By Helen Mitternight
When Cynthia Wong and Mary Oster get together, they share an affinity for puns and “stupid jokes.” Fortunately for us, they don’t just laugh at their jokes, they make ice cream out of them.
Cynthia, known until a few months ago as the genius behind the clever sweet desserts at Butcher & Bee, and Mary, her partner in sweet crime, have opened Life Raft Treats.
“When Cynthia came up with the idea for ice cream, it was right up my alley,” Mary says. “I’m obsessed with ice cream. It’s been in my life a very long time. It seemed like it was the next step.”
Photo by Ferris Kaplin
The treats include what has become a trademark – the tiny drumstick that is not fried chicken at all but rather is waffle cone ice cream shaped like something you’d get from KFC. Another regular is the KungFu Taco, a sorbet made from yuzu (a taste cross between a grapefruit and a lime) encased in a waffle cone taco, dipped in dark chocolate and speckled with coconut flakes.
The whimsy is reflected in their titles.
Cynthia is the Grand Chancellor for the company; Mary is the Pastry Overlord.
“The titles are on-brand,” Mary says. “Like our ice cream, there’s a little joke in there with everything.”
Demand for the quirky and delicious ice cream has grown so fast that the Chancellor and the Overlord may soon have minions or underlings.
“We are really lucky to have had so much support from the community,” Cynthia says.
The two women make 700 to 1,000 treats a week out of a portion of the Salt House Catering kitchen they’ve rented, and they’ve already almost outgrown the space.
“We’re trying to figure out how to make supply meet demand,” Cynthia says. “We’re looking actively for a storefront to keep up with daily demand.”
And, if the company does grow big enough for those underlings, Mary says, “Everyone’s title will be determined…”
“…by the Life Raft sorting hat,” Cynthia finishes.
They don’t need the sorting hat for new flavor ideas, which spring up like the banter between the two.
“We throw ideas back and forth,” Mary says. “Sometimes it comes from an ingredient like the yuzu and sometimes it’s a name we randomly thought of and we work backwards to make a treat to fit that name because it’s too good to give up. We test and test until we come up with something everyone would love.”
It takes about two weeks for the pair to develop a new flavor. Besides the drumstick and the KungFu Taco, the menu includes seasonal treats. The strawberry shortcake ice cream sandwich, for example, has become a blueberry oatmeal ice cream sandwich. Life Raft also offers dairy-free and gluten-free chocolate sorbet.
“I was a little hesitant originally,” Cynthia says. “The bar has to be really high for things that are gluten-free and dairy-free. It has to be something that people would want to eat even if they didn’t have to eat that way. But we’ve developed something that good with our chocolate sorbet.”
For those few souls who won’t eat ice cream all year, Cynthia and Mary say they plan to produce pies for Thanksgiving and Buche du Noel at Christmas.
But really, why wouldn’t anyone eat ice cream all year?
“Even in cold weather, I still want ice cream,” Mary says. “There’s always room for ice cream.”
Life Raft Treats can be found some Tuesdays from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. at Edmund’s Oast Brewery at a pop-up along with Short Grain, at the Sunday Brunch Farmer’s Market on James Island, and in rotating flavors of affogato at Second State Coffee as well as at several local festivals throughout the summer. The schedule is always posted on their Instagram @life.raft.treats.