By Caitlin Raux

What happens when a former Chanterelle sous chef takes up donut-making? For one thing, New Yorkers get a fresh supply of amazing-quality, artful (read: Insta-friendly) donuts. Add a healthy shake of scrappiness — an essential ingredient for anyone crazy enough to open a 116-square-foot artisanal donut shop inside a busy carwash on the West Side Highway — and you’ve got yourself a quintessential New York story. There’s even a line of yellow cabs in the background.

Underwest Donuts from ICE alum Scott Levine

With his hugely popular Underwest Donuts, Scott Levine (Culinary Arts, ‘04) has elevated the hole-y donut to new heights, and has managed to do so in a place where most fledging owners wouldn’t look twice. But in a space the size of most suburban closets, Scott saw an opportunity to reinvent a New York staple and ran with it. Suddenly, Westside Highway Car Wash had a new stream of customers, more interested in the “Car Wash” glazed donut (vanilla-lavender flavor) than an actual car wash. Riding on the success of their first location, Underwest Donuts opened a second outpost in a similarly transit-heavy area, just a few steps from Penn Station.

Recently we caught up with Scott to chat about his unlikely entry into the artisanal donut game and his definitive stance on a very heated topic — dunking.

Caitlin: Can you explain the success of Underwest Donuts?

ICE alum Scott Levine, of Underwest Donuts

photo courtesy of Underwest Donuts

Scott: I believe it started with having an interesting story. I don’t think that’s a prerequisite for success, but it just happened to be what I had in advance of opening Underwest — the fact that it’s in a unique location in a carwash. Especially at a time when leases and commercial kitchens are extraordinarily expensive, especially in Manhattan.

Part of it was luck, part of it was timing, but most of all, there was an interesting story and a good product to back up the whole thing, which was the clincher. The story would have faded if the product weren’t good.

And you have a fine dining background too, right?

Yes. I worked at Chanterelle (Ed. note: helmed by ICE Director of Culinary Affairs, David Waltuck), and that was my longest tenure in the finer dining restaurants. I also worked at Del Posto and Le Cirque for shorter amounts of time, before I ended up at Danny Meyer’s Union Square Events, which used to be a catering company. That wasn’t fine dining per se, but it was a catering company started by the folks of Eleven Madison Park, so they had high standards. That was my culinary background – but none of it was in the pastry kitchen.

So why donuts?

Originally, I wasn’t considering donuts. I saw what Shake Shack had done to hamburgers, and I wanted to take the same approach to bagels. I liked how [Shake Shack] took something that was so commonplace and put it on a higher plane. Then the real estate issue came in. Not being independently wealthy, I needed some help on that front. My father-in-law, who’s a car wash owner and operator, had some space in his car wash on the West Side Highway, and I decided to open something in that 116-square-foot closet-like space. I thought, If I’m opening a food establishment here, what can I do with the space I have? The idea of coffee and donuts was born out of the fact that there’s a big morning business at the car wash, and I wanted to capitalize on that – coffee and donuts were a no brainer.

It’s kind of brilliant because you have the regular customers and then you have the crowd that just goes there for the donuts and, ya know, the Instagram.

Right. I learned quickly that my product doesn’t speak to the folks lining up to get their car washed in the morning like it does to folks who are coming just for the donuts. The price runs a little high for some people. I can understand them not wanting to spend that much money on a coffee and a donut.

How did you train yourself to become a donut expert?

I had no experience in donuts, so I bought a hand-held donut depositor. It looks like one of those contraptions at the diner that they make pancakes with. You press the button and out drops pancake batter, in a measured way.

I bought one and just started doing it in my apartment. My wife was pregnant at the time, so we say that our first child was nourished with donuts. I started training myself at home. Although I never worked in the pastry kitchen, I think ultimately it fits my personality better as far as just being more recipe-driven, and more exacting in a lot of ways. I felt comfortable operating in that world. I took three or four donut recipes from different sources, and then made them as the recipe called for them, then slowly I learned what certain amounts of certain ingredients did. It’s all about ratios.

