Super Bowl Sundae

ice cream—noun. A frozen food containing cream or milk and butterfat, sugar, flavoring, and sometimes eggs.

ice cream—SO much more than a noun. Cold comfort when you’re down; a smile-generator. Summer in a cone.

Our local ice cream stand opened on Mother’s Day, and it’s been SRO ever since, particularly after supper. The sun sets late now, golden light slanting across the parking lot of the Dairy Twirl and sparkling off the river below. A pack of little kids in T-ball shirts—bright red, blue, green—does chin-ups at the order window, wild with excitement.

Teenagers lean on pickup trucks; the boys eye the girls, the girls studiously turn their backs on the boys (but still manage to sneak peeks over their shoulders). The older folks simply sit in their cars in companionable silence, licking ice cream cones in the calm that comes with 30 years of marriage.

In high school, ice cream was an everyday treat for me. A gang of us girls would pile into the car after hockey practice, and drive across town to Friendly’s, where we’d squeeze into a booth, giddy with end-of-the-day laughter. From 50¢ cones (chocolate marshmallow with jimmies, please) to the $1.25 Banana Royale sundae, I’d willingly fork over my babysitting money for ice cream. Before dinner. And then devour everything my mom heaped on my plate, plus dessert. Ah, to have that metabolism again…

These days, ice cream is more of an occasional treat. And I usually limit myself to the baby-size low-fat, low-sugar soft-serve cone—no jimmies, alas. But every now and then, I break down and order a (small) sundae. The choices are excruciating: chocolate ice cream with fudge sauce and toasted nuts? Or butter pecan with caramel sauce? How about strawberry with marshmallow and pineapple? All with whipped cream and a cherry on top, of course. And oh my, do I enjoy EVERY bite.

One thing I must confess: I’m a sauce snob. The hot fudge has to be bittersweet; the caramel, buttery and smooth. Lately, I’ve taken to making my own sauces. They keep quite awhile in the fridge, and I’m able to make myself the teeniest, tiniest sundae you’ve ever seen: ¼ cup Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia in a miniature dish, fudge and caramel on top, a squirt of whipped cream, a teaspoonful of nuts and yes, a maraschino cherry.

Making hot fudge and caramel sauce isn’t difficult. Just be sure you start with top-quality ingredients: choosing the best chocolate, cocoa, butter, and vanilla makes all the difference. You can easily purchase bottled sauces filled with artificial ingredients; you’ll find them on any supermarket shelf. But if an ice cream sundae is a very special summer indulgence, why not treat yourself to the very best toppings possible—your own?

Let’s make hot fudge sauce first:

Butter and unsweetened (baking) chocolate go into a saucepan. No microwave this time; this sauce is going to cook on the stove.

Heat gently, stirring occasionally.

When everything is smooth, remove the pan from the heat…

…and stir in the half and half.

It makes a curdled-looking mess. That’s OK—don’t panic!

Add the sugar, cocoa, espresso powder, and a dash of salt.

Stir until well combined.

Return to the heat, and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. The chocolate will creep up the sides of the pan, which is why it’s important to use a large enough pan. As soon as the mixture comes to a full boil—it rises in the pan, and the entire surface is bubbly—remove it from the heat.

Stir in the vanilla, and pour into a storage container. I’ve poured it into a heatproof glass measuring cup, because I needed to see how much it made. But a mason jar is where it ultimately ended up.

Next, caramel sauce. This one has fewer ingredients—basically, sugar, butter, and cream. It’s a bit more tricky than the preceding fudge sauce, but trust me, you can do this. One warning: you’re going to be working with boiling sugar syrup. DO NOT do this when the kids, dog, cat, or other innocents are around. No sense taking chances.

Combine the sugar with 2 tablespoons of water in a heavy-bottom 2- to 3-quart saucepan. Like the preceding fudge sauce, this will bubble up, so be sure to choose a large enough pan. Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat.

Once the mixture comes to a boil, swirl it vigorously in the pan. You want to avoid stirring it too much; just shake the pan back and forth to get the more quickly browning edges in towards the center.

You’ll notice that as the mixture boils, it begins to darken in color.

It’ll become a rich amber color. (I removed it from the heat briefly here, as I needed it to stop bubbling so I could take a picture of its color for you.)

