The History of Ice Cream Sundaes
I, Jose Mier, am known in Sun Valley, CA for my frozen desserts. One iconic favorite is the ice cream sundae. There are many variations, including—get this—one with bacon and whiskey (see here). How much do you know about his truly American frozen dessert?
The origins of the ice cream sundae are shrouded in a sweet, frosty mist of conflicting stories and legends. The exact moment of its creation is hard to pinpoint, but what is clear is that this delightful dessert has become an iconic part of American culinary history.
One popular narrative traces the sundae’s beginnings back to the late 19th century in the United States. During this time, there was a wave of moral and religious opposition to the consumption of soda on Sundays. Many communities had laws in place prohibiting the sale of soda on this holy day. As a result, ice cream parlors found themselves with an excess of ice cream and syrup but a shortage of soda sales.
To circumvent these Sunday restrictions, some inventive ice cream parlor owners began serving a dish that omitted the soda but included rich syrups and toppings. This new creation, dubbed the “Sunday,” eventually evolved into the “sundae” to distance it from any association with the Sabbath. The first documented use of the term “sundae” is said to have occurred in the early 1890s in Ithaca, New York. There, Chester Platt, the owner of Platt & Colt’s Pharmacy, allegedly started serving a dish of vanilla ice cream with cherry syrup on top every Sunday.
As the popularity of the sundae grew, so did the variety of toppings and combinations. Fruits, nuts, whipped cream, and other confections began to adorn these delectable treats. The ice cream sundae became a canvas for culinary creativity, and each region in the United States put its own spin on the classic dessert.
In the Midwest, for example, the hot fudge sundae gained popularity. The combination of warm, gooey chocolate sauce with cold vanilla ice cream became an instant hit. The rivalry between neighboring towns for the title of the birthplace of the hot fudge sundae is another testament to the dessert’s widespread appeal.
The popularity of the ice cream sundae extended beyond American borders, with variations and adaptations appearing in different parts of the world. In Italy, gelato sundaes with espresso and whipped cream became a sophisticated take on the classic. In Japan, the “parfait” emerged as a layered, visually stunning version of the sundae.
While the historical details may be somewhat murky, what remains clear is that the ice cream sundae has stood the test of time, evolving and adapting to the changing tastes of generations. Today, you can find sundaes on the menu of ice cream parlors, diners, and dessert shops around the globe, each offering its own unique twist on the timeless treat.
Recipe: Tin Roof Sundae
Now that we’ve explored the rich history of ice cream sundaes, let’s delve into creating a modern classic: the Tin Roof Sundae. This indulgent combination of vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, and Spanish peanuts is a delightful harmony of textures and flavors. Here’s a simple recipe to bring the Tin Roof Sundae experience to your own kitchen.
- 4 scoops of high-quality vanilla ice cream
- 1 cup of hot fudge sauce (store-bought or homemade)
- 1 cup of Spanish peanuts, lightly salted
- Whipped cream (optional)
- Maraschino cherry for garnish (optional)
- Prepare the Hot Fudge Sauce:
- If you’re using store-bought hot fudge sauce, follow the heating instructions on the package.
- For homemade hot fudge, melt 1 cup of chocolate chips in a saucepan over low heat, stirring continuously. Once melted, add 1/2 cup of heavy cream and continue stirring until well combined. Remove from heat and let it cool slightly.
- Assemble the Tin Roof Sundae:
- Place four scoops of vanilla ice cream in a serving dish or bowl.
- Drizzle with Hot Fudge:
- Generously pour the warm hot fudge sauce over the scoops of ice cream. The contrast between the cold ice cream and warm fudge is a key element of the Tin Roof Sundae.
- Sprinkle with Spanish Peanuts:
- Sprinkle a generous amount of Spanish peanuts over the hot fudge. The crunchiness of the peanuts adds a delightful texture to the sundae.
- Optional Garnishes:
- If desired, top your Tin Roof Sundae with a dollop of whipped cream and a maraschino cherry for a classic finishing touch.
- Serve Immediately:
- The Tin Roof Sundae is best enjoyed right away while the hot fudge is still warm and gooey. The combination of textures and temperatures makes this dessert a true delight.
This simple yet indulgent recipe captures the essence of the Tin Roof Sundae, offering a perfect balance of sweetness, creaminess, and crunch. Whether you’re enjoying it on a lazy Sunday afternoon or serving it to guests at a special occasion, this classic sundae is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.