What's The Best Way To Build An Ice Cream Sundae?

It's ice cream season, and we here at The Takeout realize we have been remiss. We have debated the best ice cream flavors, toppings, and frozen novelties. We have shared recipes so you can make ice cream for yourself and for your dog. We've learned how make homemade Magic Shell and investigated the realms of non-dairy ice cream and Halo Top. We've argued the benefits of eating it for dinner and even ranked every Dairy Queen Blizzard. But we have never discussed how to combine all these things into a perfect sundae! We apologize for our neglect of this important topic and will make it up to you right now.

Here's the thing: there is no right or wrong way to make an ice cream sundae. (Which is maybe why it never occurred to us to provide a recipe.) It's entirely a matter of personal preference. When you confront the menu at an ice cream parlor or the fixings at an ice cream buffet (back in the beforetimes), your only question should be, "How do I combine all these things in the way that is most pleasing to me?" Here's how the staff of The Takeout would answer that question.

Peanut butter is key

The ingredient that will turn any average supermarket scoop of ice cream into an indulgent sundae is already sitting in your kitchen cabinet. Take a tablespoon of peanut butter, place it into a ramekin or other microwave-safe dish, and nuke it for approximately 20 seconds. Take it out and give it a stir with a rubber spatula; if it's pourable consistency, it's good to go. (If it's still stiff, pop it back in the microwave for 10-15 more seconds.) Drizzle it over your ice cream, letting some of the peanut butter pool at the bottom of the dish. This on its own is a great sundae, but you can add a handful of mini chocolate chips, or a tiny drizzle of raspberry syrup for the full peanut-butter-and-jelly experience. Plus, if you microwave crunchy peanut butter instead of smooth, you've already got crushed peanuts as a topping, too. —Marnie Shure


Never settle for chocolate sauce when you can have hot fudge

This is a cardinal rule in my family, and I would be disowned if I said otherwise. Hot fudge was so precious to us that when my grandparents brought us jars of Sanders during their semiannual visits from Detroit (milk chocolate for my dad, bittersweet for my mom), they would be stored in an upper cabinet, way too high for my sister or me to reach, and brought out only on special occasions. Hot fudge is infinitely better than chocolate sauce because it is thicker and richer and coats your spoon in a delightful way. When it cools off and hardens, it's like finding candy in the bottom of your sundae cup. When my sister got married, she rejected a cake altogether in favor of an ice cream bar. Her most emphatic bridezilla demand was that there be hot fudge. Or else. There was hot fudge.


I have to say, though, that since I left home, I've discovered the pleasures of fresh whipped cream. It doesn't have the nitrous zing of a can of Reddi-wip (a squirt was always mandatory at Thanksgiving dinner, and a cousin was once shunned for admitting a preference for Cool Whip), but it also doesn't have that chemical aftertaste.

As long as I have these two things, I am happy, though I have to admit, coffee ice cream and either caramel or butterscotch sauce would add to my happiness considerably. And also a cookie. —Aimee Levitt

Think outside the obvious

Sprinkles, hot fudge, liquid butterscotch—none of these are things I regularly keep around the house. These are all things meant for ice cream parlor sundaes that I don't wish to replicate at home, because that would take some of the fun and excitement out of going out for ice cream. When I'm motivated enough to eat ice cream from a bowl instead of the carton, I like using the "kitchen sink" method of sundae construction, using what I've got and allowing the universe to surprise me. You can make an amazing sauce by simply whisking jam with some boiling water, warm cream, or even booze, if that's your thing. Rice Krispies and cornflakes are always a good idea, but if I feel like putting in a bit of extra work, I'll toast some oats in a skillet with butter, then add a spoonful of maple syrup and stir until bubbly. Sundaes are also a great way to use up the crumbly bits and bobs at the bottom of potato chip and pretzel bags, if you have enough self-control to keep those in the house. —Allison Robicelli