On Wednesday, Dec. 16, a fresh new ice cream joint called SPUN Ice Cream is set to open on East 7th Street.
It has been over a year since SPUN announced their opening in December 2014. After constant back and forth of paperwork, SPUN co-owners and sisters Christina and Ashley Cheng are introducing Austinites to a new approach to making ice cream by using science to make a creamy and unique treat. This is called the spinning technique, which fuses the culinary arts with physical science.
Story and Photos By: Alejandra Martinez
To make SPUN ice cream, the Cheng sisters use a rapid, non-traditional technique called “spinning” where the ice cream will be made by combining cold liquid nitrogen at minus 321 degrees Fahrenheit with creams and milk to make a tasty new treat.
“The spinning freezing process is actually a lot of faster than traditional techniques. The ice crystals are much smaller and condense when you use liquid nitrogen, so it means the texture of the ice cream is a lot creamier and smoother, which creates this richness of the texture,” Ashley says, adding that this is the best ice cream she has ever had.
“We have to give credit to our cousin Christopher for helping us create the concept for SPUN. He came to us with the idea originally,” Christina says.
The Cheng sisters were born and raised in Austin. Ashley has a bachelor's degree in marketing communications and public relations from the from The University of Texas at Austin. Christina, who holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago in sociology and a master’s degree in journalism from UT, most recently earned a patisserie and baking certificate from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Austin.
The sisters come from a family experienced in the restaurant industry. “We both grew up in the food industry, since our parents owned restaurants. We never would have dreamed as kids that we'd end up in the food business too, or that we'd become business partners one day,” Christina says.
After college, Ashley went to New York and worked for different PR agencies while her sister obtained her master’s and worked as a copywriter for LBTJ Group in Austin. By the time Christina was about 30, she decided to go back to school and try something new — pastry school. “I spent a few years as a copywriter and author when I realized I just wasn't meant to sit in front of my computer all day. I'd much rather be in front of my oven,” Christina says.
Christina went back to pastry school and loved it. “I was at a point in my life when it just hit me one day that I should be spending my time doing something that made me really happy,” Christina says. After graduating, she began catering at weddings and special events, and eventually she decided she wanted to open her own ice cream shop.
Meanwhile, Ashley was working in New York and Boston as a publicist for big national and international grocery brands, but after Christina shared her plans for her ice cream shop, Ashley decided to join her sister back at home in Austin.
“It is a perfect fit for us,” Ashley says. “We will have our nice little shop and our nice little team to work with. We are excited.”
Both sisters have many plans for once their ice cream shop opens. They hope the arrival of this new shop on the block will bring liveliness to the community. “We hope SPUN will feel cheerful and welcoming, almost like you are walking [into] our house,” Ashley says.
The spinning technique is what the sisters hope will help their ice cream shop stand out. “Our aim is to keep our ingredients simple. We will not be using any emulsifiers or stabilizers to keep the ice cream fresh, which is another benefit of flash freezing it,” Ashley says.
The focus of SPUN will be on its original flavors, seasonally-rotated toppings and ingredients. SPUN will provide the public with a menu that includes four basic flavors: dark chocolate, mint, a seasonal fruity flavor and popcorn. In addition to the four seasonal flavors, Christina will use the skills she learned in pastry school to prepare toppings from scratch.
Every SPUN order will be made instantly in front of the customers, which Ashley says, “is a really fun process to watch.”
In addition to letting the customer see and be part of the ice cream-making process, Ashley stresses the importance of letting the customer know where the ice cream ingredients are coming from.
“We both grew up in the food industry, since our parents owned restaurants. We never would have dreamed as kids that we'd end up in the food business too, or that we'd become business partners one day." -Christina Cheng
Although it has not been finalized, the Cheng sisters have put much thought into choosing the ingredients to make the ice cream. They are looking at local dairies and say, “to have that connection with your food and your ingredients brings a lot more integrity to your product as a whole.”
The Cheng sisters are ready to open up the business early next year. SPUN’s opening special will be the Cracker Jack, which is a medium size of the ice cream flavor (two scoops) with three toppings of your choice.
Both sisters are curious to see the combination of toppings and ice cream flavors customers will come up with.
“We'll really be pushing the boundaries at SPUN of what people can expect out of your neighborhood ice cream shop,” Christina says.
Updated Tuesday, Dec. 8: Included updated opening date.