The Potato-Emulating Dessert That Took 40 Years To Perfect

From its aroma to its visual appeal, food is a sensory delight in so many ways other than taste. For those that like to play with their food, it can be a fun endeavor to craft dishes that resemble other things. For example, think of the classic birthday party cakes of our childhoods that were cut up, cloaked in colored shredded coconut, and shaped to resemble elephants, dogs, and other animals (via Hoboken Historical Museum), or of the more classical example of marzipan, a centuries-old sweetened almond paste that's traditionally dyed and sculpted into colorful miniature fruits (via Serious Eats).

The "fake out" food category of foods that look like other foods is actually a pretty expansive one, and few mediums seem to take to it better than ice cream. After all, who doesn't remember chowing down on a Choco Taco with its folded sugar cone filled with chocolate-swirled vanilla ice cream that resembled a taco (via Klondike)? In Germany, a traditional fake-out ice cream is the spaghettieis sundae, in which vanilla ice cream is passed through a ricer in order to make "noodles," then topped with strawberry sauce to look like a plate of spaghetti with tomato sauce (via International Desserts Blog). And in the U.S., you may have come across a frozen dessert called the ice cream potato, which does its darnedest — and often succeeds — to masquerade as a baked potato piled with sour cream.

Hailing from Idaho, the ice cream potato is 40 years in the making

A starchy staple beloved across the world, the humble potato might be more adored in Idaho than anywhere else in the world. Idaho grows the most potatoes per year of any U.S. state, producing about a third of what the nation eats, according to the Idaho State Department of Agriculture. As you can imagine, potatoes are kind of a big deal in the state, with the capital of Boise offering visitors the opportunity to sleep in a potato-shaped Airbnb as well as chow down on six types of French fries at the Boise Fry Company chain. And it was in that city where, around 40 years ago, the ice cream potato was first created (via Today).

At Boise's retro Westside Drive-In, customers can order an oblong ball of vanilla ice cream rolled in cocoa powder, topped with whipped cream, showered with bits of chocolate cookies, and served on a pool of chocolate. The dessert concoction is meant to look like a baked potato crowned with sour cream that has freshly emerged from the dirt. It is a dessert that Westside chef Lou Aaron was taught how to make by a chef he worked for many decades ago.

The vanilla version of the potato has been the winner

According to Today, after learning the ice cream potato concept many decades ago from a chef he worked for, Chef Lou Aaron was given permission by the chef to "adopt" the potato and create it at his establishments. After bringing the dessert to Boise's Westside Drive-In, Aaron experimented with different versions, including maple nut and cookies-and-cream ice cream interiors. But the vanilla version served today has been the winner and has been going strong for more than 30 years.

The drive-in serves about 1,000 ice cream potatoes a month and can serve as many as 10,000 during the nine days of the annual late-summer Western Idaho Fair. But if you're craving one of these creations, you don't need to travel to Idaho for it. Martha StewartSandra Lee, and Emmymade have homemade versions of the potato online. So if you're looking to fake out your friends, add some vanilla ice cream, cocoa powder, and whipped cream to your shopping list and have some fun in the kitchen.