I started tinkering and playing until I got my formula, and then once you start adding different ingredients, you have to tweak again. For example, if you add nut paste, you’re changing the fat content, so you have to compensate. If you add fruit purée, you’re adding water content, so you have to compensate. I went down these different avenues and adjusted until I got something that I could call my own. I think it took me six months to come up with recipes that worked well on my stovetop.

When I got a commercial donut fryer and started making donuts at Underwest, I learned very quickly that recipes that worked well on my stovetop did not work well in a commercial donut fryer. So I was opening a donut shop in a week and couldn’t make donuts.

Oh my gosh. That’s a curve ball.

It was a little shocking. But there was no turning back — you sink or swim. You figure it out. And here we are today.

Back to the donuts — besides being delicious, they’re also super Insta-friendly. Do you ever create things with an eye toward social media?

Our approach to donuts always puts an emphasis on presentation, so the Instagram-ability is a byproduct of that attention to detail. I would say that we consider in advance what works well from a photographing standpoint.

When we’re changing the menu, we think about the lineup and what colors are included. If we’re going to make a springtime donut, do we want to use certain colors? When you’re making donuts for a foodie event, you have an opportunity — there’s a good chance a lot of people will take photos so you want to bring something that looks good and that people can post. We want to continue to have that strength on social media.

It was a little shocking. But there was no turning back — you sink or swim. You figure it out. And here we are today.

What is the best donut you’ve eaten in recent memory?

The coconut lime donut that we have on our menu right now — it’s maybe my all-time favorite.


I’m really excited about a new springtime donut that’s coming out soon, too. It’s going to be very honey-focused, with some floral notes like chamomile. It’s still a work in progress.

Coming down to the last question and it’s a tough one: what is your stance on dunking?

What’s my stance on Dunkin Donuts or dunking?

The verb of dunking the donuts.

The action of dunking donuts. Hmmm… I don’t think about my donuts as something that I would dunk, but a plain old-fashioned donut for sure. Dunking cookies in milk, donuts in coffee, I’m all for it. But with our donuts, I wouldn’t want that flavor attached to whatever donut I’m eating. But for a plainer donut, that would be great, sure.

All right. So pro-dunking in certain situations.

Yeah. It’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all model. Again, in the right situation, dunk it.

We can call it qualified dunking.


Ready to embark on a career in the culinary or pastry arts? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs.


If you bake it, spring will come – that’s how the saying goes, right? With a mix of spices and candied citron, and the classic unsweetened fondant frosting, these traditional hot cross buns are the perfect way to welcome spring.

hot cross buns


hot cross buns

Hot Cross Buns
Servings: makes two dozen rolls


7 cups bread flour
¼ whole nutmeg, finely grated
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground allspice
½ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¾ sticks unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 ½ cups whole milk
¼ cup honey
2 envelopes (½ ounce) instant active yeast
4 large eggs, divided
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
½ cup (2 ounces) candied citron peel, finely minced
1 ½ cups raisins
Nonstick cooking spray
1 recipe cross paste (recipe follows)
1 recipe honey syrup glaze (recipe follows)


