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The Art of the Sundae: 7 Tips for Ice Cream Perfection

08/29/2011 04:59 pm ET | Updated Oct 29, 2011

Summertime calls for easy living, food on the grill, and lots of frozen desserts. To some, a summer day isn't even complete without a scoop or two of cool, creamy ice cream. Whether you're arranging a big sundae bar for a party or simply digging in at home on your own, here's how to transform already delicious ice cream into the decadent concoction known as a sundae. Tell us about your favorites in the comments!

**Tips & Tricks**

1. Buy Good Ice Cream. It's the base of your sundae, so don't skimp when it comes to your pints. Haagen Dazs is always a good option, but if you have a local ice cream parlor or gelateria you like (and can afford the ice cream from), try buying a few fresh pints. You can also vary your assortment depending on who's coming to eat with you: buy Coconut Bliss or chocolate sorbet for lactards; vanilla frozen yogurt for dieters. Unless you have a specific flavor pairing in mind, stick with straightforward base flavors; that'll give you the most flexibility when adding sauces and other toppings.

2. Or Make It. Always an option--whether or not you have an ice cream maker. Try our Coconut-Caramel or Matzoh Crunch Ice Cream, or some of our favorites from around the web.

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3. Drape in Sauce. You can't go wrong with the classic: our Hot Fudge is dreamy, thick, rich, and chocolatey. It goes with all ice cream flavors, from fruity to caramel-y to experimental. Mocha-Caramel Sauce is another simple favorite that keeps for weeks in the fridge. We also love fruit compotes on top of vanilla or chocolate ice cream, or coconut or lemon sorbet.

4. Caffeinate. Making affogatos is super easy so long as you have an espresso maker (or a coffee shop across the street), but they're elegant to serve and eat (especially with a cookie alongside). Branch out by substituting Chai Tea Concentrate for the espresso.

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5. Garnish. We're big fans of serving a cookie on the side of our sundaes--biscotti and shortbread are favorites. It looks pretty, and by taking alternating bites of cookie and ice cream you add yet more crunch to your sundae. If it's not too hot outside, you can also prep the cookie dough in advance, then bake a batch right before eating and serve the cookies warm. Also, does the brownie in a brownie sundae count as garnish? Last, an extra fresh berry or sprig of mint really ups the ante on presentation if you're serving a classy crowd.

6. Create a Theme. To spice up the party, pick a cuisine and carry it through all your sundae's elements. Finish a taco dinner with Cinnamon Ice Cream, Caramel Sauce, and Mexican Wedding Cakes. After a mezze feast, have good Vanilla Frozen Yogurt with Toasted Walnuts, and a Drizzle of Honey. When summer turns to fall, top Pumpkin Ice Cream with White Chocolate Ganache and tiny Pecan Squares. The possibilities are endless!

-Cara Eisenpress and Phoebe Lapine of Big Girls, Small Kitchen

7. Cherry on Top? Look, we're no maraschino cherry fans, and we probably wouldn't admit it if we were. If you love 'em though, we won't judge! We do love the idea of experimenting with homemade brandied cherries; we're totally inspired by this recipe from Saveur.