Jen Cumberbatch, Founder & Owner / Cumberbatch's Sweet Tater Torte

“That’s what we do, we break bread. It’s in our culture, this has been passed down in my family.”

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

I was completely taken by Jen Cumberbatch when I first sat down to speak to her. The woman has such a delightful presence and is so poised when she speaks of the beginnings of Cumberbatch’s Sweet Tater Torte. Not only is she the founder of these delicious concoctions, she’s also an actress, mother of four, and a pastor.

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

Her grandfather was the oldest son in his family - with four other siblings to take care of. He dropped out of prep school to help his sister  with her catering businesses in order to put the others through school. During his time catering, he passed down the recipe for a sweet potato torte to Jen’s aunts. Jen learned of the recipe from her Aunt Lou and it quickly became a staple during the holidays. The Cumberbatch’s moved to Austin after college and have been a staple in the community since then.

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

She was inspired by dinner at her mentoring pastor’s house when a Cajun woman presented her pie. With the inspiration of her great grandfather’s souffle and that pie, she tinkered away until she perfected her own recipe. She presented her tortes to the public almost thirty years ago, working out of the kitchen of Hyde Park Bar & Grill. Eventually, the tortes were put on the back burner until recently.

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

As of October of last year, Jen has brought them back, mainly for holidays and hoping to start shipping her famed family recipe. She believes that storytelling through food is a powerful medium to evoke higher thinking and most of all, a better human connection.

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photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

Ashley Cheng, Owner & Partner / SPUN Ice Cream

“It was important to them that we went and got educations and didn’t end up in the food industry but somehow we did.”

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

The industry runs in the family, Ashely Cheng fully admits. The family landed in Austin in the seventies, with the help of her great uncle, a former math professor at Huston-Tillotson University, sponsoring their move. Looking back on it now, Ashley beams at the closeness of proximity between the SPUN Ice Cream flagship store and Huston-Tillotson in East Austin.

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

Her father owns Chinatown in the Bee Caves area (where she and her siblings learned the ways of industry, hands on) and her aunt owns Freda’s, a Cajun-influenced North Austin restaurant. She and her sister Christina, focused on degrees that weren’t based in the industry (Ashley went to Boston University and Christina went to UT after a stint at the University of Chicago). After a few years in journalism, Christina decided to get back in the family business and earned her pastry certificate from Le Cordon Bleu.

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

With the help of their cousin, Christopher, they opened SPUN in 2015. The trio manage the ice cream shop, with their focus on liquid nitrogen ice cream. “It’s not just a gimmick, it has a different texture. The ingredients are really fresh”, she says. Their focus of local and fresh ingredients and made from scratch mentality sets SPUN apart from other shops. Along with their flagship store on the East Side, they just opened their second location at the Domain along with their ice cream truck. “There’s so much room for creativity in the ice cream world. We focus on nostalgic, childhood flavors we grew up on”, Ashley points out. Not only does SPUN make it fun to play with your food, they tug at your heart strings with childhood flavor combos made for grown palettes.

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi