A sundae—a proper sundae—is a thing of beauty. It’s what childhood dreams are made of, dreams that so often and easily get lost into adulthood. In many cases though, a sundae is only a few steps away from scooping ice cream straight from the container. There’s really no excuse not to treat yourself. With just three basic components—the ice cream, the sauce, and the toppings—it’s ridiculously easy to put together and there are virtually endless variations to choose from. Still not convinced? Let’s walk through it.
Depending on your level of ambition, your can either go with homemade or store bought. If you opt for the former, having an ice cream machine definitely produces the best results. They’re easy enough to find and basic models start from around $50. The one upside to making your own ice cream is the flavour customization aspect. As creative as some grocery store and specialty shop options may be, there are ideas that you just can’t find without making it for yourself. Baklava ice cream with rosewater and chunks of chewy honey-soaked phyllo? Can do. The other benefit is that you control the ingredients, so if you have food intolerances or dietary restrictions, you can work around them. Coconut milk ice cream is the perfect vegan option and even easier to make than normal ice cream because it doesn’t require that you make an egg-based custard first. That being said, sometimes you just want ice cream and don’t have the time or patience to make it, so store bought varieties have their place in these sorts of situations.
Chocolate? Fruit based? Caramel? The sky's the limit when it comes to sweet (or savoury) sauces to top your ice cream of choice. Basic chocolate sauce (and not the chocolate syrup from the brown bottle) can be made in minutes with just a couple of simple ingredients. All you need is dark chocolate and either cream or coconut milk, depending on your preferences. Heat up the cream, pour it over the chocolate, and whisk until the chocolate melts. A pinch of salt always helps to round out the flavour of the chocolate. Alternatively, an easy hack is to mix together cocoa powder and maple syrup until they reach a smooth, pourable consistency; no need to even turn the stove on. Fruit sauces are also great for summer. Macerate fresh fruits with sugar and fresh herbs (think basil and mint) and let it sit until the fruit releases its juices, or you can simmer it on the stovetop to produce more of a jammy consistency. Either way, the key is to keep it simple and maintain the integrity of the fruit.
Although you could think of them as “garnishes”, toppings really are the third leg of the sundae stool; without them, it’s just not balanced. You need texture as contrast against the smoothness of the ice cream, and you can take whatever liberties you want with the wild, wacky factor. Yes, nuts, sprinkles, and the cherry on top are all classics, but they aren’t your only options. Crushed up snack foods like pretzels and chips make for a complex, salty addition. Sweet cereals also add satisfying crunch. Caramel corn, pieces of Nanaimo bars, crushed up ramen noodles, candied black beans, pork rinds dusted with powdered sugar—none of it is off limits.
4 Sundaes across Canada to try
For occasions when you’d rather leave the sundae-making to someone else, check out these spots across the country.
Village Ice Cream
Calgary’s Village Ice Cream has accrued quite the cult following over the past few years. In addition to classics like its salted caramel ice cream, you can also opt for simple sundaes that change with the seasons. Everything is made from real ingredients and it’s not over the top, but it oozes with timeless nostalgia.
Toronto’s Sweet Jesus lives up to its name. It’s hard to look at one of its ice cream creations without thinking, “Sweet Jesus! What have I gotten myself into here?” Now with locations spread across Ontario, Sweet Jesus gives you all of the opportunities to get your sugar high.
Montreal’s Le Blueboy is known for one thing: churro sundae. It starts with a base of vanilla soft serve and chocolate sauce, complete with giant pieces of churro sprouting from the epicentre. What’s better than two sweet treats in one? Plus, it’s totally Instagrammable.
Glenburn Soda Fountain and Confectionery
Vancouver’s Glenburn Soda Fountain and Confectionery has only been around for a few years, but its menu sounds more like what you’d find at a retro ice cream parlour. With a whopping 14 different specialty sundaes to choose from, the selection will have you making several trips back to try them all.