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Sundae Bests From the 1950s

A 1959 story in Better Homes & Gardens declared August "the month for sundaes." We agree that a few scoops of ice cream laden with sweet, gooey sauce is a sweet way to cool off in the sweltering heat. So we took a nostalgic trip to the 1950s to see what else the magazine had to say about sundaes when they were in their heyday—and also to find recipes and ideas to use today. (Confession: We're not limiting ourselves to just August to indulge in this iconic treat!)

1959: A Sundae Celebration

Such sweet nostalgia! There may be debate about the origins of sundaes—the only consensus seems to be that they were an American creation that had a connection to Sunday—but there's no denying their appeal. "The Month for Sundaes" feature in the August 1959 issue of Better Homes & Gardens is a reminder of how pretty and artful sundaes (and their sidekick, the ice cream float) can be. Back then, sundaes could be a fancy dessert served in tall parfait glasses or footed glass bowls. Even a casual banana split seemed special served in glass "boats" designed just for that purpose. Ice cream parlor tricks the story offered add to any presentation today. One trick for tall glass dishes: Start with sauce on the bottom, then add scoops of ice cream and more sauce. Run a knife down the side of the glass to distribute sauce and create a marbled look.

If you're a traditionalist, hot fudge tops your list of favorites. Want to add some mondae to your sundae? Try this simple Chocolate Mondae Sauce, one of several recipes featured in the story. The warm sauce "turns to soft fudge as it hits cold ice cream," the story noted.

Chocolate Mondae Sauce

1 6-ounce package (1 cup) semisweet chocolate pieces

½ cup evaporated milk

Directions

In small heavy saucepan, heat chocolate and evaporated milk over medium heat, stirring constantly until blended. Serve warm or at room temperature over ice cream. Makes 1 cup.

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1952: Sundae Stars

See…sundaes aren't just for August. (In fact, National Sundae Day is in—surprise!—November.) In the July 1952 magazine, sundaes, along with a Frosty Orange Float garnished with pineapple and mint, starred on the magazine's cover. Vanilla may seem like the ice cream of choice for sundaes, but the fruity and flavorful combinations in the "Ice-Cream Dazzlers" story proved otherwise. The Rainbow Tower Parfait (shown in the center on the cover) gets its colorful layers from crushed pineapple, cherry ice cream with chopped maraschino cherries, and mint or lime ice cream—topped, in the classic way, with whipped cream and a cherry. "Serve with tiny sandwiches," the story suggested. Look close and you'll see three breaded wedges waiting on the plate. (And despite the yummy-sounding creations, what really caught our attention was the advertisement next to the story that shows a freckle-face boy happy with his Hydrox cookie.)

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1954: Speedy Sauces

The sundae-loving crowd likely has opinions on whether the treat is more about the ice cream, the sauce, or the toppings like whipped cream, nuts, and cherries. In the July 1954 magazine, sauces were the hands-down winner. The "Yummy Sauces for Ice Cream" story featured recipes that seem tailored for today's busy lives. "They're speedsters, all of them!" the story promised. How fast? The sauce for the Raspberry-Peach Sundae, above, top right, is simply the syrup from the raspberries. A Minty Pineapple Sauce only required adding a few drops of mint extract and green food coloring to crushed pineapple. If you have a bit more time to spare, try one of these recipes from the story.

Speedy Velvet Caramel Sauce: Heat ½ pound (about 28 caramels) with ½ cup hot water in top of double boiler, stirring occasionally, until caramels are melted and sauce is smooth. Makes about 1 cup.

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Heavenly Chocolate Sauce

1 14½ -ounce can (1²⁄³ cups) evaporated milk

2 cups sugar

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate

1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

In double boiler, combine milk, sugar, and chocolate. Cook over simmering water about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, till chocolate melts. Remove from heat; add vanilla. Beat with rotary beater till smooth and thick. Pour sauce (hot or cold) over your favorite ice cream. Makes about 2¾ cups.

See the Story