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For this dose of creative vision, we begin the week with a favorite summer treat (or, a year round treat when you live 3 blocks from Mario’s Gelato like we do): strawberry ice cream. But don’t be fooled, this is not the edible kind. Well, technically it is edible, but I don’t think it would taste very good and I’m certain it would give you a week-long stomach ache. What you’re looking at here is fake ice cream, and it’s what is used most of the time when food photographers are shooting ice cream, unless it’s an ad for the product itself, then their job gets a whole lot harder as it has to be the real thing.

Vision here was simple, and fully inspired by the vintage green glass sundae dishes: old school ice cream parlour. Back-lit with natural light was a must to highlight the top of the scoop and shine through the glass dishes, and reflectors were needed to bounce that backlight onto the front of the set-up (one large white reflector camera left, another camera right, basically forming a 90 degree angle, with my camera poking in between). And selective focus was used to give the front dish prominence, and knock the second dish out of focus, becoming background interest. As you’ll see below, I tried out different things with the strawberry garnish and cookie props on the table surface, but settled on 2 round jelly-centered cookies with a strawberry fan for garnish.


© 2008 Jackie Connelly

The beauty of the fake stuff is that (a) it doesn’t melt, (b) with the right scoop it ‘barks’ better than the real thing ~ I’ll get to that in a minute, and (c) it keeps in your cupboard forever.

Here is the recipe that I use for fake ice cream:

• 1/2 cup corn syrup (such as Karo or White Lily)

• 1/2 cup vegetable shortening (such as Crisco)

• lots and lots of icing sugar, at least a 1lb bag

*for colour: fruit (here I used frozen strawberries to get the little seeds in my final shot), cocoa or food colouring (just remember, a little goes a long way).

To make: First, in a mixer or with a hand blender (or even by hand) mix your corn syrup and vegetable shortening together. Then slowly add your icing sugar in small doses and continue stirring. You’ll know you’ve added enough icing sugar when the consistency is dry and fairly stiff, but too much will make it crumbly. You’ll know it’s just right because those cracks the scoop of ice cream gets when you scoop it out is called ‘barking’, and is key to making fake ice cream look great. Fill the contents of your bowl into sealed ziploc bags and stash in the freezer overnight. In the morning you should have a rather hard ziploc bag of fake ice cream. Stores well in fridge. * I will also suggest a stainless steel ice cream scoop with the release lever, I like mine made by Good Grips.

Have you got a different recipe? Did you use something else that worked well? Leave a comment and share it with everyone.

Happy scooping!

~ j