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The Quick 10: 10 of the Most Expensive Desserts Ever

For me, there's nothing better than warm chocolate chip cookies out of the oven to satisfy a sweet tooth. If your tastes run a little more expensive, don't worry - there's something for you, too.

1. Golden Opulence Sundae. Long touted as the most expensive sundae in the world, this sweet treat from Serendipity 3 in New York will set you back $1,000. Instead of toppings like sprinkles (jimmies, to some of you) and cherries, Serendipity serves up candied fruits, gold-covered almonds, chocolate truffles, Grande Passion caviar, a gilded sugar flower and syrup made from one of the world's most expensive chocolates.
You also get to keep the Baccarat crystal goblet the Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream is served in.

2. Sometimes, though, a $1,000 sundae just seems a little too plebeian, doesn't it? On days when you really want to blow a your salary on some sweet, check out the $3333.33 banana split offered by Three Twins in Napa. It comes drenched in syrups made from rare dessert wines, and if you give the shop advance notice that you're going to purchase it, they'll hire a cellist to play while you nosh. Three Twins donates $1111.11 of every banana split purchase to a local land trust.

3. That's not even the most expensive offering from Three Twins. They also offer a $60,000 ice cream sundae ($85,000 for two) made from glacial ice from Mount Kilimanjaro. Oh, yeah - purchase price also includes first class airfare to Tanzania, five-star accommodations, a guided climb, all the ice cream you can eat and an organic T-shirt. "Five figures" of your purchase goes directly to an African environmental non-profit.

4. If you have a cool grand burning a hole in your pocket, but ice cream isn't really your thing (what?!), never fear: the Sultan's Golden Cake can satisfy your urges. It's a dish at the Ciragan Palace, a five-star hotel in Istanbul, and it takes 72 hours to make. It includes figs, quince, apricot and pears that have been enjoying a two-year dip in Jamaican Rum. It's then topped with caramel, black truffles and a gold leaf.

5. Serendipity 3 offers another luxury dessert called the "Frrozen Haute Chocolate," a blend of 28 cocoas, including 14 of the most expensive powders from around the world. It also includes five grams of edible 23-karat gold, but the kicker is probably the 18-karat gold bracelet with a carat of diamonds that decorates the base of the goblet. You don't eat that part, of course. Another non-edible is the golden spoon studded with white and chocolate-colored diamonds, and yep, you get to take that home.

6. More for the chocolate lovers - Chocopologie is a store that sells what we think is the most expensive chocolate truffle in the world. It's $5,000 a kilogram, but you can buy a single truffle for just $250. They're located in Norwalk, Connecticut.

7. The Fortress Stilt Fisherman Indulgence dessert at the Fortress Sri Lanka hotel sounds amazing - it's gold leaf cassata containing mango and pomegranate with a fisherman sculpted out of chocolate on the side. But something tells me most of the $14,500 purchase price is going toward the 80-carat aquamarine stone the chocolate fisherman is holding.

8. Likewise, I'm sure the bulk of the $130,000 price of the Platinum Cake designed by a Japanese pastry chef is due to the fact that the multi-tiered confection is adorned with platinum jewelry, including necklaces, brooches, pendants and hair pins. I feel like draping a dessert with jewelry and calling it "The world's most expensive cake" or whatever is sort of cheating. What's to stop someone from plopping the Hope Diamond down on top of a bowl of Jell-O and declaring it "The world's most expensive gelatin snack endorsed by Bill Cosby"?

9. Along that same line of thinking is the ROX cupcake, a $150,000 bite-sized cake created for the "Glam in the City" consumer show in Glasgow last year. It's an average cupcake, but it's sprinkled with diamonds.

10. A lesser cupcake indulgence is the Decadence D'Or from Las Vegas' Sweet Surrender. It doesn't pull the cheap "regular cupcake sprinkled with priceless jewels" trick. First of all, the cake is topped with Louis XIII de Remy Martin Cognac, a 100-year-old vintage. The chocolate is made from the rare Porcelain Crillo bean, and then there's the Tahitan Gold Vanilla Caviar, believed to be the most labor-intensive agricultural crop in the world. And, OK, there are gold flakes.

Would you buy any of these if you had the cash? I might actually go for the $60,000 ice cream if money were no object. I mean, you get an awesome trip out of the deal and a good chunk of your spend goes to charity. That's not so bad.

