Tuesday July 19, 2011

Personal Floatation Device

I never thought it would come to this, but last week the words, “It’s too hot for dessert” came out of my mouth. Yes, in that order. We’ve had temperatures in the upper nineties, humidity at a bajillion percent and a heat index of, “put a fork in me.”

The Pastry Dungeon doesn’t even have ventilation, much less air conditioning. Hot. Stagnant. Dungeon. When I arrive in the morning, it’s about 85°. I try to think of it as Bikram Baking.

Under these circumstances, the idea of eating dessert makes me nauseous. In 90° weather, who wants souffle? Buttercream would melt right off a cupcake. A slice of cheesecake seems cold enough to bring the promise of refreshment, but delivers none of it. Even frozen custard feels too heavy in the face of such unrelenting heat.

three layer orange creamsicle ice cream float

As I faced this dessert impasse, Mr. BraveTart suggested I make a float. I had to repress my gag reflex at the notion.

One sip of a float as a five year old girl traumatized me so badly I wouldn’t taste another one for twenty five years. I derided it as a revolting, redneck culinary train wreck. A disgustingly American way to ruin ice cream with industrial garbage.

Mr. BraveTart pointed out that I recently wrote about rhubarb, entreating the rhubarb hating people of the world to not judge it in its most poorly executed form (cooked to death by well meaning but inept bakers). But rather, to make rhubarb once, the right way. Judge it then. The spiritual axiom goes, “love the sinner, hate the sin.” Should the culinary world say something similar? “Love the food, hate the preparation.”

Continuing on, Mr. BraveTart emphasized the nostalgic quality of the Float. Something to remind us of happy summers, simple pleasures, and an escape from the heat. To counteract my negative connotation, he suggested I start with some flavor pairing evocative of my childhood to make my Ultimate Float. Judge that. Leave the wretched float of yesteryear out of the equation.

Taking his advice, I thought of my childhood love for Creamsicles and Flinstone Orange Push-Ups. Vanilla bean ice cream and orange soda could provide a familiar flavor pairing that I stood a chance of accepting. Of course, I wanted to make my own soda, but reconsidered. If I had any hope of learning to love floats, I had to first appreciate it for what it was, not what it could be.

Which didn’t stop me from adding a splash of Aperol to my creation. I figured even if the float still tasted traumatic, at least I had a shot waiting for me.

Simply put, OMG!!!

alcoholic ice cream float orange creamsicle

How could I not love it? It puts the dream in Dreamsicle with gorgeous layers of swirling cream and foam, an ever evolving kaleidoscope of orange and vanilla. The Aperol sinks to the bottom, waiting for a straw to discover it. The ice cream and soda eventually give way to a nouveau-milkshake, citrusy fizz lightening the heaviness of the ice cream, rich and refreshing all at once.

I looked back on my life, now sad for all of the summers I whiled away without a single float. All because of one fateful day…

Not too long before my sixth birthday, a friend and I spent a miserable summer afternoon playing outside. We finally nagged her cheapskate dad into turning on the sprinkler.

He undoubtedly envisioned it showering out nickles and dimes, so only opened the water valve about halfway. Rather than a sweeping arc of water rocking slowly back and forth, we had a fountain of water limply trickling to and fro. It didn’t so much sprinkle the water as it piddled it out, one warm dribble after the next.

Warm, because the hose had languished unused for days, leaving a snake of dead grass streaking the yard. Meanwhile, the water inside approached thermo-nuclear, the first squirt nearly poached us. The fresh water came through at such a sluggish pace that it warmed on its journey and came out at roughly body temperature.

Even worse, their lawn (a term I use to generously describe the vast expanse of sun baked crabgrass that covered their property) had died weeks earlier. I knew for the first time what grown-ups meant when they said, “blades of grass” because frolicking had never felt so painful. Like the Little Mermaid, every step brought a thousand needles of agony.

We retreated inside, damp, tender footed, and none the cooler. Her mom asked, “You girls want a treat?” Relief in sight! We eagerly climbed onto the stools at the counter and she dished two tall glasses of ice cream. Not the good stuff, but some off-brand ice cream my little proto-baker palate had long ago rejected as weird (see: vanillin). For a moment, I didn’t care.