  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, spices, sugar and salt and mix on low speed for one minute. Add the butter and continue to mix on low speed until the mixture resembles grated Parmesan cheese and absolutely no lumps or pieces of butter remain, about eight minutes. Meanwhile, warm the milk to about 100° F. Add the yeast and honey and stir to combine.
  • Switch from the paddle attachment to the dough hook. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add the milk and yeast mixture to the dry ingredients and butter mixture in the mixer bowl. Add three of the eggs to the mixer, one at a time. Add the orange zest. Once the dough has mixed into one solid piece, mix the dough on low speed for three minutes. Increase the mixer to medium speed for four minutes until the dough is smooth. Add the candied citron and raisins to the mixer and continue to mix on medium speed for two minutes to combine. Remove the bowl from the mixer, lightly cover with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise at room temperature until doubled in size, 45 minutes to one hour.
  • Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Once the dough has risen, divide the dough into 24 equal-sized pieces (about 2 ½ ounces each or a piece the size of a racquet ball). Roll each piece into a small ball, taking care to tuck in any raisins poking out of the dough (they can burn easily in the hot oven). Arrange the rolls of dough on the baking sheet in a 4 x 6 roll grid. Lightly spray the rolls with nonstick cooking spray and lightly cover with a sheet of plastic wrap. Let the rolls rise at room temperature until increased in size by about 75%, about 45 minutes.
  • Remove the plastic wrap. Lightly beat the remaining egg in a small bowl. Brush the entire surface area of the rolls with the beaten egg. Carefully pipe a line of the cross paste across the rows of rolls in one direction, then repeat in the opposite direction to create a cross pattern.
  • Bake the rolls until a deep golden brown, rotating the tray halfway through the baking, about 35 to 45 minutes. Remove the rolls from the oven and let cool on the tray placed on a cooling rack. Immediately brush the rolls evenly with the honey syrup glaze until no glaze remains. Let cool until just warm enough to handle and serve immediately, or cool to room temperature and store in an airtight container for up to two days. To store longer, transfer the cooled rolls to a freezer bag and freeze for up to four weeks. Thaw at room temperature and microwave to warm up for a few seconds before serving.

Cross paste:


1 cup bread flour
1 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil


  • Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a small round piping bag and set aside at room temperature until ready to use.

Honey syrup glaze


¼ cup granulated sugar
½ cup water
¼ cup honey
2 pinches of salt


  • Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Let simmer for three minutes and set aside at room temperature until ready to use.

Learn to bake buns (and more!) like a pro — click here for information on ICE’s career programs.

By Caitlin Raux

Students enroll in our pastry arts program for many reasons — for some, it’s to mix flour, eggs and sugar for the first time and launch a budding pastry career. For others, it’s to hone their skills and enhance their existing experience. Diploma (and whisk) in hand, our pastry grads set out on a range of career paths — from recipe writers to startup chefs to educators and more. Here’s a snapshot of the many possibilities of what you can do with professional pastry training from ICE:

Pastry Arts alums

  1. Flex your restaurateur muscle like Zoe Nathan Loeb, whose restaurant group, Rustic Canyon Group, was named a 2018 James Beard Award Semifinalist for Outstanding Restaurateur. Rustic Canyon Group owns several popular California eateries: Rustic Canyon Wine Bar & Seasonal Kitchen, Huckleberry, Sweet Rose Creamery, Cassia and Esters Wine Shop & Bar.
  2. Boost your kitchen confidence and enhance your resume as a food writer or editor like Lauren Katz, Associate Recipe Writer at Blue Apron.
  3. Run the pastry program at LA’s most ‘gram-worthy resto with a “major cult following,” like Meadow Ramsey, Pastry Chef of Kismet.
  4. Conquer the world of cake like Elisa Strauss, chef instructor in ICE’s Cake Decorating program, who started a boutique cake company and a cake design consultancy (not to mention, penned a few cake cookbooks in her spare time).
  5. Use the skills and discipline learned in the pastry arts program to launch your own business… be it bar or bakery, like Ben Wiley, co-owner of five bars in Brooklyn: Bar Great Harry, The Owl Farm, Mission Dolores, Glorietta Baldy and Cardiff Giant.
  6. Follow in the footsteps of one of your pastry chef mentors and go on to lead the pastry kitchen in an acclaimed NYC restaurant like Thea Habjanic, who, after being hired at Le Bernardin by Chef Michael Laiskonis, went on to become Executive Pastry Chef at the restaurant where Chef Michael designed the dessert menu, La Sirena.
  7. Help train the next generation of pastry chefs like Andrea Tutunjian, ICE’s Dean of the School of Pastry & Baking Arts and Director of Education at ICE.
  8. Join the dynamic world of startups like Michal Shelkowitz, Pastry Chef of the San Francisco-based meal delivery service, Munchery.

Ready to embark on your career in the pastry arts? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs.


By ICE Staff

Entries are officially open for the 2018 #CulinaryVoice Scholarship Contest, and this year, the pot gets even sweeter: scholarship finalists will compete on ABC’s The Chew for the chance to win one of four full scholarships – worth more than $160,000 – to attend one of ICE’s award-winning Culinary Arts or Pastry & Baking Arts career programs.

