Bow Down to Atlanta's Ice Queen
Cora Cotrim, 30, does things the hard way—at least when it comes to ice cream. The Brazil native, who has resided in Atlanta since age 9, is the founder of handmade ice cream company Queen of Cream. She and her small team work out of an eponymous ice cream shop in the historic Old Fourth Ward neighborhood (where MLK Jr. grew up), creating inventive flavor combinations like lavender honeycomb, blueberry cornbread and Turkish delight with rosewater and pistachios, all onsite. They were, and continue to be, the only local ice cream company making their sweet treats totally from scratch.
Though she didn’t know it back then, Cotrim’s been prepping for her current gig since she was 13. That’s when she landed her first job—as an ice cream scooper. “You’re supposed to be 14 to be allowed to work,” she explains. “My birthday was in two months, and I talked them into it.”
That drive and moxie has served her well. Since she first hit the scene as an underage scooper, Cotrim has continued working from one to three jobs at a time, mostly in the service industry, until finding her niche as a pastry chef.
“When I started doing that, I realized that I was actually really good at it,” she says. “It came to me naturally. It kind of just found me.”
After honing her skills at a handful of notable Atlanta spots, Cotrim (along with friend Davis Sandling, who oversees operations and sales) launched Queen of Cream’s seasonal mobile cart in the summer of 2014.In late 2015 they opened a brick-and-mortar year-round shop, a home to make and sell their product.
Ice cream making remains hands-on at Queen of Cream: Eggs must be tempered, milk has to be pasteurized, and temperatures need to be recorded to comply with Department of Agriculture standards. “Our day is a lot of dealing with large buckets of heavy, hot milk, but the process between hot milk to ice cream takes about three to four days,” Cotrim says.
This gives the products time to mature, spin, freeze overnight and, finally, become cone-scooping ready. The pasteurization process is particularly time consuming—regulations require Cotrim to re-pasteurize her already-pasteurized milk—which she says is why most other ice cream companies buy ingredients from a dairy manufacturer.
“It does take more time,” she says, “but you have so much more control, because you can’t add certain things to the mix that you buy. Making it yourself, you can put whatever you want in there at whatever ratio you want.”
While her commitment to quality makes Queen of Cream a community standout, it also allows for experimentation and growing their flavor roster. They work with a dozen or so Southeast farmers to source fresh ingredients, resulting in about four new flavors (out of the 12 available in the shop at any given time) every month. Southern specialties like brown butter pecan often grace the menu board.
“We kind of guide ourselves depending on the season,” Cotrim says. “In the winter, we do a lot of baked goods. In the summertime, we play with what’s around, like berries and fruits. We work with a local farmer who gives us herbs that we use to infuse in the cream. We also try to make a better version of something that’s already classic, like a turtle fudge brownie.”
She’s developed a close enough relationship with certain farmers that she can even request specially grown items for Queen of Cream, like limes or basil.
On the horizon, Cotrim wants to expand her brand in Atlanta and nationwide. As for how she stays committed to keeping her ice cream completely made from scratch, using grass-fed, organic ingredients? She says it’s all about offering the best product possible.
“There’s ice cream everywhere. It’s been around. We just want to make it a little more special and better in quality.”
Queen of Cream: 701 Highland Ave. NE, Atlanta; 404.331.0807
Local Taste: SUNNYSIDE SCOOPS
Longtime Sunnyside resident Tavia Kowalchuk started her small-batch, preservative-free ice cream company while participating in the inaugural Jamaica FEASTS incubator program for food entrepreneurs at Queens Library, and debuted her homemade flavors at Taste of Sunnyside in the summer of 2017. You can try Bliss Street Creamery’s inventive flavors made with organic ingredients, like blueberry buffalo (made with decadent and silky buffalo-milk ricotta cheese) and pink peppercorn (made with roasted local strawberries) at popup events, or order from the website for pickup at Bing’s Gifts in Sunnyside.