Visions of ice cream sundaes and milkshakes played through my mind. In the sticky heat of that tight-fisted old fuddy duddy’s desperately under-air-conditioned house, even a weird-flavored milkshake would have hit the spot. Instead, this woman, this she-devil opened up a can of Diet Coke and poured it over the ice cream.

I sat in stunned silence. I had never seen or heard of an ice cream float before, so I found the act of pouring soda over ice cream an unprecedented horror. Some perverted invention peculiar to this household of cheap freak-jobs.

She set that tall, frothing glass of chemical soup before me, anemic fake vanilla ice cream dissolving in a fizzy sea of evil. My friend squealed in delight. Dunked her buoyant scoop of ice cream into the glass, then watched it float back to the top. She alternately gulped the concoction with a straw or slurped it from the spoon. Imagine the moment Charlton Heston discovered the true nature of Soylent Green, multiply it by ten, and you’ll know how I felt in that instant.

I took one sip and understood rabies. Why Atticus had to kill that dog. A sinister, vicious foam filled my mouth, harshly acidic and gently creamy, a dichotomy of unpleasantry. I don’t remember what happened next or how I escaped.

If only my first float had looked and tasted something like this.

orange slice cream float

I have a few floats left on my list and a lot of catching up to do. I need to make one with root beer. One with cream soda. One with homemade soda. What else?

Tell me what sort of floats I should try next!

Vanilla bean ice cream

posted byStellaand filed under:  Fruit  Gluten Free  Ice Cream  Sideshow Photos  Vanilla

55 comments and counting

Jul 21, 2011 · 11:45 PM

This is gorgeous and I’ve never, ever had anything like it. Never thought I’ve ever wanna move to Lexington, but ahem…I do. Gorgeous photography, and the word gorgeous is not even enough. I’d try some floats with the Mexican fruit sodas! Maybe a hibiscus float, tamarind or mandarin float? We used to have Vanilla Ice Cream and a red soda called Red Rock…Mmhm…Can you hurry up and write a book about floats?!

 · Nelly Rodriguez · http://www.cookingwithbooks.blogspot.com

Jul 22, 2011 · 12:45 AM

It’s not even hot here, but I’m thinking a float sounds awesome right about now.
Maybe next time some lemon soda with basil and some sort of sorbet?

 · Jacob · http://www.confectio.us

Jul 22, 2011 ·  1:12 AM

I would like a float of rhubarb soda and lemon ice cream. With a couple of Biscoff on the side. Or any combination of soda + icy treat that had Campari waiting at the bottom. Or cantaloupe soda with cucumber sherbet and Hendrick’s. I could go on…

 · Mallowsota · 

Jul 22, 2011 ·  3:32 AM

That looks and sounds like heaven – I’ve never thought of using orange soda before! I was lucky enough to have a mom who made her own cherry soda when I was a kid, that and real vanilla ice cream makes the best floats on the planet – simply sweet but not overly thanks to the ice cream.

 · Kate · http://strewnwithcowpats.wordpress.com/

Jul 22, 2011 ·  9:20 AM

@Nelly, another Float Newcomer?? A hibiscus float would be life changing, Nells, make it happen please~!

@Jacob, yes! Now you’re talking! I actually have basil soda syrup at work, I made a batch not so long ago….

@Mallowsota, yes, yes, do go on. Those ideas sound killer.

@Kate, um, omg, will your mom adopt me? Homemade cherry soda as a childhood memory totally rules!


Jul 22, 2011 ·  9:46 AM

I am allergic to milk, so I like to make my floats with sherbet for the ice cream and either sprite or vanilla bean soda.


 · QuiltGenius · http://www.quiltgenius.com

Jul 22, 2011 ·  9:59 AM

@Mary, oh no! I’ve made my ice cream very successfully with coconut milk, you might try that sometime. Are you allergic to goat’s milk? I’ve made it with that too, and it’s delicious, no strange goaty flavor or anything off putting. But sherbet floats sound awesome, it reminds me of the punch they used to serve at wedding showers in the 90s. Haha.