For this year’s contest, public vote will determine the semi-finalists and the finalists will appear on The Chew to compete for the coveted awards. The Chew’s co-hosts Carla Hall, Clinton Kelly and Michael Symon, will host the finals with four celebrity chefs serving as mentors. Meanwhile, ICE’s chef-instructors will teach the contestants culinary skills and judge the finals.

“We never dreamed that what began as a creative way to award scholarships would become a worldwide sensation. Then, to have some of the biggest names in the food industry – like Marcus Samuelsson, Ted Allen, Duff Goldman and Donatella Arpaia – get behind us, millions of votes and the 26 lives we’ve already changed through these scholarships is very gratifying,” said Rick Smilow, ICE’s president and CEO. “And now having the finals air on the number one food and lifestyle show on TV, takes our scholarship program to a whole new level. The school has helped more than 14,000 alumni find their culinary voice and this year, we’re going to add to that in a big way.”

How to Enter

Entrants upload an original one-minute video to demonstrating their creativity and passion for food, who or what inspires them and what they hope to achieve in the culinary or hospitality industries. They’ll tell the world why they deserve a scholarship and the chance to study at ICE – named America’s best culinary school by The Daily Meal (2016). Entrants can select from two of ICE’s career training programs in Culinary Arts or Pastry & Baking Arts, as well as their desired campus of choice in New York City or Los Angeles.

Entering is easy. Winning is life-changing.

Click here to learn more about the 2018 #CulinaryVoice Scholarship Contest and enter today!

By Lauren Jessen — ICE Graduate + Blogger, A Dash of Cinema

When the weather outside is frightful, there’s nothing better than curling up next to the fire with a cup of hot tea. What’s the perfect treat to go with? Chocolate biscuits. These chocolate biscuits, which are essentially a British take on cookies, are inspired by the classic Christmas romantic comedy film Love Actually.

Chocolate Biscuits

Love Actually explores more than a dozen intertwined stories during the month before Christmas in London. While several characters overlap, each of their stories are unique. One of the characters is the newly-elected Prime Minster, played by Hugh Grant. The Prime Minister enjoys his daily tea and chocolate biscuits, an unbeatable pairing.

I initially became more curious about food from different cultures during culinary school at ICE, where many of our culinary lessons were region-focused. From France to Japan to Mexico, each week in Module Three consisted of learning new techniques and working with various ingredients. Working with new types of foods and learning how to prepare international recipes in class gave me more confidence to try it out on my own at home.

I’m a big fan of American biscuits, but I was intrigued to explore making this English version. The key is to make thin disc slices so that they crisp up when baking. Also, be careful to keep a close eye on the biscuits when they’re in the oven — they only need about 10-12 minutes of bake time since they’re so thin. Drizzle the chocolate biscuits with white chocolate to add a bit of extra sweetness.

Chocolate Biscuits

If you plan on enjoying any type of hot beverage this season, consider pairing it with these crisp chocolate biscuits. They’re easy to make, won’t require too much time and are a sure crowd pleaser.

Chocolate Biscuits with White Chocolate Drizzle


6 tablespoons unsalted, softened butter
¾ cup light brown sugar
¾ cup caster sugar
egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup white chocolate


  • In the bowl of a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, mix the butter, light brown sugar and caster sugar until smooth and creamy.
  • Add the egg white and vanilla and mix until smooth.
  • In a different bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and baking soda.
  • Add the flour mixture to the sugar and butter mixture, and mix until combined and a soft dough forms.
  • Roll the dough into a log (once chilled, you will cut this into slices which will be the shape and size of biscuits, so make this as big or small as you prefer your biscuits). Wrap the dough log in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
  • While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350°F. Once chilled, slice the log into slices 2-3 centimeters thick. If you prefer perfect circles, use a round cookie cutter once you’ve cut the slices off the log. Transfer the discs to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  • Bake the discs for 10-12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
  • While the biscuits are cooling, microwave the white chocolate chips for 45 seconds and mix together until smooth.
  • Using a piping bag and a #2 round decorating tip, drizzle white chocolate over the cookies. Allow the white chocolate to harden, then enjoy!

