ITHACA, N.Y. — Step aside, strawberry swirl. For their ice cream final project, students in Cornell’s introductory food science class – this year sweetened by a Renaissance theme – harkened back 500 years to explore flavors from antiquity.
The judges – professors, dairy professionals and Cornell dining chefs – crowned Team 10’s “PURE/HONEY” the winner. Team members were Stephen Barlett ’26, Cole Chapman ’26, Anya Dennison ’26, Olivia Hosie ’26 and Jake Kohagura ’26.
Their ice cream paid homage to the Renaissance – and Beyoncé, who released an album this past summer called “Renaissance” – as it melded homemade candied honeycomb with ribbons of salted caramel in a bourbon flavor-enhanced vanilla base.
PURE/HONEY won, but wasn’t the only flavor to impress the judges.
“In most years, a few flavors stick out,” said Christopher R. Loss, the Louis Pasteur Lecturer in Food Science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “This year, the flavors all hit the mark on acceptability.”
Loss prepared the students for the project with more prototype sessions than usual, as well as active learning. “The students had more time to engage with their ingredients, evaluate and iterate,” Loss said, “and hone in to balance their flavors and make it harmonize.”
Winning team member Kohagura said making their own honeycomb was “the fun part” of the whole experience.
“Getting the honeycomb texture right included lots of tweaking, but we eventually figured it out,” he said. “I was surprised by all the intricacies in making ice cream.”
Conjuring honeycomb calls to mind wizardry and alchemy: First, carefully heat sugar to a boil. By adding baking soda, the concoction foams into a frothy delight. Then pour it onto parchment paper, let it cool and break it up with a rolling pin.
“We had none of the necessary tools or ingredients (to make honeycomb),” Dennison said. “We went on a wild goose chase across campus for honey, parchment paper and a candy thermometer. Baking soda was hard to find, too.”
Other teams’ flavors were close contenders.
For example, Team Six slayed tastebuds with “Dragon’s Breath,” a cinnamon-spiced chocolate ice cream with notes of fiery chili, fortified with swirls of chocolate fudge. Team One’s “The Need for Mead” offered a chai-spiced ice cream base with a sticky honey swirl and tart cranberry pieces.
And Team Five’s “Fruit of Knowledge” featured hints of basil, roasted walnut pieces and a balsamic honey swirl in a peachy orange ice cream base. “Open your mind to the endless deliciousness in our ice cream,” Team Five wrote in its flavor description.
While making ice cream is fun, the introductory food science course offers a serious side – with lessons in food safety, sensory evaluation, packaging, understanding kosher and halal food preparation and the importance of the human microbiome.