Miami's Azucar Transforms Cuban Desserts Into Ice Cream

Suzy Batlle fondly remembers enjoying the ice cream her grandmother made. The sweet treats were made from Cuban and Central and South American fruits. "It was something that brought my family together," she told Food & Wine.

During the 2008 financial crisis, Batlle — then a banker — began playing with the idea of making her own ice cream at home. With encouragement from her own children, Batlle enrolled in formal classes to learn more about ice cream making. After graduating from the ice cream programs at Penn State and the Frozen Dessert Institute, she opened her first store — Azucar Ice Cream Company.

The shop, located in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood, began scooping and serving unique flavors to customers, and Batlle hasn't looked back since. Made from locally sourced and seasonal produce plucked straight from Floridian farms, the ice cream at Azucar is as authentic as they come, and the colorful environment keeps customers coming back for more.

What makes Azucar special

Apart from the bright, vibrant appeal of the store, what attracts people to Azucar are the special flavors. Some of Batlle's unique ice creams give visitors a glimpse into the tastes of her own childhood, like caramel flan and café con leche — which is reinterpreted into Cuban coffee ice cream with Oreo cookies. Her success with the Miami location inspired her to open a second location in Dallas, Texas. Through reinvention and an added delivery service, Batlle continues to bring Cuban-inspired flavors to Southern ice cream lovers. 

Azucar's Dallas branch is a close duplicate of the original Miami store, with everything, including the plastic-covered chairs, stirring up memories of Batlle's own upbringing.  "For me, Cuban ice cream was about going back to my roots and making traditional flavors as Cuban as possible," she told Food & Wine, admitting that it isn't always easy to track down the ingredients needed to make her one-of-a-kind flavors.

But that hasn't deterred the ice cream maker from going bold with her recipes. For example, Burn in Hell Fidel, made after Fidel Castro's death, is chocolate ice cream laced with cayenne — a pairing of spicy and sweet.

Unique ice cream flavors

Batlle intentionally uses ingredients associated with Cuba to make her ice creams. "It's about putting a little taste of home into every flavor we come up with," she said to Food & Wine. The list of flavors available at Azucar is extensive. Batlle created one of her best-selling ice creams, Abuela Maria, based on a beloved Cuban snack made of guava, cream cheese, and Maria cookies. The result is a delicious vanilla and guava ice cream blend with bits of crushed cookies and cream cheese.

While Azucar regularly scoops up fan favorites all year long — flavors like Cuban vanilla, corn, sweet plantain, and coconut flan — seasonal specials also grace the menu. When placed into the serving rotation, The God Father presents olive oil ice cream, orange zest, and dark chocolate to visitors, and Guarapiña is made up of sugarcane and pineapple. Servings of sweet potato ancho chile chocolate chip or the Mamacita, made with orange blossoms and almonds, keep local visitors returning for more scoops. For those craving fruity flavors, mango or avocado are seasonal options that make for smooth, sweet snacks.