Sweet Creativity: Annual Ice Cream Contest Debuts New Batch of ‘Amazing’ Frozen Flavors

Herrell’s Ice Cream plans to produce the UMass Amherst student creations
Jeanette Manship tastes her winning ice cream.
Jeanette Manship tastes her winning ice cream.

AMHERST, Mass. – Choosing a winner in the annual food science ice cream contest at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has become an endeavor as deliciously painful as a brain freeze.

“I’m a little gobsmacked. What an amazing selection of flavors,” contest judge Judy Herrell, proprietor of Herrell’s ice cream and bakery shop in Northampton, told the students in Matthew Steffen’s perennially popular food-processing course. “This is hard.”

In the end, after tasting the 10 ice cream prototypes developed by students in the food science pilot plant and hearing their comprehensive new-product presentations in a Zoom meeting Tuesday afternoon, Herrell chose winners in three categories.

Italian Lemon Dream, featuring mascarpone and a blueberry swirl, took first place in the conventional ice cream category; Dairy-free Blueberry Muffin, with an oat milk base, was the no-moo top pick; and Chicha Morada, a frozen version of the traditional Peruvian fruit juice made from purple corn, was the winning sorbet.

“It was another stellar ice cream competition here at UMass,” said Steffens, himself a UMass food science alum. “Food development projects can take years and you all do it in literally weeks,” he told the students.

Senior food science major Jake Murphy, from Hollis, N.H., was inspired to create an ice cream version of his favorite cake, Italian lemon mascarpone. “The first iteration was not very tasty but I got it figured out, and I was pretty happy with it,” he said.

Jeanette Manship, a senior food science major from Bedford, outside of Boston, loves blueberry muffins so much she wanted to create a dairy-free ice cream version with cakey chunks. “It is simply a blueberry muffin in the form of a decadent ice cream that’s astonishingly vegan,” Manship said in her presentation. “It took some trial and error. The hard part was making it creamy.”

Manship also is developing her own dairy-free pasta cream sauce. “I want to make food more sustainable and more ethical,” she said.

Matias Vega Figallo, a senior food science major from Lima, Peru, created a chicha morada juice from purple corn (extremely high in health-promoting anthocyanin) pineapple, apple, cinnamon and clove, a traditional drink for the Incas. Then he turned that into a dairy-free sorbet. He described it as “simple, indulgent, better for you and unique.”

As she did last year, Herrell mentored students in the lab, offering tips on how to develop their flavors. Herrell is still producing and selling the flavors from last year’s contest on a rotating basis, including Magic Wings, a honey and lavender ice cream named after the butterfly conservatory in South Deerfield.

“Magic Wings has been a big hit. Pepper Storm has its own following. So does Salt Bae,” a salty/savory ice cream flavored with the herb fenugreek. “They all sell, which is wonderful,” Herrell says.

Herrell plans again this year to produce as many of the students’ ice cream creations as possible. The other flavors developed this semester were:

  • Michael Cahill’s Immune Indulgence, a dairy-free, oat milk-based ice cream with elderberry, blueberry and lavender.
  • Aislinn Guinee’s Twilight Shadows (named after the UMass Amherst alma mater), a cranberry brie ice cream inspired by an appetizer her mother made for the holidays.
  • Sarah Hodge’s 24 Carrot Gold, a cream cheese carrot cake ice cream with spices and walnuts.
  • Kanon Kobata’s Italian Spice Hot Chocolate, a vegan flavor made with oat milk, coconut cream, dark chocolate, red wine and such spices as dill and black pepper.
  • Paul Lapsley’s Vanilla Citrus, featuring orange juice concentrate, natural lemon and vanilla extract.
  • Matt Sheiman’s Cheese Crepe Delight, a French toast-like flavor.
  • Michael Steigman’s Frozen Explosion, a vanilla ice cream with pop rocks folded into chocolate chunks. “I think you’re on to something,” Herrell told Steigman. “I would continue to work on that. From a scientific perspective, it’s brilliant.”