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Charcoal soft serve and more must-try ice cream trends

There are so many tempting new ways to eat ice cream, including fish-shaped cones, cotton candy cups, and goth-looking activated charcoal.
/ Source: TODAY

The over-the-top milkshakes covered in candy that were all the rage a year ago now seem so passé.

They've made way for fish-shaped cones, cotton candy cups, and goth-looking activated charcoal ice cream, among other hot new ice cream trends. Amanda Kludt, Editor in Chief of Eater, stopped by TODAY to show off some of the coolest ice cream trends to check out this summer.

Visually stunning ice cream styles

Fish-shaped ice cream cones: Taiyaki is a traditional Japanese fish-shaped cake that’s usually filled with red bean paste. It's been available in Japan and Japanese communities for decades. But over the last year a number of spots — including Taiyaki NYC in New York’s Chinatown, Ice and Pan in Queens, New York, and Uji Time in Berkeley and San Francisco, as well as shops in Australia — started drawing lines and attention for their soft serve-filled taiyaki and strong Instagram games. Taiyaki NYC makes their version on specially made griddles, tweaks the usually cakey recipe to have a crispier consistency, and fills the tails with red bean paste or custard before filling the rest with soft serve and topping with fruit or mochi.

Puffle cones: Bubble waffles, also known as puffles, puffle cones, eggettes, egg puffs, egg cakes or gai daan zai are a traditional Hong Kong street snack that have become newly popular in the United States, thanks to their novel and Instagramable shape. They are made on a special griddle with a sweet egg-based batter, and the holes can be filled if desired. While the original Hong Kong snack of the 1950s was served plain, modern variations — served in Hong Kong and also in Boston, Portland, New York and Montreal — are filled with ice cream and covered in sauces, candy, and colorful toppings.

Ice cream wrapped with cotton candy
Ice cream wrapped with cotton candy delivers a serious sugar rush. zoe.polouchkine/Instagram

Cotton candy clouds: What’s more heavenly for the rainbow-addicted hordes of Instagram than a big fluffy swirl of cotton candy? How about a swirl of cotton candy adorning or surrounding a bowl of ice cream? New York’s Wu Kong and Oddfellows, San Francisco’s HoneyCreme, and London’s Soft Serve Society and Milk Train Cafe all employ cotton candy (or candyfloss to the Brits) to add a bit of extra flair to soft serve or hard ice cream.

Chelo Creamery's trendiest dessert is the Thai rolled ice cream
Chelo Creamery serves up trendy Thai rolled ice cream.Samantha Okazaki / TODAY

Ice cream goes beyond the bowl

Thai rolled ice cream: Thai rolled ice cream is this decade’s answer to Cold Stone Creamery. A street staple of Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia and the Philippines for at least eight years, this dessert began popping up all over America in 2015 and is now everywhere from Austin to Boston, New Orleans to Vegas. To make it, a liquid base is poured onto a hyper cold anti-griddle, mixed with flavorings, allowed to harden and then scraped into rolls with a spatula. This is another one that is made for Instagram.

Mochi ice cream: Mochi ice cream — sticky rice dough surrounding a globe of ice cream — has been around since the '90s, but it’s reached such a level of popularity that there are now self-serve mochi bars in Whole Foods and you can get it shipped to you online.

Morgenstern's Finest Ice Cream in New York City has been swirling their signature Black Coconut Ash flavor since 2016.
Morgenstern's Finest Ice Cream in New York City has been swirling their signature Black Coconut Ash flavor since 2016.Morgenstern's Finest Ice Cream

Ice cream with savory and unusual flavors

Black activated charcoal ice cream: What’s the antidote to the rainbow and unicorns of Instagram? How about jet-black ice cream served in a black cone? That’s what Little Damage’s serves in Los Angeles with their almond and charcoal soft serve. New York’s Morgenstern’s and Seattle’s Frankie & Jo's use activated charcoal in their gothic black coconut ash flavors. Long a trendy ingredient among detox enthusiasts, activated charcoal is finding new popularity on Instagram. Despite it's shocking hue, the charcoal is almost flavorless.

Savory flavors and spice combos: This summer, savory flavors are going mainstream. Morgenstern’s serves banana curry and salt and pepper pine nut, Il Laboratorio del Gelato has cheddar cheese, wasabi and tarragon gelato flavors. You can also buy toasted rice ice cream from Noona’s in New York, which also has a flavor that combines cinnamon, ginger, peppercorn and pear. There's blue cheese and pear from Salt & Straw in Portland, Los Angeles and San Francisco; goat cheese and red cherries from nationally available Jeni’s; and beet, strawberry and rose from Frankie & Jo's.

New takes on low-cal ice cream

Every generation has its low-cal dessert favorite, and right now people are going crazy for Halo Top. It scratches the ice cream itch, providing the intense flavor and creaminess you crave, with a fraction of the calories plus a protein punch.