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Ice cream cones

Ramona King

Ice cream cones

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Scoop up a butterscotch-drizzled, Magic Shell-coated, candied pecan-topped sundae funday party

Nothing says summer like ice cream. Whether you like it in a cone or a dish, the frozen treat never disappoints. However, sometimes a simple ice cream cone just doesn’t do. One of the best ways to celebrate a summer party and is by making ice cream — and all the toppings — the center of attention.

Throwing an ice cream sundae party isn’t as hard as it seems, and with a little preparation you’ll be enjoying giant ice cream masterpieces in no time. 

Set up the sundae bar
Find a space that will allow your guests to navigate the sundae bar easily and quickly enough they can build their sundae before it melts. We suggest placing a table in a space that doesn’t get direct sunlight. A chalkboard menu displaying ice cream flavors and toppings will allow your guests to know their options before they start building their ultimate sundaes.

To ensure that the ice cream doesn’t melt in the Southern heat, only take it out of the freezer right before you’re ready to scoop it for your guests.

Have fun with the decoration by coordinating the colors of the ice cream bowls, tablecloths, streamers and balloons. It’s okay to go a little over the top with the ice cream theme. And as this is a Southern sundae party, we love using Mason jars to organize and hold our toppings.  

Serve it in this
The size of your party will determine what dishes you want to use. If the party is centered around children, we suggest using paper bowls and plastic spoons. There’s no chance of any glass breaking, and clean up is as easy as throwing everything away. If your guests are older, and you want a classier look for your sundae, we love these colorful, hand-painted stoneware bowls from the Shoppe at Southern Kitchen. They come in a set of four and can easily hold two scoops of ice cream. For a slightly more indulgent ice cream sundae, we recommend using large ceramic bowls from Staub. They are a little bigger and come in a beautiful bright red cherry color that will make any ice cream sundae stand out. For the ultimate ice cream sundae that will feed multiple people, we recommend using this large mixing bowl from Mason Cash. It can easily hold a dozen or so scoops of ice cream to make all your 10-year-old dreams come true.

old-fashioned southern vanilla ice creamBuilding the ultimate sundae
As the base of a sundae, ice cream is pretty important. Sure, you can buy pretty good options from the grocery store. And if the special guest of the sundae party loves a certain flavor (looking at you, Cotton Candy Explosion), you might not be able to make it at home. But if you do have the time and access to an ice cream maker (or two), we encourage you to try your hand at it. 

Our recipe for old-fashioned Southern vanilla ice cream is a deliciously simple base for ice cream; serve it as is, or churn in just about any mix-in you can think of to customize. (Our recipe for candied pecans would work especially well here.)

For those who like a fruitier ice cream base, we suggest churning out a batch of buttermilk blueberry swirl ice cream. Instead of using whole milk, we use buttermilk to add tang that pairs beautifully with the blueberries. The best part of this recipe is that you can make the blueberry compote ahead of time, and if you have any extra it works great as an ice cream topping as well. 

We've also caught on to the dairy-free ice cream trend by turning a favorite Southern flavor into a frozen treat. To make dairy-free peach cobbler ice cream, we temper hot coconut and almond milks into egg yolks and honey to form a dairy-free custard. While there are many different recipes for dairy-free "ice cream," this recipe most closely captures the texture of the real deal because the methods are the same. 

Chocolate is also a must-have for any sundae party. To step up the flavors, we’ve added a few mix-ins that turn a standard chocolate ice cream into a beloved twist — Rocky Road. By adding this to your sundae you’ll taste chocolate, almonds and, our favorite part, mini marshmallows with each bite.Dress it up
Once you’ve chosen your selection of ice cream flavors, you'll need to decide how you and your guests will decorate your scoops. As everyone likes different flavors and textures you’ll want a good selection of ice cream toppings — just don’t go out of control and buy every type of candy and syrup you can find. We also like making a few different homemade toppings. While we don’t recommend making sprinkles yourself, we do support adding in a few homemade options to make your party unique.Homemade Magic Shell
For children — and some adults too — watching Magic Shell transform from a liquid chocolate syrup into a crisp shell is a mesmerizing experience. The best part of this topping is that it only takes two ingredients to make, and it works great as a glue to hold together the rest of your sundae — you'll just need to work quickly. To do so, have other toppings (like mini M&Ms or candied pecans) ready, drizzle the Magic Shell syrup on the ice cream and sprinkle all those treats on top. If you want a more festive “holiday” version of magic shell, we love using the peppermint white chocolate version of magic shell
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blueberry compoteBlueberry Compote
This topping belongs on pretty much everything. You can serve it on anything from pancakes to biscuits and surprisingly, it goes well with ice cream too. We use this compote as flavoring for the buttermilk blueberry ice cream recipe, but a drizzle of it on top of vanilla ice cream is just as delicious. 
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Marshmallow Whipped Cream
Marshmallow fluff can be a heavy and super sweet topping, so we decided to cut down the sweetness by adding a little bit of it to another popular ice cream topping — whipped cream. By mixing the two together, the marshmallow sweetens the whipped cream, keeping it more stable and more flavored like marshmallows. 
Get the recipeBourbon Cherry Compote
This topping is our adult version of a cherry on top of a sundae. In Italy, you’ll find jars of cherries preserved in a brandy or amaretto-spiked syrup. We’ve given that idea a Southern update and incorporated bourbon instead. The slightly boozy cherries are delicious on top of vanilla ice cream, pound cake or if you’re feeling really ambitious a combination of both. 
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Homemade Butterscotch Sauce
Homemade butterscotch sauce is easier than most people realize, as it’s little more than a basic English toffee sauce. How pronounced you want the flavor of the Scotch or bourbon depends on when you add it to the sauce. If you like a well-rounded, more kid-friendly sauce, add it with the remaining ingredients before cooking the sauce. Want a more boozy punch? Whisk in the hooch once the sauce has finished cooking.
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Candied Pecans
In the South, we try to put pecans in everything we can. These candied pecans can be made ahead of time and stored for up to two weeks, giving you plenty of time to use them in a variety of ways. They make a great snack by themselves, but we recommend adding them to a sundae as a topping or create a pecan ice cream by mixing them in to our old-fashioned vanilla ice cream recipe. Anyway you use the pecans, you’ll be happy with the crunch they add to your frozen treat.
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The best Southern ice cream shops to try this summer

Photo credit (chalkboard): Designs by Yutz Facebook
Photos of ice cream by Ramona King


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Chef Jeffrey Gardner is a native of Natchez, Miss., and a graduate of Millsaps College and Johnson & Wales University. He lives in Atlanta and has served as sous chef for popular restaurants South City Kitchen Midtown and Alma Cocina. In 2013 he became executive chef for East Cobb restaurant Common Quarter and was named one of ten “Next Generation of Chefs to Watch” by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. He has appeared on TV shows including Food Network’s Chopped and Cooking Channel’s How to Live to 100, and also filmed a series of healthy cooking videos with retired pro wrestler and fitness guru Diamond Dallas Page. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling the world with his wife Wendy, watching game shows and “spending all his money on Bruce Springsteen concerts.”


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Rachel Taylor is a staff writer at Southern Kitchen. She moved to Atlanta earlier this year after graduating college in Maryland, and has been a digital audience specialist at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Politically Georgia, as well as a freelance writer for publications such as USA Today and the Delmarva Daily Times on Maryland's Eastern Shore. She has lived in France and Italy, and loves to travel.

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