12 Things You Need To Know Before Eating Carvel Ice Cream
All ice cream shops serve up scoops in various flavors, but since the beginning, Carvel has gone above and beyond. Find out how a $15 loan led to a global ice cream empire — including the invention of a certain whale-shaped ice cream cake that we all know and love.
At a young age, Tom Carvel moved from Greece to a farm in Connecticut, where he raised chickens and grew up with his six brothers and sisters. When he was 28 years old, he borrowed $15 from his future wife, Agnes, to purchase his first ice cream truck in 1929 — and that’s where it all started.
Carvel’s truck got a flat tire one day, and while selling the quickly melting ice cream, he learned that his customers actually loved the softer frozen treats, which sparked the idea of creating “soft serve.” Carvel set to work building a special freezer that would churn out his creamy, lighter version of ice cream, which he eventually got a patent for.
Carvel opened his first ice cream stand at the spot where his truck broke down in Hartsdale, New York. His “Custard King” machine was key to getting the right ice cream texture, so he began selling the “no air pump” super-low temperature freezers. He later became the first person to franchise a retail ice cream shop in 1947.
Following his “Custard King” patent, Carvel initiated patents for many other items that he invented, including the round ice cream sandwich called the Flying Saucer, which was introduced in 1951. The cookies from the sandwich are crumbled up and mixed with Carvel’s chocolate dip to make the crumbly layers in their famous cakes.
The unique ice cream cakes designed to look like characters have become a trademark of Carvel. In addition to “Hug Me the Bear” and “Dumpy the Pumpkin,” one of the more memorable items has always been Cookie Puss. As the story goes, Cookie Puss is an alien that originally went by the name Celestial Person. The Beastie Boys even wrote a song named after CP.
The best-known ice cream cake character is Fudgie the Whale — a creation that was dreamed up for Father’s Day back in 1977. The name came about when the company tried photographing the cake for promotion and the whale’s tale kept breaking off. They covered the cake with chocolate to keep it intact, and an icon was born … or frosted. Fudgie celebrated his 40th birthday in 2017.
Carvel comes up with original ideas for customers to try for several holidays and celebrations throughout the year, and some of them might look a bit familiar. The classic Fudgie the Whale cake shape gets disguised and transformed into bunny rabbits for Easter and even Santa Claus around Christmastime.
In 1983, the SNL cast poked a bit of fun at Tom Carvel’s ice cream inventions (as well as his gravelly voice). An ice cream vendor introduces sexy, holiday cakes like Jolly Jugs, Jingle Bun,s and Santa Snowballs as a silly jab at Fudgie the Whale and other Carvel characters.
Ice cream lovers interested in opening a Carvel franchise have to go through a special training program. Originally a 14-day process, the schooling took place at Carvel College of Ice Cream Knowledge (also known as Sundae School).
Over the years, Carvel has used its mass amounts of ice cream to claim some titles in the Guinness Book of World Records. In 2002, the chain put together the largest ice cream scoop pyramid, and in 2004, built the world’s largest ice cream cake in honor of the brand’s 70th anniversary.
Carvel keeps ice cream connoisseurs who think they know just what they like on their toes by surprising them with brand-new flavors on the regular. Some of their freshest offerings have bits of Heath, Reese’s or Oreos mixed in, or are inspired by other popular ingredients, like Andes mints, Nutella and Biscoff cookie butter.
Every year, Carvel ushers in the summer season by giving away tons of free soft serve. Keep an eye out for Free Cone Day announcements and take advantage of junior-size cones, on the house, at participating locations.