Master biscuits and much more in ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts career program — learn more today.

By Michael Laiskonis — Creative Director

If I were to ask you to describe the physical characteristics of chocolate, chances are you might think of a dark, shiny and brittle bar that slowly melts in the mouth. Perhaps you might immediately associate its rich flavor baked into a brownie or concealed within a creamy bonbon. You wouldn’t be wrong, of course, as chocolate has found its way into countless applications — a sweet shape shifter that pairs perfectly with our favorite flavors. That hasn’t always been the case. For much of its history, chocolate wasn’t something we would eat out of hand or find in a dessert recipe.

Hot Chocolate

Aztec woman pouring chocolate

An Aztec Woman Pouring Chocolate

The modern chocolate bar didn’t emerge until the mid-1800s, when technology and inventiveness converged. When Casparus van Houten developed the cocoa butter press in the 1820s, he was originally after the pressed solids — the cocoa butter (the fat that makes up over 50 percent of a cocoa bean) was merely a by-product. It would be many years before a chocolate maker (most likely the Fry family in England) would come up with the idea to add some of that extra cocoa butter back into ground cocoa beans and sugar. At this point, chocolate began to resemble what we think of today, and its texture and flavor would evolve further as the industrial revolution continued in the decades to follow. Before that breakthrough? When one mentioned chocolate, they were really referring to a beverage.

We can trace the history of chocolate back thousands of years to the Olmec, Mayan and Aztec cultures of present-day Mexico and Central America. These early chocolate makers cultivated the cacao tree, ultimately rendering the seeds of its fruit (the bean) into a drink. What these cultures enjoyed, however, bore little resemblance to a package of Swiss Miss. For starters, it wasn’t served hot, and most likely unsweetened, rather made with water and flavored with spices and flowers, then made frothy by repeatedly pouring from one vessel into another. The beans themselves were of great value and a significant staple crop, though most historians suggest that it was only enjoyed by a few, and not necessarily a part of the average person’s diet, rather used primarily for medicinal and ceremonial uses. Most culinary applications — even savory mole — appeared much later.

After the Spanish conquered the birthplace of chocolate in the 1500s, it would undergo further changes as it made its way to European drinkers. The first to adapt the Aztec beverage were likely the missionaries tasked with “converting” the indigenous people. By the time chocolate took hold back in Spain, it would evolve into something recognizable today — served warm, sweetened and whipped to a froth using a wooden molinillo. It remained, however, a treat for nobility, as it slowly spread throughout Europe. This growing taste for chocolate, which would become a beverage on par with tea or coffee, also led to its cultivation in European colonies in tropical zones throughout the world. For two centuries, its popularity surged but remained something not to eat, but to drink.

Huylers Bean-to-Cup Chocolate Trade Card

Huylers Bean-to-Cup Chocolate Trade Card

When van Houten sought to remove cocoa butter from the preparation, his goal was to make a lighter beverage, with much of its fat removed — what many at the time referred to as digestible cocoa. Soon after, digestible cocoa became increasingly accessible to a wider audience, taken in the morning or in the afternoon as a pick-me-up. Chocolate would also be touted for various health benefits and considered a gentler alternative to its cousin, coffee. As chocolate culture progressed, it did of course find its way into bar form (and then confections and baked goods) in the mid-1800s. By the turn of the 20th century, cocoa and chocolate were firmly embedded into our daily regimen. My own research into chocolate history has led to some interesting discoveries: colorful Victorian-era cocoa tins decorated with imagery of cacao pods, and even references to “bean-to-cup,” foreshadowing the “bean-to-bar” term we now use more than a hundred years later.

All of this research of chocolate’s history has renewed my own interest in its drinkable form. I’ve been studying both ancient recipes and its more familiar adaptations. As the weather turns, I can’t think of a better way to warm up than with a frothy cup of hot chocolate, while quietly considering the complex journey this magical bean has made over the centuries. Below, my favorite modern recipe, inspired by Mexican-style chocolate prepared today, is deep in chocolate flavor with subtle accents of unrefined sugar, warm spices and a touch of heat from dried smoked chile.