Jul 22, 2011 · 10:42 AM

Awww… What a cute and terrible story! My grandma used to buy creamsicles and push-pops for my brother and I. Recently she told me she had a box in her freezer and I got super excited. Yum! I bet this tastes absolutely amazing.

As a side note, I find it very frustrating that it’s been so hot lately that frosting melts off of stuff. Ugh.

 · Kaitlin · http://whisk-kid.blogspot.com

Jul 22, 2011 · 11:06 AM

Personally, I love chocolate ice cream and coke. And I fondly remember the sherbert and 7-Up floats of every single dance I ever went to as a kid! But after reading this post, my brain swirls with a million other ideas beyond such basic combinations! Thanks!! And welcome to the wonderful world of floats

 · Shanti · 

Jul 22, 2011 · 11:14 AM

love the Soylent Green reference, you should try a good ginger beer with some homemade flavor. Let me know

 · Kelly · 

Jul 22, 2011 · 11:27 AM

Real Coke with real vanilla (as opposed to what I think of as white-flavored) ice cream is worth trying, I think. Diet Coke could ruin anything.

I could see ginger ale with a cinnamon-apple ice cream.

 · Steph N · 

Jul 22, 2011 ·  1:25 PM

Gorgeous! I just made creamsicle ice cream with aperol but now I’m thinking about turning it into a float. Sending you some chilly Seattle weather…hope things cool off soon!

 · sarah · http://pearlandpine.blogspot.com

Jul 22, 2011 ·  1:38 PM

What a cute idea!!! This looks so delicious and is perfect for this heat wave we’ve been having

 · Kelly · http://www.eat-yourself-skinny.com

Jul 22, 2011 ·  4:30 PM

OMG indeed… This is going into my face this weekend. I may have to substitute with Cointreau, though. The combinations are endless. In fact, I might just tell my family and friends I’ll see them in the fall.

 · Danguole · http://www.10thkitchen.com

Jul 22, 2011 ·  4:44 PM

Love this post, and now want a float A.S.A.P. Stat. Who’s on it? A wonderful Ginger Ale/Beer with homemade Peach icecream sounds divine to me.

 · Allison · http://allisonswoolandflax.blogspot.com/

Jul 22, 2011 ·  6:18 PM

Looks wonderful and refreshing.

 · Christine · http://christinespantry.blogspot.com

Jul 22, 2011 ·  6:49 PM

@Kaitlin, your gramma is clearly the best.

@Shanti, what a wondrous world it is. Everyone’s suggestions are killer. I’m loving this! Oh, and what’s that called, a brown cow? black cow? some kind of farm animal?

@Kelly, I’ll keep you posted!

@Steph, I really should try and make a proper Coke Float. You’re right.

@sarah, a fellow Aperol aficionado, eh? Cheers!! That ice cream would be crazy delicious in a float.

@Kelly, I’m pretty sure it’s hot everywhere right now. Ugh!


Jul 23, 2011 ·  1:58 AM

This is stunning. I’m not keen on floats, but hubby loves them. This is dreamy. Dreamy…looking forward to the cream soda one!

 · sweetsugarbelle · http://sweetsugarbelle.com

Jul 23, 2011 ·  6:30 AM

Creamsicles and pushups are some of my all-time, life long faves.! Sometimes, I just pour orange fanta over a bowl of Vanilla I.C. and stir it up to make soft serve Your ‘special addition’ to the float sounds great. Must try!

 · Alan Cooke · http://www.cookedwithluv.com

Jul 23, 2011 ·  9:59 AM

You are so lucky that you have aperol! I can never find it in the liquor stores near me! This float looks so freakin good though!

 · Elyse @The Cultural Dish · http://www.theculturaldish.blogspot.com

Jul 23, 2011 · 11:22 AM

Wow, I’d forgotten the horror of being a kid and as a guest (with the obligations attached) receiving a “rootbeer float” made with Tab. When I objected to the taste the hostess gave me just a glass of Tab. Oh the horror.

