Stax's Donut Ice Cream Sandwiches Are as Tasty as They Are Insta-Worthy
When we're on the hunt for a tasty dessert, the way it looks can be just as important as how good it will taste.
That's something Vida Feng had in mind when she co-created New York City's Stax Ice Cream alongside her college friend Sophie Gao. The popular dessert spot specializes in luscious ice cream sandwiches made with homemade donuts, and every item on the menu is worthy of posting to Instagram.
We got the opportunity to speak with Vida and find out about everything from how Stax got started to what she considers the tastiest thing on the menu—and the tasty but underrated treats that sometimes get neglected.
Vida Feng: In college, we started making homemade ice cream and cakes for fun, mostly for parties and birthdays. It didn't grow into something more until after I graduated. Our friends encouraged us a lot and made us feel like we should take a shot at opening our own shop.
Making ice cream is super fun. That's what got us into this business in the first place. You can be creative and inventive as you want and stick to something simple, or tweak it to make it special. If you get a scoop of vanilla from one shop and a scoop from another, they're going to be different even though it's the most basic, simple flavor.
Creating the Flavors
VF: We started with only ice cream on the menu. Our true passion lies in creating fun flavors, often inspired by our Asian American roots. In New York City, there's a plethora of ice cream shops, but in Chinatown and Lower East Side, most shops are geared toward either very American flavors or very Asian-centric ones. Since we've lived here all our lives, we wanted to create something that embodied both cultures, meshing Eastern and Western together to give our customers a little taste of both.
We added donuts to stand out and incorporate something fun, and also because they're an American classic. We both grew up loving donuts, but most people eat them on their own. In Asian culture, we like pairing hot and cold foods. That's how we came up with the idea of a donut sandwich, toasting the donut for a few seconds so the outside is a little toasty and warm, but the inside is cold with ice cream.
Most Insta-Worthy Desserts
VF: Desserts, especially ones that are colorful and pretty and picturesque, are so on trend. You eat with the camera first. Most people are drawn in by the Cremella, our donut ice cream sandwich. The specials are usually the most Instagram-worthy because the donuts are paired with fun flavors and colors. Our most popular is probably the U-Bae. Ube is this bright purple yam, and the ice cream is paired with condensed milk, which is really popular in Asian desserts, and a crunchy, colorful fruity pebble topping and toasted coconut.
We also recently launched unicorn-themed ice cream cakes, which also come in mini sizes, like a gigantic cupcake. The cakes have this golden horn, and inside you also get two liters of ice cream. We usually use a layer of ube and a layer of fruity pebble ice cream, so it's pink and purple inside.
VF: If I had to pick one favorite flavor, it would be strawberry creme. I know that sounds really basic, but I grew up loving strawberry. It was my go-to flavor—my vanilla. When we created our own strawberry flavor, we definitely wanted to do something that wasn't just a syrup or flavoring, because it's so easy for those to go wrong. Ours actually uses fresh strawberries. When we can't get our hands on fresh strawberries in the off-season, we'll take that flavor off the menu entirely. It has fresh strawberries blended in, and then you have vanilla shortcake crumbles inside, so it tastes like a really creamy strawberry shortcake with a little kick of vanilla. That's my weakness and I always recommend it at the counter or for catering orders.
Most Underrated Dessert
VF: We sell donuts individually, but we don't get too many orders of them because people are so focused on the ice cream, cakes and sandwiches. In the donut sandwich, we can only offer glazed, unglazed or chocolate, but we also have other donuts on the menu, including a nutella flavor. We don't want to contaminate the slicer with any nut-based treats. We also have a panda-themed donut and other animal characters that are a lot of fun.
Making a Connection
VF: The most fulfilling part of creating Stax has been seeing it come together after we've both put our whole hearts and souls into it. It's was so rewarding watching it fully come to life and serving our first customer. Sophie and I are still very hands-on in the shop. We take turns so one of us is always there. Working behind the counter and being one of the staff really speaks to me. I love seeing the reactions of the customers and making a human connection with them.
Can't wait to share your own delicious Cremella pics? Click HERE for some tasty captions for every pic of a donut you post on Instagram.