Epic sundaes with saucy inspiration from America’s Test Kitchen

13 July 2023

Eclectic flavors have their place. But there’s something so nostalgic, so all-American-childhood evoking about a classic ice cream sundae. The frosty scoops of vanilla ice cream. The hot fudge swirling round. A little butterscotch to gild that particular chilly lily. Sprinkles! Nuts! A cherry on top!

You don’t need to hit the supermarket freezer case or even the local creamery to sate that craving. You can make no-churn ice cream at home and the orange-tinged hot fudge and butterscotch sauces to top it all off.

RELATED: Basil? Curry? Turkey? Bay Area’s most unconventional ice cream flavors and the stories behind them

The no-churn approach is an America’s Test Kitchen hack that lets you create deeply vanilla, velvety ice cream without an ice cream maker — just a blender and, of course, your freezer. Here’s the ice cream how-to, plus two flavor variations and four recipes for toppings, including a butterscotch sauce for caramel-ophobes, which calls for cooking brown sugar and butter together to give the sauce its complexity, sans candy thermometers.

Also in the mix: a classic fudge sauce made with cocoa powder and unsweetened chocolate. “Using milk, rather than cream, preserves the intense flavor,” the test kitchen crew reports. “Stirring in cold butter creates sheen and a thick consistency. This sauce will make your sundae ultradecadent.”

Infusing strips of orange zest takes that fudge to a whole other level. Then finish your sundae off with a grace note, a fresh, peak-of-ripeness Bing cherry. And a spoon.

Vanilla No-Churn Ice Cream

Makes about 1 quart


2 cups heavy cream, chilled

1 cup sweetened condensed milk

¼ cup whole milk

¼ cup light corn syrup

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon table salt

DIRECTIONS: Process cream in a blender until soft peaks form, 20 to 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of blender jar and continue to process until stiff peaks form, about 10 seconds. Using a rubber spatula, stir in condensed milk, whole milk, corn syrup, sugar, vanilla and salt. Process until thoroughly combined, about 20 seconds, scraping down sides of blender jar as needed. Pour cream mixture into an 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan. Press plastic wrap flush against surface of cream mixture. Freeze until firm, at least 6 hours or up to 5 days. Serve.

PEACH COBBLER NO-CHURN ICE CREAM VARIATION: Omit sugar. Substitute bourbon for vanilla. Add ½ cup peach preserves and ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon with condensed milk. After transferring cream mixture to loaf pan, gently stir in ½ cup coarsely chopped shortbread cookies before freezing.

STRAWBERRY BUTTERMILK NO-CHURN ICE CREAM VARIATION: Substitute ½ cup buttermilk for whole milk and 1 teaspoon lemon juice for vanilla. After transferring cream mixture to loaf pan, dollop 1/3 cup strawberry jam over top. Swirl jam into cream mixture using tines of fork before freezing.

Butterscotch Sauce

Makes about 1½ cups


1 cup packed (7 ounces) brown sugar

2 teaspoons light corn syrup

8 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon water

½ cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS: Heat sugar, corn syrup, butter and water in medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring often, until sugar is fully dissolved, about 2 minutes. Continue to cook, without stirring, until mixture begins to bubble, 1 to 2 minutes. Off heat, carefully stir in cream and vanilla; mixture will bubble and steam. Continue to stir until sauce is smooth. Let cool slightly. (Sauce can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks; gently warm in microwave, stirring every 10 seconds, until pourable, before using.)

Whipped Cream

Makes about 2 cups


1 cup heavy cream, chilled

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch table salt

DIRECTIONS: Whip the ingredients on medium-low speed to ensure the sugar, vanilla and salt are evenly dispersed in the cream, before increasing the mixer speed to achieve soft peaks (our preference for dolloping).

Classic Hot Fudge Sauce

Makes about 2 cups


1¼ cups sugar

2/3 cup whole milk

¼ teaspoon table salt

1/3 unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and chilled

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS: Heat sugar, milk and salt in medium saucepan over medium-low heat, whisking gently, until sugar has dissolved and liquid starts to bubble around edges of saucepan, about 6 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add cocoa and whisk until smooth.

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Off heat, stir in chocolate and let sit for 3 minutes. Whisk sauce until smooth, and chocolate is fully melted. Whisk in butter and vanilla until fully incorporated and sauce thickens slightly. (Sauce can be refrigerated for up to 1 month; gently warm in microwave, stirring every 10 seconds, until pourable before using.)

ORANGE HOT FUDGE SAUCE VARIATION: Bring milk and eight 3-inch strips orange zest to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Off heat, cover and let sit for 15 minutes. Strain the milk mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, pressing on the orange zest to extract as much liquid as possible. Return milk to now-empty saucepan and proceed with recipe as directed.

— Recipes courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen 

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