 · Lgiletti · 

Jul 23, 2011 · 11:24 AM

@sweetsugarbelle, well, needless to say, I found this one transformative. I’m so excited to share the others!! They only get better from here.

@Alan, “special edition” I love it. I am no Fanta connoisseur but we use Mexican Fanta at work and my coworkers all insist it’s better than American Fanta. I can’t verify their claims, but the end result is pretty tasty.

@Elyse, I am totally lucky to work in a restaurant. All my booze desires are met so easily. The Aperol USA website has a store locator here. I hope you can find some!

@Lgiletti, Oh holy crap, the unmitigated horror of a Tab Float. I think that's worse than Diet Coke, really. Being a kid was tough, in other people's homes, having to eat their food. Bad times...


Jul 23, 2011 · 11:48 AM

Good God! You deserve a Nobel prize for this creation. Its funny you mentioned the Flintstone push-pops because that’s what i instantly thought of when I saw the first photo. Oh yes…bookmarked and WELL on the way to being actualized this weekend. Buzzed!

 · Parsley Sage · http://psdeepdish.blogspot.com

Jul 25, 2011 · 11:39 AM

There’s nothing better than a good old fashioned root beer float, in my opinion. It was my treat of choice as a child.

But this Dreamsicle version may come at a close second!

 · Peggy · http://mybflikeitsoimbg.blogspot.com

Jul 25, 2011 · 11:48 AM

Shh don’t tell cause now we hardly have sodas but in Israel they drink lots of it and love Fanta. Sagie loved it when we lived there for a two year stint when he was in Kindergarten . Would probably love this floats too they look fabulous! Ahahaha Bikram baking!

 · foodwanderings · http://www.foodwanderings.blogspot.com

Jul 25, 2011 · 12:29 PM

Not a float in the strictest sense, possibly, but when I moved to Germany I spent a whole Summer eating/drinking lemon sorbet floating in prosecco. It was DIVINE. Try that.

 · Emily @ Darby O'Shea · http://www.darbyoshea.com

Jul 25, 2011 ·  6:33 PM

@Parsley, yeah, Flintstones push ups are where it’s at!!

@Peggy, mark your calendar, I’m posting about the Ultimate Root Beer Float on August 6th.

@Shulie, I am sweating bullets down here!! I don’t normally drink sodas, but I can not resist the fizzy wonder now that it’s so hot outside.

@Emily, we don’t need strict definitions here!!! That sounds outstanding, like a frozen French 75…um, but Italian. Iced Italian 75??


Jul 25, 2011 ·  7:08 PM

I love your traumatic childhood float story! I had a similar experience at a family friend’s house. She put Cheez Whiz on boiled broccoli! I was seven and horrified!

Although she’s given them up now (even though she’s thin as a rail and doesn’t need to watch what she eats), my great-grandmother used to always take me to Braum’s for a Dr. Pepper float. I have one once a year with good vanilla ice cream (and I try to get the cane sugar DP from Texas), because it’s really the only way I like soda!

I used to love those Flintstones push pops, though, so I’ll have to give your float a try.

 · Lauren  · http://laurenhairston.blogspot.com

Jul 26, 2011 ·  9:09 AM

@Lauren, oh, puke! That’s super gross. I remember the first time I had Cheez Whiz, I thought my mouth was dying. It was awful, awful.

Meanwhile, Flintstones push pops made everything better. I wasn’t a big fruit lover as a child, but dang, I loved that orange sherbet situation.


Jul 26, 2011 ·  7:35 PM

Yup, your story reminds me of the time I had to gag down green (lime?) jello with shredded carrots and canned pineapple that a friend’s mother served. Your float is gorgeous!

 · Michelle · http://gourmandistan.com/

Jul 26, 2011 · 10:10 PM

My nephew’s first experience with a root beer float was decidedly less traumatic:

K: Mom-mom, there’s something wrong with my root beer float. Someone put ice cream in it.

My mom had to explain to a five-year-old why it’s a root beer “float”.

