4 Toppings That Will Bring Your Ice Cream Sundae to the Next Level

Trade in your rainbow sprinkles for something even more exciting

As kids, we took a more-is-more approach to sundaes, piling them high with huge scoops smothered in gooey fudge, tacky caramel, towers of fluffy whipped cream swirls, sugary-sweet nuts, and neon-red cherries on top. Everything went to 11, and ended in a tummy ache.

Now, as grown-ups, we are lucky to be living through an American ice cream renaissance. Places like Morgenstern's in New York City have a charming, old-school feel, complete with servers in paper hats. But the crumbly topping they offer of pleasantly bitter coffee-honeycomb crunch is far from traditional—it's complex, intriguing, and delicious in ways a sugar bomb could never be. At Salt & Straw in Portland, old-style hot fudge is merely a jumping-off point for myriad variations, which include ingredients like toasted white chocolate, sesame, and rich, fruity olive oil. At this new wave of ice cream shops, the focus isn't on enormity, but on pioneering flavor. Here are sundaes that begin with the most luxurious mail-order ice creams around, and end with deluxe toppings from some of our favorite American creameries.

Coffee Honeycomb Crunch

Coffee Honeycomb Crunch

Adding baking soda to molten sugar creates bubbles that get trapped once the mixture cools. The hardened result has an airy, honeycomb-like structure. Morgenstern’s of New York City adds honey and instant coffee to its version of this candy, which, when crushed up, becomes a bittersweet, crunchy topping that offsets the sweetness of ice cream.Matt Taylor-Gross
Vanilla Meringue

Vanilla Meringue

This classic meringue from San Francisco’s Bi-Rite Creamery can be used as-is for a gooey, marshmallow-fluff-like topping or lightly brûléed with a torch for a toasty, s’mores-style shell. To ensure an airy, voluminous meringue, make sure your bowl and whisk are wiped clean and the whites aren’t ice-cold—room temperature is ideal.Matt Taylor-Gross

Olive Oil Hot Fudge

Olive Oil Hot Fudge
Olive oil subtly enhances this grown-up, not-too-sweet sundae topping from Portland's Salt & Straw. Get the recipe for Olive Oil Hot Fudge »Matt Taylor-Gross
Fried Chicken Caramel

Fried Chicken Caramel

Think of it as the more refined version of bacon popping up in your dessert: In this creative caramel adapted from Coolhaus, an ice cream sandwich maker with a national fleet of ice cream trucks, schmaltz and salty chicken bouillon add a subtle thrum of savory to store-bought caramel sauce, while crispy chicken skin lends the perfect crunch. Your guests will never guess the secret ingredient.Matt Taylor-Gross