Hot Chocolate
Yield: 8 servings


1 quart (950 grams) whole milk
¼ cup (60 grams) heavy cream
1 cup (200 grams) grated panela, piloncillo, or light brown sugar
½ teaspoon (2 grams) salt
2 sticks whole cinnamon
2 pieces whole star anise
½ teaspoon (2 grams) powdered chipotle morita (or to taste)
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
7 ounces (200 grams) dark chocolate, roughly chopped


  • Combine the milk, cream, sugar, salt, spices, and the vanilla bean in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and hold at a bare simmer, stirring occasionally, for five minutes.
  • Whisk in the chopped chocolate and continue to simmer an additional five minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and the whole spices. Blend well with an immersion blender to create a froth and serve immediately.

Want to get in the chocolate lab with Chef Michael? Learn more about ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.

By Jenny McCoy — Pastry & Baking Arts Chef-Instructor

A small slice of my career as a pastry chef has been dedicated to introducing bakers to the flavor combination of pumpkin and chocolate. Some of you may have already tasted the duo — if you are one of those people, congratulations and please consider adding some chocolate chips to your Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. However, if you have not had the experience of chocolate and pumpkin combined, stop your holiday baking plans now and redirect your attention to this post immediately. Your Thanksgiving is about to get so much better.

pumpkin bars

Roasted pumpkin, whether made from scratch or canned, has a slightly sweet and very earthy flavor. If you mix this quintessential fall flavor with chocolate, which can either emphasize or contrast the flavor of pumpkin, something magical happens. When I’m interested in a strong contrast of flavor, I pair pumpkin with dark chocolate, which has an intense flavor and a bitter quality that juxtaposes nicely with the sweet, mellow flavor of pumpkin. When I prefer to accentuate the sweetness of pumpkin and make it the star in my baking, I combine it with milk chocolate because together they both highlight their sweetness and milder flavors. (Pro tip: Play around in the kitchen with both combinations to see which you like best.)

In the case of my recipe for Pumpkin Nutella Bars, I’ve taken chocolate and pumpkin one step further in the direction of deliciousness by adding Nutella. While Nutella is made with cocoa powder (which is dark and bitter), it is also mixed with a fair amount of sugar and milk, so it really has a flavor profile closer to milk chocolate. And the addition of roasted hazelnuts cannot be beat.

I can’t wait to hear what you think of these Pumpkin Nutella Bars, and be sure to share any other fun pumpkin and chocolate baking ideas you have this holiday season!

pumpkin nutella barsPumpkin Nutella Bars
Servings: makes 16 servings


Pumpkin Bar Batter

Nonstick cooking spray
2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 egg
¾ cup pumpkin puree

For the filling

1 jar (13 ounces) Nutella

Pumpkin Seed Streusel Topping:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup pumpkin seeds
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, melted


First, make and bake the Pumpkin Bar Batter

  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Lightly coat a 9”x13” baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. In a bowl, stir the flour, baking soda, salt and spices, and set aside.
  • In the bowl of a Kitchen Aid stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the egg and vanilla. Mix the batter until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and slowly alternate between adding the dry ingredients and the pumpkin puree, while mixing on low speed. Mix until the batter is smooth and evenly combined. Transfer the pumpkin batter to the baking dish and spread into an even layer. Bake for 15 minutes.

While the Pumpkin Bars are baking, make the Pumpkin Seed Streusel

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, pumpkin seeds, sugars, salt and spices. Slowly drizzle the melted butter into the bowl, while tossing the dry ingredients constantly, and mix until just crumbly. Set aside until ready to use.
  • Remove the pan of pumpkin bars from the oven and drop the oven temperature to 325°F. Let bars cool for 15 minutes.