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Penn Vet Working Dog Center
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
New Program Trains Dogs to Sniff Out Art Smugglers
Penn Vet Working Dog Center
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

Soon, the dogs you see sniffing out contraband at airports may not be searching for drugs or smuggled Spanish ham. They might be looking for stolen treasures.

K-9 Artifact Finders, a new collaboration between New Hampshire-based cultural heritage law firm Red Arch and the University of Pennsylvania, is training dogs to root out stolen antiquities looted from archaeological sites and museums. The dogs would be stopping them at borders before the items can be sold elsewhere on the black market.

The illegal antiquities trade nets more than $3 billion per year around the world, and trafficking hits countries dealing with ongoing conflict, like Syria and Iraq today, particularly hard. By one estimate, around half a million artifacts were stolen from museums and archaeological sites throughout Iraq between 2003 and 2005 alone. (Famously, the craft-supply chain Hobby Lobby was fined $3 million in 2017 for buying thousands of ancient artifacts looted from Iraq.) In Syria, the Islamic State has been known to loot and sell ancient artifacts including statues, jewelry, and art to fund its operations.

But the problem spans across the world. Between 2007 and 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Control discovered more than 7800 cultural artifacts in the U.S. looted from 30 different countries.

A yellow Lab sniffs a metal cage designed to train dogs on scent detection.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

K-9 Artifact Finders is the brainchild of Rick St. Hilaire, the executive director of Red Arch. His non-profit firm researches cultural heritage property law and preservation policy, including studying archaeological site looting and antiquities trafficking. Back in 2015, St. Hilaire was reading an article about a working dog trained to sniff out electronics that was able to find USB drives, SD cards, and other data storage devices. He wondered, if dogs could be trained to identify the scents of inorganic materials that make up electronics, could they be trained to sniff out ancient pottery?

To find out, St. Hilaire tells Mental Floss, he contacted the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, a research and training center for detection dogs. In December 2017, Red Arch, the Working Dog Center, and the Penn Museum (which is providing the artifacts to train the dogs) launched K-9 Artifact Finders, and in late January 2018, the five dogs selected for the project began their training, starting with learning the distinct smell of ancient pottery.

“Our theory is, it is a porous material that’s going to have a lot more odor than, say, a metal,” says Cindy Otto, the executive director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and the project’s principal investigator.

As you might imagine, museum curators may not be keen on exposing fragile ancient materials to four Labrador retrievers and a German shepherd, and the Working Dog Center didn’t want to take any risks with the Penn Museum’s priceless artifacts. So instead of letting the dogs have free rein to sniff the materials themselves, the project is using cotton balls. The researchers seal the artifacts (broken shards of Syrian pottery) in airtight bags with a cotton ball for 72 hours, then ask the dogs to find the cotton balls in the lab. They’re being trained to disregard the smell of the cotton ball itself, the smell of the bag it was stored in, and ideally, the smell of modern-day pottery, eventually being able to zero in on the smell that distinguishes ancient pottery specifically.

A dog looks out over the metal "pinhweel" training mechanism.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

“The dogs are responding well,” Otto tells Mental Floss, explaining that the training program is at the stage of "exposing them to the odor and having them recognize it.”

The dogs involved in the project were chosen for their calm-but-curious demeanors and sensitive noses (one also works as a drug-detection dog when she’s not training on pottery). They had to be motivated enough to want to hunt down the cotton balls, but not aggressive or easily distracted.

Right now, the dogs train three days a week, and will continue to work on their pottery-detection skills for the first stage of the project, which the researchers expect will last for the next nine months. Depending on how the first phase of the training goes, the researchers hope to be able to then take the dogs out into the field to see if they can find the odor of ancient pottery in real-life situations, like in suitcases, rather than in a laboratory setting. Eventually, they also hope to train the dogs on other types of objects, and perhaps even pinpoint the chemical signatures that make artifacts smell distinct.

Pottery-sniffing dogs won’t be showing up at airport customs or on shipping docks soon, but one day, they could be as common as drug-sniffing canines. If dogs can detect low blood sugar or find a tiny USB drive hidden in a house, surely they can figure out if you’re smuggling a sculpture made thousands of years ago in your suitcase.

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