Why a Cone Is Better than a Cup, According to Jeni Britton Bauer

updated Dec 17, 2019
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(Image credit: Courtesy of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams)

In the epic ice cream-hosted matchup of cone versus cup, we have to admit we’ve come down on both sides. There’s something to be said for the simplicity of the cup. It’s a neat and tidy vessel (no risk of sticky drips here!) for the main attraction: ice cream.

On the other hand, cones offer zero waste and they add another dimension to your eating experience: Making sure you don’t have a case of runaway ice cream takes technique and focus. And then there’s the cone itself — crunchy and slightly sugary, it’s definitely a suitable mate for your flavor of choice.

So, is one really better than the other? The answer is yes, according to Jeni Britton Bauer.

(Image credit: Courtesy of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams)

To say that we’re fans of Jeni’s ice creams is an understatement. We love all her flavors, which can be nostalgic or unexpected, complex and downright gorgeous, but we are especially enthusiastic about her seasonal releases. Every year, with giddy child-like anticipation, we await pints like Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk and Sun-Popped Corn — basically summer in ice cream form.

But the founder of the cult ice cream company didn’t set out to make ice cream. “I got into ice cream making because I wanted to be a perfumer,” she explains. And her background blending perfumes has informed how she thinks of ice creams — not so much as flavors, but as scents.

“I’m doing a lot of using butterfat to carry scent,” she says. “It’s something I’ve always done; the thing that’s new now is that I have access to ingredients that I couldn’t have had before. Super high-quality essential oils. I can tell a lot more of those flavor stories.”

Of course, she notes, “you can lock in scent in, but you won’t be able to smell it with your nose.” Try sniffing a scoop of ice cream and you’ll just end up with a cold nose. But “because butterfat melts two degrees below body temperature, it will start to relax immediately in your mouth. It melts on contact and volatilizes into your nose.”

Which brings us back to our original debate: Cone or cup?

For Jeni, it’s always a cone, but not for the cone itself. Rather, it’s because a cone is the perfect vehicle for “smelling” ice cream: “When you lick off a cone, your tongue gets the perfect amount of ice cream. You have olfactory receptors behind your nose, in your mouth, and you get to experience sense from this other place. You’re really smelling it from the back side of your nose.”

Where do you stand on the issue? Do you prefer to eat your ice cream in a cup or in a cone?