie Pie Frozen Custard. 

This bit of sweet manna was the special flavor of the day on Thursday, September 30th at Old School Frozen Custard in Capitol Hill. Now, if you don't know much about Old School, then let me learn you a bit about their M.O.: they generally have only three flavors available daily--vanilla, chocolate, and a special flavor of the day. Naturally, Audrey (who is also the one who inspired these cupcakes) and I had to walk over to sample this one.

So what exactly is Whoopie Pie frozen custard? Well, according to Old School's site, it's comprised of "Our Chocolate Cake Batter frozen custard with a delicious butter cream varigate folded into it".

But really, this description doesn't tell you much about the exquisite joy of eating it. While eating it, the first flavor that hits is chocolate--but then something happens. A slightly tangy, rich-sweet undertone to the taste--that's the cake batter. And then--little nubbins of vanilla buttercream swirled throughout--something that isn't really necessary, but sure is nice. 

While had I been given this custard blindly and asked what flavor it was, I might not instantly guess "whoopie pie", but I certainly would have finished it and licked the bowl. Yes, indeed.

The final word? A fine flavor of the day. Bring it back soon!

Old School Frozen Custard has locations in Seattle and Bonney Lake; visit their site for details.