Grand Hotel Pecan Ball
Updated: Jul 24, 2021
Ahh, the famous Pecan Ball at Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel. So simple, and yet, so beloved for all its ooey, gooey
deliciousness. What could be simpler than vanilla ice cream rolled in pecans and setting in a puddle of fudge? And yet, it just might be its utter simplicity that makes it so popular. In fact, so popular that the Grand Hotel sells 70,000 of them a year between the Main Dining Room at the Grand Hotel, The Jockey Club, The Woods, The Gate House and Sadie's Ice Cream Parlor.
I woke up at 6 am with a craving. David found me at the kitchen counter in my jammies rolling vanilla ice cream into giant balls. My fingers were so frozen they could barely move, but I managed to get a few blobs of ice cream into something resembling a sphere and popped them in the freezer to set.
Then I toasted the pecans. I decided to chop them first and then cook them so they would have lots of surface area to get all toasty.
I tasted one and wasn't excited. Now, don't get me wrong. I would likely never turn away a bite of toasted pecans with some fudge and ice cream, but this morning I was craving something more. I wanted more to offset the sugar in the fudge. Something complex. Immediately I thought of adding bourbon to the hot fudge. Is it weird to think about bourbon at 6 am? But I knew that the sharp smoky taste of bourbon would really engage my palette. And what goes better with bourbon than citrusy orange? Think Old Fashioned.
The next batch of pecans I toasted had orange zest, sugar and butter added to them. As they sizzled in the pan, I realized I might just have to do two recipes to really do justice to this blog. One for the original recipe, and another one with a more modern twist. A friend told me last night that being inspired by the Island, not simply duplicating the recipes that are here would be much more exciting. So this is my attempt at Island inspiration.
David was pretty excited when I announced we were going to research the pecan ball for lunch. If he had any questions about this blog, (and he really doesn't) they were laid to rest with this project. He loves being a test bunny. So, we hopped on our bikes and went to see our favorite waiter at the Jockey Club.
Alvin actually served me a Grand Hotel Pecan Ball on his head. He walked all the way from the kitchen, without using his hands, balancing that icy, cold dish right on the top of his bare head. When he got across the patio to where I was seated, he stooped down to my level and then grandly presented the frozen dessert. This tradition of carrying special desserts and drinks on the waiters heads has delighted Jockey Club guests for years.
The popular dessert was everything it promised to be. Refreshing on this warm afternoon. Creamy. Chocolaty. And enough pecans for salt and crunch in every bite. My take on the Grand Hotel Pecan Ball recipe is below and some fun pictures of the whole experience. Keep in mind though that the fudge recipe is a secret, so I've provided a recipe for my hot fudge instead. And Ohh My! This recipe for hot fudge is so creamy. I can never decide if I will have it with ice cream or just all by itself straight out of the pan.
I've also provided a recipe for a Candied Orange Pecan Ball with Bourbon Hot Fudge. This is a more complicated riff on the Grand Hotel's creation, just in case your taste buds are craving something more modern. The orange candied pecans are divine by the way. If you have any left over make sure and use them on your next cheese board.
It promises to be a very warm summer and I hope you'll make at least one version of these Pecan Balls. When you do, post a picture. I look forward to seeing what you've done.
And hey, if you liked this article, share it with your friends, please. I appreciate your support.