Why an Ice Cream Sundae Bar Is Genius

As many of you know, I’ve been working on the candy buffet from hell for this coming weekend for my daughter’s high school graduation party. As I have looked on Pinterest for ideas and done various searches, I keep coming across these amazing photos about ice cream sundae bars. It seems this is a trend for weddings right now, but my thought is that you could easily do an ice cream sundae bar for almost any event. It is a bit cheaper than cake when you price it per person and you can definitely add enough variety to make it suit almost anyone’s taste.

Ice Cream Sundae History

Ice cream sundaes have been around America for decades. According to What’s Cooking America, there is some dispute over where the sundae first originated. Historians have it narrowed down to three possible places where they first made the sundae as we know it today.

Two Rivers, Wisconsin and Ithaca, New York have quite a rivalry going about which one was the first to serve a sundae. The article linked above has tons of details about the history of the sundae, including letters with town mayors sparring back and forth about who really has the right to make the claim of being the first to serve one.

How to Create an Ice Cream Sundae Bar

Ingredients

One of the great things about having an ice cream sundae buffet at your next gathering is how easy it is to find the ingredients you need.

  • Serve both chocolate and vanilla ice cream (you’ll need more vanilla probably). See below to figure out how much ice cream you need.
  • Canned whipped cream (plan on a can per 12 guests to be on the safe side)
  • Candies (gummy worms, sprinkles, bits of cooked cake, chocolate pieces, crushed candy bars, red hots)
  • Crushed cookies, wafers and animal crackers
  • Different types of syrups and toppings (caramel, chocolate, strawberry, marshmallow)
  • Fresh fruit (strawberries, bananas, kiwi, etc.)
  • Nuts crushed (peanuts, pecans work best and if no one has allergies)

Containers

Wouldn’t it be fun to have a ton of old fashioned glass parfait cups to serve your ice cream sundaes in? Since that could get really expensive really quickly, here are some alternatives:

  • Clear plastic bowls
  • Clear plastic short cups (this can also help limit serving size)
  • Collection of different bowls, cups and dishes you have on hand
  • Waffle cone bowls (available in some grocery stores)
  • Cake cones

Don’t forget to have plenty of plastic spoons on hand.

Ice Cream

You’ll need to decide if you want to serve only vanilla or a couple of different flavors. Most of the sites I visited while researching serving sizes of ice cream suggested 1/2 cup of ice cream per person. I know very few adults who eat only 1/2 cup of ice cream. In fact, I’d say that 1 1/2 cups of ice cream is a better guess for adults. Now, small children might eat 1/2 cup. You also have to factor in a little waste in case someone drops a sundae and has to remake it or you have someone make a 6 scoop sundae.

A gallon of ice cream has 32 1/2 cup servings. I’m going to suggest that a true serving size is closer to 1 1/2 cups or 3 or 4 good size scoops. So, here is my breakdown of serving sizes for an ice cream social.

  • 1 gallon = 11 adult servings
  • 2 gallons = 22 adult servings
  • 3 gallons = 33 adult servings

Honestly, it is better to have leftover ice cream your family can eat later than to run out and not have enough, so I’d also plan for some overage by buying an extra half gallon.

Additional Ice Cream Buffet Ideas

There are so many different things you could do with an ice cream theme, especially at a wedding, sweet 16 party or other special event.

  • Different types of popsicles, ice cream bars or ice cream cake
  • Premade ice cream treats, such as dirt sundaes or ice cream pie (I’ll have a recipe for a delicious orange dream ice cream pie up tomorrow)
  • Allow guests to help make their own ice cream and then add the toppings they would like.
  • Keep the buffet simple with several syrups, whipped cream and cherries.

One thing is certain, not only is an ice cream sundae bar easy to put together, it is much more economical than a candy buffet. Oh, if only I had suggested one when daughter mentioned the candy buffet. My life would be much simpler right now.

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Crabby Housewife

Crabby Housewife

Lori is a full-time housewife and writer, living in the Midwest with her husband of 27 years - they have two daughters. They have a house full of pets and her house is never quite perfect.

  • Dana Hinders

    I’ve seen people put the ice cream in mason jars, so all guests need to do is unscrew the lid and add toppings. I think that’s a super cute idea!

  • Lori Soard

    Hi Dana,

    That is a great idea. I love that. It would be so simple to make them ahead and save scoop time, too.