Time to fill, top and bake the bars

  • Carefully spread the Nutella over the entire surface area of the warm baked bars. (If the Nutella melts a bit and sinks into the batter, that’s OK. Use a bamboo skewer or even a toothpick to create a marbled look.)
  • Sprinkle the Pumpkin Seed Streusel evenly over the top of the Nutella, and bake until the streusel is light golden brown and a wooden toothpick or cake tester comes out clean when inserted in center of the bar, about 30 minutes. Cool the bars in the pan for at least 15 minutes before cutting.

Master baking for all seasons — learn more about ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.


At ICE, we make it our mission to help students find their culinary voice — that creative drive within each of us that determines how we express ourselves through food. Whether it’s a career training program, a recreational course in pie crusts or a special event featuring handmade pasta, we’ll give you the tools to hone your culinary creativity. Join us as we ask some of today’s leading food industry pros to share their culinary voice.

Duff Goldman’s slogan is simple: If you can dream it, we can create it. Whether it’s a lifelike Betty White cake or a multi-tiered, hand-painted wedding cake (with or without lasers), the pastry chef and owner of the Baltimore-based, wildly popular Charm City Cakes bakery and star of Food Network’s Ace of Cakes is up for any confectionary challenge. We asked Duff to share his culinary voice with us, and his response should come as little surprise to anyone who’s seen his creations: “I really like to make people smile; I like to make them laugh; and I always like to make them think.” Watch the video and find out more about Duff Goldman’s unique culinary voice.

Find your culinary voice with ICE — learn more about our career training programs.

By Michael Laiskonis, Creative Director

When ICE moved into its current facility at Brookfield Place, staff and students were treated to new features like the Chocolate Lab – my home base – as well as our indoor hydroponic farm. This innovative space focuses on unique varieties of culinary plants grown for flavor, and their efforts benefit our students in the teaching kitchens as well as chefs and restaurants throughout the city. Every time I walk past the brightly lit farm, I can almost taste the dozens of flavors growing within and my imagination immediately starts to stir. This first in a series of posts traces some inspired ideas that emerge when we crossbreed these amazing raw materials with advanced pastry projects in the Chocolate Lab.

Anise hyssop parfait

The farm features several staple herbs — varieties of basils and mints, for example — plus new and exciting crops rotating into production on a weekly basis. During a recent tour and tasting of the hydroponic farm’s offerings, two items stood out: anise hyssop and purple oxalis. The former was an old friend, a sweet expression of licorice and mint. The latter, however, was something I was unfamiliar with. A relative of the sorrel family, the deep violet leaves of the oxalis resemble the flapping wings of a butterfly and provide an interesting tartness. More surprising was the flavor that came from its stem — a refreshing acidity that called to mind delicate young rhubarb stalks. To highlight these herbs, I began constructing flavors and textures in my mind. Sweet apricot, aromatic vanilla, honey, cream…with these building blocks in place, I picked my hyssop and oxalis and then headed into the lab.

Anise hyssop parfait

Sprig of Nepitella

As I assembled ingredients, the dessert’s architecture materialized. The anise hyssop would infuse an airy mousse, or parfait. The apricot would be lightly sweetened with honey and provide a fluid liquid center inside the parfait. A shiny glaze speckled with vanilla would enrobe the parfait, which would find its place atop a crunchy, buttery pastry base. Still enamored with the oxalis stems, I considered lightly candying them to preserve their slender form and to balance their flavor. The format of a petit gateau, an individual dessert often found in boutique pastry shops, offered the perfect format in which to condense these flavors and textures for maximum impact.

Stay tuned for more sweet collaborations with the hydroponic farm at ICE!

Anise Hyssop Parfait – Apricot, Honey, Vanilla and Purple Oxalis
Yield: Makes 16 individual desserts

Pâte Sucrée


120g unsalted butter, softened
2g salt
90g confectioner’s sugar
30g almond flour
50g whole egg
60g all-purpose flour (1)
175g all-purpose flour (2)


  • Combine and blend the butter, salt, confectioner’s sugar and almond flour in a food processor.
  • Add the whole egg and first measurement of flour (1); process just until incorporated.
  • Add the remaining flour (2); process just until incorporated – take care not to overmix. Wrap the dough and chill.
  • Chill or freeze. Allow a minimum of one hour resting period before use. Roll or sheet very thin, to a half sheet pan sized rectangle. Transfer to mesh silicone mat and par-bake sheets for five minutes at 150°C/300°F to set; cut 7cm (2 ¾ in.) discs and continue baking approximately five to ten minutes, or until golden brown.