Still over the heat, stir in the melted butter. The mixture will bubble more vigorously and foam up a bit.

Remove from the heat, and add the heated cream.

Stir till smooth.

And pour into a heatproof container. Again, a mason jar is a good choice.

These are mini-sundaes—it’s just the angle of the picture that makes them look big, honest!

Read our recipe for Sundae Sauces.

Buy vs. Bake
Sometimes it IS more expensive to make your own. But check out the difference in the ingredients—

Buy: Supermarket bottled fudge sauce, 16¢/ounce
Ingredients: Nonfat Milk, Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sugar, Soybean Oil, Cocoa. Contains 2% or Less of: Fully Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil, Corn Starch-Modified, Monoglycerides, Sodium Phosphate, Sodium Citrate, Salt, Vanillin (Artificial Flavor), TBHQ (Antioxidant).

Make at home: Hot fudge sauce, 25¢/ounce
Ingredients: butter, chocolate, cocoa, sugar, salt, cream, espresso powder, vanilla.

Buy: Supermarket bottled caramel sauce, 19¢/ounce
Ingredients: Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Nonfat Milk, Corn Starch-Modified, Natural Flavors (With Milk, Soybean, and Wheat), Salt, Sodium Alginate, Caramel Color, Disodium Phosphate, Sodium Citrate, Vanillin (an Artificial Flavor), Yellow 6, Red 40.

Make at home: Caramel sauce, 21¢/ounce
Ingredients: butter, sugar, salt, cream, vanilla.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


  1. suzanne

    those pictures seriously made me DROOL. Plus the e-blast with those cones. It’s on YOUR conscience when I stick my head in a vat of ice cream…!!

    I have THE best recipe for butter pecan ice cream. It’s super easy and way better than store bought. Have you ever had a Butter Pecan hot Fudge sundae? Divine……

    The list of ingedients you showed is yucky. Who wants all those CHEMICALs in their sauce…? Ick.

  2. Nedra

    anyway I could make a great sauce using the Mercken’s caramel block I purchased from the King Arthur catalog?

    Hi Nedra,

    Yes, you can make caramel sauce from the block caramel. Just thin it with a little milk, or cream. I have used fat free half and half with good results. You can even do it in the microwave, just do 10-15 seconds at a time, stirring between.



  3. Charlene

    These look awesome. How long will they keep in the fridge if I make them beforehand?

    Charlene, I haven’t kept them around long enough to tell. I would think weeks… Sugar is a great preservative. – PJH

  4. Marion

    I am so impressed – a 1/4 cup of ice cream – wow, what strength of will!
    Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  5. Amy Scott

    The cost difference is defintely not an issue with me here. I generally have all of those ingredients anyway, so it wouldn’t be front and center to think how expensive it would be to make. This is one of those things where it’s just downright better to make it yourself. Thanks for sharing, and I feel inspired to make some homemade fudge sauce!

    I tell you, once you go to homemade ice cream, you just can’t go back. It probably is more expensive to make your own; yet, I’m finding that I always have the ingredients on hand with the exception of cream. So I just pick up a pint of cream and I’m ready to go.

  6. Suze

    I have to laugh at the comment under the picture, that these are mini sundaes! Around here those would be micro mini sundaes. If I’m making homemade ice cream and home made caramel sauce, we will eat it until we burst, or it’s gone. That would be at least four scoops and that includes my little 101 pound 82-year-old mother!

  7. Royce Robertson

    I don’t even like ice cream, but you sure inspire me to WANT to like it. Everyone else in the world likes it and making my own sauce never occurred to me. I am certainly going to try it, and just like everything else that comes out of your KAK, I know it will spoil me forever. Many thanks.

  8. Trisha

    Can I use the coffee extract I bought from KA in the hot fudge sauce?

    Hi Trisha,

    You could use the coffee extract, just be sure to add it in small amounts. You can always add more, but can’t take away!

    Happy Baking!

    MaryJane @ The Baker’s Hotline

  9. Jackie

    OK, everybody, let’s hammer on Suzanne till she gives up that recipe for butter pecan ice cream. C’mon, Suzanne, give it UP please!

