Two summers after opening her first Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates in Northern California, pastry chef Ginger Elizabeth Hahn began serving sundaes once a month. The idea was inspired by her dairy-farm-owning grandparents who used to go to ice cream socials at their church in Minnesota.
“I loved the idea of using ice cream as something to bring people together,” Elizabeth Hahn said. “The monthly event was so popular that we had customers lining up before opening and sold out every time.”
Ten years later and the ice cream socials continue at both the Sacramento, Calif., and San Francisco chocolate boutiques, but the layered ice cream confections Elizabeth Hahn serves are worlds apart from the sundaes her grandparents — or yours, for that matter — once shared.
Like her signature chocolates and macarons, Elizabeth Hahn’s house-made ice cream sundaes are driven by ingredients from local farmers and producers. Upcoming sundaes include one made of pistachio ice cream, rose petal ice cream and warm Bing cherry compote all in a cream puff topped with whipped cream and candied rose petals. Another will have banana-walnut ice cream, duck egg yolk ice cream, a split banana, vanilla pudding, walnut pie crust and whipped cream.
“Ice cream sundaes are so much fun to create and eat because you can incorporate different textures, temperatures, and flavors,” Elizabeth Hahn said. “There is a lot of science and formulation that goes into ice cream and I really enjoy creating new recipes and watching our customers enjoy the results.”
A number of other pastry chefs are adult-ifying and premium-izing the dessert, which most is often associated with simple pleasures of days gone by.
Henrietta Red in Nashville, Tenn., has been offering a rotating selection of sundaes since the restaurant opened in 2017. The current one is a Strawberry Shortcake Sundae with amaro jam, a vanilla bean scone and maraschino strawberry.
The strawberry ice cream is highlighted with the flavors of Cappelletti Pasubio Vino Amaro, a bitter-and-sweet liqueur made with pine, sarsaparilla, tangerine, mint, and blueberry. It also has a dash of Angostura bitters.
“I just wanted to make the best strawberry ice cream I could and it evolved from there,” Henrietta Red pastry chef Caitlyn Jarvis said.
The jam is made by wood roasting the strawberries and then cooking them down with sugar and a bouquet of orange, juniper, mint, and sarsaparilla. Like the ice cream, it’s finished with Angostura bitters and Cappelletti Pasubio.
The sundae is made by layering the ice cream with the jam, whipped cream, and crumbled scone. It’s topped with a mini scone, a Maraschino-style strawberry, and mint.
“We sell out of the sundae every weekend, especially in the warm summer months,” Jarvis said. “Weekdays are your best bet of ordering one without the risk of us running out.”
At the recently opened Wiki Wiki Sandbar in Folly Beach, S.C., chef Jason DuPree is offering the Halo Halo Dole Whip Sundae, a grown-up take on the classic Dole Whip. Halo halo is a Filipino dessert of crushed ice and evaporated milk topped with various fruits and other sweets. Dupree’s version is topped with fruit, salted caramel, marshmallow fluff, caramel corn, toasted coconut and whipped cream.
Diners at Sunda New Asian, with locations in Chicago and Nashville, can get a taste of Filipino cuisine with a type of halo halo called the Sunda Sundae.
“The Sunda Sundae is one of my favorite dessert of all time,” chef and partner Mike Morales said. “Having grown up in the Philippines in the hot temperatures, the halo halo was always the perfect way to cool off after running around all day with my friends.”
At the Nashville location the Sunda Sundae is made with shaved ice, condensed milk, flan, sweetened mung bean, ube (purple yam) ice-cream, coconut gel, berries, lychee and jackfruit. At Sunda Chicago, it’s made with avocado ice cream, sweet corn and cheddar cheese ice cream, ube and macapuno ice cream (macapuno is a more gelatinous cousin of coconut), red mung beans, jackfruit, coconut gel, sweetened condensed milk, berries and toasted coconut.
Not to be ignored, vegan diners can also partake in the sundae revival at Crossroads Kitchen in Los Angeles. There chef Tal Ronnen offers a Black Forest Sundae made with cashew-based vanilla bean ice cream drizzled with chocolate fudge sauce and topped with whipped cream (made from coconut cream instead of dairy), chunks of chocolate cake and brandy flame cherries.