Recipe: Tasting Table's Ultimate Sundae

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While everyone was busy making mountains out of milkshakes, we kept our hearts on the ultimate summer treat: the ice cream sundae. But this isn't your average candy- and cone-topped scoop-shop situation.

A proper sundae requires a bit of love, which is why we use four homemade toppings rather than the canned stuff (see the video above). Our sundae is chewy, smooth, crunchy and refreshing all at once, and doesn't leave out any of the fundamentals-meaning, yes, there's still a cherry on top.

We're not the only ones playing with ice cream sundaes. Some channel nostalgia in a different way, like Urbanbelly in Chicago, where a lunch box-inspired option comes with peanut butter crunch and berry compote. At Cookshop in New York City, pastry chef Tracy Obolsky makes a popcorn sundae-think popcorn ice cream, caramel popcorn, salted butterscotch and pink pepper whipped cream. And at Plant Food + Wine in L.A., Matthew Kenney tops artfully plated vanilla-hemp gelato with lime curd, sweet-savory basil syrup and local strawberries.

In our version, buttery caramel is made even silkier by using coconut milk instead of cream, and snappy pistachio-cardamom brittle mimics the toffee bits on sundaes of yore. Rather than berries, we use jackfruit for the sundae's chewy compote. It's an underrated fruit that has a floral taste (our food editor, Jake Cohen, likens it to Juicy Fruit gum) that can stand on its own, even when paired with big flavors-like the luxurious hot fudge, amped up with Sichuan peppercorns. The warm chocolate seizes slightly when it hits the chilled ice cream, sinking in comfortably like it had a long day at the office and creating a hot-cold contrast that's impossible to stop eating.

As for the ice cream, we stick with vanilla, which gives free range to let all the other parts shine. But we go crazy with regards to quantity-four scoops sounds like a respectable minimum.

Find Urbanbelly here, or in our DINE app.
Find Cookshop here, or in our DINE app.

Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen

Ultimate Sundae Recipe
No Ratings
Make homemade caramel, brittle, hot fudge and fruit compote for truly the ultimate sundae, with a cherry on top.
Prep Time
Cook Time
sundae with cherry, whipped cream
Total time: 1 hour
  • For the Coconut Cream Caramel
  • 1½ cups light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • For the Cardamom-Pistachio Brittle
  • Vegetable oil, for greasing
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon black cardamom seeds
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • For the Jackfruit Compote
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 cups seeded jackfruit flesh, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves
  • For the Sichuan Peppercorn Hot Fudge
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped and divided
  • ⅔ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • ⅓ cup dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns, toasted
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • For the Sundae
  • Vanilla ice cream, for serving
  • Whipped cream, for garnish
  • Maraschino cherries, for garnish
  1. Make the caramel: In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water, butter and the vanilla bean and seeds over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sugar has melted and the caramel is rapidly bubbling, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients and remove from the heat. Let cool completely, then remove and discard the vanilla bean.
  2. Make the brittle: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and grease. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, corn syrup and water over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, until the mixture is light amber in color, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients, then immediately pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet into a thin layer. Let cool completely, then break the brittle into small pieces.
  3. Make the compote: In a medium saucepan, combine all of the compote ingredients over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until the fruit is softened and the syrup has thickened, 7 to 8 minutes.
  4. Make the hot fudge: In a medium saucepan, combine half of the chocolate with the heavy cream, corn syrup, dark brown sugar, cocoa powder, Sichuan peppercorns and kosher salt over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook, whisking constantly, until a thick smooth sauce forms, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the remaining chocolate and the butter until smooth. Let steep for 5 minutes, then strain out the peppercorns.
  5. Assemble the sundaes: Divide the vanilla ice cream between bowls and drizzle with the caramel and hot fudge. Scatter pieces of brittle on top and spoon the compote around the sides. Garnish with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry, then serve.
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