 · Hex · 

Jul 27, 2011 ·  7:54 PM

In January, after overindulging through November and December, I was trying to withdraw from goodies and was feeling very deprived. In the fridge was a full leftover bottle of Bailey’s French Vanilla coffee creamer, and newly purchased Waist Watcher’s (diet)root beer. I was hoping for a decent imitation of a black cow, but now it’s my go-to low(er) calorie treat!

 · Trese · 

Jul 28, 2011 ·  9:51 AM

@Michelle that sounds nothing short of horrific. Jello and vegetables are a big no no for me. Blech!

@Hex, squee!! So glad to see you here bro! Your nephew had it pretty easy.

@Trese, who would have thought! Right on.


Aug 03, 2011 ·  2:17 AM

In Australia they are called Ice-cream Spider. Why? God knows.

But it was a blessing, because you knew that with a name like, it had to be something to avoid on the menu.

 · evapple · http://www.stepheva.blogspot.com

Aug 03, 2011 ·  9:33 AM

@Evapple, hahaha, Ice Cream Spider? Yeah, yikes! No thank you.


Aug 06, 2011 ·  4:55 AM

Ice Cream Floats are red neck culinary disasters but Flintstone Push pops aren’t? Something’s amiss. Your float must have been mal.

Thanks for turning me on to Aperol though, now I need me some of that.

 · pwag · 

Aug 12, 2011 ·  1:12 PM

Sans Ice Cream I take Whipped cream vodka, a smidge of vanilla, some OJ and top it off with tonic. Instant alcoholic Orange Dreamsicle! That’s the best kind in my opinion!

 · Kasia · http://www.thecursingcook.com

Aug 12, 2011 · 11:23 PM

@Kasia, lovely!


Mar 07, 2012 ·  7:50 PM

You should try a blackcurrent fanta float…Have only been able to find it in Africa….is wonderful stuff!

 · Suzy · 

Mar 09, 2012 ·  9:51 AM

@Suzy, okay, that is officially on my summer-menu to do list!!


May 24, 2012 ·  6:13 PM

it’s very easy to made. and looks delicious!

 · juliemarg · http://juliegallaher.com/

Jul 18, 2012 ·  4:44 PM

including the actual recipe would be nice.

 · KKR · 

Jul 19, 2012 ·  9:31 AM

@KKR, It’s not much of a recipe: a shot of Aperol, a scoop of ice cream and top it up with orange soda (I like Fanta). Unlike most things in baking, making a float is all about personal preference so I haven’t formalized the recipe any farther than that…


Aug 31, 2012 ·  7:48 PM

Big Red is to die for. You gotta try it!

 ·  Cindy · 

Aug 31, 2012 · 11:23 PM

Cindy, what exactly is Big Red? I have some memories of it from childhood grocery trips on vacation, but I don’t think it’s sold around here….


May 09, 2013 ·  7:25 AM

Oh yes – we call them Orange Dreamsicle Floats. I blogged about them a couple years ago. The only other version we like as much would be rootbeer (A&W!!!).

 · Patricia @ ButterYum · http://butteryum.blogspot.com

May 11, 2013 ·  5:20 PM

@Patricia, great minds think alike!!


Jun 06, 2013 · 10:13 PM

I love Dreamsicles and Aperol and I’ve made a similar float but I love all sorts of them. As a kid I loved vanilla ice cream with red cream soda. Or grape soda. Recently I made a bourbon and hot fudge milk shake that was fabulous so now I’m thinking bourbon and coke float?

 · Barb | Creative Culinary · http://creative-culinary.com

Jun 07, 2013 ·  8:48 AM

Hey Barb!! Oh, yeah! I did a Bourbon and Coke float a while back, using brown sugar bourbon ice cream and Mexican Coke, and of course a shot of bourbon. Good stuff! Booze and ice cream is such a beautiful thing.


Jul 22, 2016 ·  2:48 PM

This looks fabulous, but I can’t find the recipe anywhere. How many parts Fanta, how many parts aperol? Pretty please with ice cream on top ☀️ Hugs from Denmark.

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