  10. richard

    > I never would have expected to find ice cream sauce recipes on the King
    > Arthur Flour web site. lol
    > Way to go. They look great. Of course you could always add a nice
    > basic vanilla ice cream recipe
    > to go with those and mention several variations to allow for chocolate,
    > strawberry and other flavors
    > and … finally … get to the nitty gritty and provide a recipe or two
    > for the waffle and other cones to
    > hold that ice cream and sauce. Then you get back into your element.
    > This is so cool.
    > Thanks.

  11. MaryJane

    Well, normally I am just answering questions here, but I had to comment. I adore the Dairy Twirl. My favorite is their soft serve black raspberry ice cream with chocolate jimmies.
    As we get older, our tastes certainly do change. When I was young, I absolutely HATED hot fudge sauce. And now? Well, let’s just say it’s not just for breakfast anymore!

    Happy Baking!

  12. Gillian

    Ahhhh, Dairy Twirl. We left the Upper Valley in 2006 after 8 years when we were working at Dartmouth College. Wonderful memories of vanilla cones with cherry dip!

    And what do we miss most (apart from old friends) Almond Horns from King Arthur and the Lebanon Co-op!! I did teach myself to make the almond horns though.

    Good for you, Gillian. Yes, those almond horns are certainly popular at our bakery. Now, as for Dairy Twirl, Gillian and MaryJane: make mine the chocolate-covered frozen banana. mmm-MMM! – PJH

    P.S. Seldom go there, but love the name of the place on Route 5 in Fairlee: The Whippy-Dip. Fairly rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?

  13. Anita

    I was so excited to find these sauce recipes!!
    As a young woman my mother worked in her father’s “Confectionary” store in Baltimore selling candy, ice cream, ice cream soda and so on. They made their own chocolate sauce. Growing up my mother aways made our chocolate sauce for ice cream and it was sooo good. She passed away 2 years ago and I never got her sauce recipe. This looks close to what I remember. Can’t wait to try it.
    Also I have always loved butter pecan ice cream and a few weeks ago got some in a hurry at the store. When I was eating it I thought, “This is the best butter pecan ice cream I’ve ever had!! The next time I got it out to have more I realized I’d made a mistake and it was butter ALMOND! Now that is a new favorite! Great with caramel sauce.

  14. Margy

    This reminds me of when my nephew was about four years old and an ice cream purist: plain with nothing on it. He called hot fudge “mudge”, as in “don’t put any of that hot mudge on my ice cream, Aunt Sissy!”. I’m happy to say that at the age of 20 he no longer has any such prejudices, and, like most males his age, considers a quart of ice cream with a cup of fudge sauce to be a single serving! We make lazy-woman’s hot fudge in our family–chocolate, cream and vanilla melted together in the microwave, (otherwise known as ganache–so versatile!) especially during summer in Baltimore, when the temperature and humidity are both 95, and the very thought of turning on the stove is terrifying! 😉

  15. Doreen

    I just made both sauces for Fathers Day. The Hot fudge was amazing yet the caramel sauce, while it tasted great was thin. Any suggestions for making a thicker caramel sauce. Thanks, Doreen

    Doreen, the caramel sauce thickens as it cools. It needs to sit at least 3-4 hours after you make it for it to thicken. Then, once it’s cool, you can reheat briefly to serve, but it’ll still remain thick. It’s only RIGHT after it’s made that it’s thin. Hope this helps you out- PJH

  16. susan49

    These recipes are wonderful looking and sound simple to make. I have multiple food allergies so it will be wonderful to make my own since everything commercially made has either polysorbate or mono and dygleserides which are made from soy.

  17. mem2387m

    I’d like to give these as Christmas gifts; If I vacuum seal the jars or put them through a canning water bath process – would they be safe out of the fridge for a few days?

    Sadly, we haven’t experimented with preserving these toppings as they disappear as soon as they’re made and served. Your local Cooperative Extension Service is a great resource for food safety. Happy Gifting! Irene @ KAF

  18. pat

    What would happen if you made hot fudge sauce w/o expresso powder? Never have it on hand.

    The espresso powder helps to bring out a rich chocolate flavor. You can certainly leave it out with no ill effects. Betsy@KAF

  19. rachel

    I’m wondering about canning too…IDEAS/TIPS, anyone?

    I would give our Baker’s Hotline a call. I am sure we will be able to help!-Jon 855-371-2253


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