Honey Apricot Coulant


0.5 sheet gelatin, hydrated
200g apricot puree
15g honey


  • Combine puree and honey in a saucepan. Bring just to a simmer.
  • Whisk in the gelatin. Drop into small silicone half-sphere molds. Freeze.

Anise Hyssop Parfait


200g whole milk
30g anise hyssop
60g egg yolks
75g sucrose
10g gelatin powder (225 bloom), hydrated in 40g water
400g heavy cream (36% fat), whipped


  • Place the milk and anise hyssop in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat, remove from heat, cover and allow the mixture to infuse for 20 minutes. Strain.
  • Prepare a crème anglaise with the infused milk, egg yolk and sucrose; cook to 84°C/183° Add the hydrated gelatin. Strain and cool to 25°C/77°F.
  • Fold the crème anglaise base into the whipped cream and deposit into silicone ‘stone’ molds. Allow to stand at room temperature for five to ten minutes, insert the frozen apricot coulant centers, top off the mold with additional mousse if necessary and continue to freeze completely.



9g gelatin powder (250 bloom)
45g water (1)
120g sucrose
75g water (2)
150g glucose syrup
160g white chocolate
100g condensed milk
Orange color, as needed (water-soluble, powder)
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped


  • Hydrate gelatin in the first measurement of water (1).
  • Combine the sucrose, second measurement of water (2) and glucose in a saucepan and cook to 103°C/217° remove from heat and add to the white chocolate and condensed milk.
  • Incorporate the gelatin, as well as desired color and scraped vanilla bean pulp, and emulsify.
  • Chill, utilize glaze at 30-32°C/86-88°F



White chocolate décor
Anise hyssop, leaves and flowers
Purple oxalis, leaves and candied stems


  • Place the frozen, unmolded parfaits onto a wire rack and glaze with the warmed glaçage. Briefly chill to set.
  • Transfer each glazed parfait to the baked sucrée discs and allow to temper. Finish with the white chocolate garnish, anise hyssop, purple oxalis and nepitella flowers.

Anise hyssop parfait

Want to explore the Chocolate Lab and hydroponic farm at ICE? Learn more about our Pastry & Baking Arts program.


Sometimes, a moment of inspiration can change the course of your career. Whether it’s an ah-ha! moment or a taste of something outstanding, it sets you on a new path of discovery. For Pastry Arts student Calvin Luk, his moment came during a visit to the York Cocoa House Chocolate Emporium in the U.K. The Hong Kong native had relocated to York to study archaeology, but one sip of the famed York Cocoa House hot chocolate and he knew his future lay in the art of chocolate making.

Soon after his visit, Calvin began working at the acclaimed York Cocoa House. When he realized he was ready to take his education to the next level, he chose the Pastry & Baking Arts program at ICE. Asked why he chose ICE, Calvin explained that he was, unsurprisingly, drawn to ICE’s bean-to-bar Chocolate Lab, led by James Beard Award-winning pasty chef Michael Laiskonis. Once he arrived, Calvin knew he had made the right choice: “I had been studying chocolate-making for some time,” he says. “But it wasn’t until I met Chef Michael Laiskonis that I realized there’s so much more to learn.” What’s more, as a student at ICE, Calvin has had the opportunity to learn alongside not only Chef Michael — both in his career program courses and during elective classes in the Chocolate Lab — but also from other inspiring ICE chef instructors as well as prominent chefs through volunteering opportunities, like the annual Top Ten Pastry Awards, hosted by ICE each year.

At ICE, we make it our mission to help you take your inspiration to the next level — to pursue your passion and make a lifelong career of it. For Calvin, he’s been able to grasp the fundamentals of chocolate making and to explore his unique culinary voice. And it all began with a sip of delicious hot chocolate.

Ready to discover your own culinary voice? Learn more about ICE’s career Pastry & Baking Arts program.

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