How to Make an Irresistible Ice Cream Sundae Bar

Our colorful ice cream sundae bar goes beyond typical toppings like hot fudge and maraschino cherries. Your guests are sure to be impressed!  

Every year through eighth grade, my mom threw an annual, end-of-summer ice cream social for my classmates. Everyone was asked to bring an ice cream topping, while we as the hosts provided several gallons of ice cream. I usually had about 20-ish kids in my class, so you do the math: We had plenty of choices for our potluck-style ice cream sundae bar!

The ice cream sundae bar our food stylists here at Taste of Home created doesn’t have quite as many toppings, but it’s just as playful and fun. We share how to build an ice cream sundae bar that will tickle everyone’s tastebuds when the craving for ice cream strikes.

How to Make an Ice Cream Sundae Bar

Ice Cream Sundae BoardTMB Studio

Foods to Include

Ice cream: Part of the fun of an ice cream sundae bar is getting to choose between several different kinds of ice cream. We played it safe by picking approachable, popular flavors, so that guests will be happy with the most important part of their sundae. We opted for vanilla, mint chip, strawberry and blue moon ice cream, but you can pick out the flavors you think your guests will like most—whether it’s chocolate, rocky road or chocolate chip cookie dough.

Vessels: While you could put out regular or paper bowls with your ice cream sundae bar, we chose edible vessels for the ice cream: waffle bowls, plus sugar and waffle cones. This way, you’ll have less dishes later! If you’re feeling ambitious, you could make your own ice cream bowls with the help of a pizelle maker.

Sauces: Hot fudge sauce is a classic sundae ingredient, warm and rich on top of cold and creamy ice cream. We also made warm pecan praline sauce and blueberry sauce that can be served warm or cold, in case guests aren’t huge fans of chocolate.

Toppings: Be sure to serve classic sundae toppings like sliced bananas, peanuts and sprinkles, but don’t be afraid to branch out! Colorful candies like Sour Patch Kids and Nerds are playful and creative choices, while mini pretzels, mini peanut butter cups and Oreos are guaranteed to be a hit. Don’t forget about the whipped cream and maraschino cherry on top!

How to Build an Ice Cream Sundae Bar

Step 1: Set out the ice cream tray

On the board of your choice, set out the tray you plan to serve your ice cream in—although you won’t take the ice cream or the ice cubes out of the freezer just yet. This way, you’ll know for sure you have space for the ice cream later (the most important part)!

Step 2: Grab your bowls and pitchers

Grab enough bowls for all of the sauces and toppings on the board, minus the bananas and the Oreos. (We used 11.) Fill smaller bowls with items like the Nerds, sprinkles, mini pretzels, mini peanut butter cups and peanuts. Save the bigger bowls for the bulkier toppings like Sour Patch Kids and maraschino cherries.

Set out pitchers for the blueberry sauce, pecan praline sauce and hot fudge for easy pouring, but hold off on filling the pitchers until later.

Step 3: Make space for the cones and waffle bowls

Nestle some waffle cones and sugar cones together, and stack the waffle bowls right next to the board. We also put out an extra bowl for more cones just in case.

Step 4: Round out the toppings with the Oreos and bananas

After all of your bowl ingredients have a spot on your ice cream sundae bar, grab the Oreos and bananas. Put the Oreos on their sides, so that you can see black and white for each cookie. When peeling the banana, try to only peel one or two strands so that you have a “boat” left to serve the slices in.

Step 5: Heat up the sauces

Heat up the hot fudge and pecan praline sauce, and the blueberry sauce if you like. Adding a spoon to the pitchers of blueberry sauce and pecan praline sauce helps give guests more control over the chunks and bigger pieces.

Step 6: Pull out the ice cream

Fill up the ice cream tray with ice cubes, and pull the pints of ice cream out of the freezer. Take the lids off of each pint and nestle each into the ice cube tray to keep them frozen for longer. Don’t forget the Reddi Whip!

Step 7: Serve

Let your guests know it’s time to dig into the ice cream sundae bar after you put out spoons and napkins. Multiple ice cream scoops would be helpful as well, so you don’t have to use the same scoop for different flavors of ice cream (if you have them)!

Tips for Making an Ice Cream Sundae Bar

Ice Cream Sundae BoardTMB Studio

What other toppings can you put on an ice cream sundae bar?

Fresh fruit is always welcome on an ice cream sundae, and sliced strawberries and fresh blueberries are obvious go-tos. In the summer, I like to spoon some homemade strawberry jam into my sundae bowl, so that I can get a little with each bite. (Peanut butter and Nutella would also be great spreads to have with ice cream, too.) Strawberry, caramel and chocolate syrup would be great toppers as well.

Add more crunch to your ice cream sundae with Teddy Grahams, chocolate chips, M&M’s, toffee bits and cookie dough. Here are more homemade ice cream toppings and ice cream sundae ideas for you to consider.

How long can you leave ice cream out for?

With any tub of ice cream you pull from the freezer, you’ll want to let the ice cream soften a little bit before you serve it so your guests don’t struggle to scoop the ice cream—so budget a little time for that. We put our ice cream pints on ice so that the ice cream won’t melt quite as quickly after that. If you skip the tub of ice, the ice cream will only last about 15 minutes before it gets too melty. Keep your eyes on the ice cream to watch how quickly it starts to melt—encourage your guests to create their sundaes right away.

How can you keep hot fudge warm?

Since the ice cream will melt quickly anyway, you shouldn’t have to worry about keeping the hot fudge warm for a long time.

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Lauren Pahmeier
Lauren is an associate editor at Taste of Home, focusing on search engine optimization. When she’s not making sure readers can find TOH’s recipes on Google, she’s practicing her food photography, consistently finding new recipes to try and hunting down the most indulgent treats in the Twin Cities.