KIDS’ BLOG! Hot Fudge Sundae: A Dessert 5,000 Years in the Making

sundae kidSo how much do you like ice cream?  Ice cream with hot fudge…ice cream with sprinkles…ice cream with gumdrops…there really are many varieties and toppings.  Let’s see how these ice cream treats were invented, beginning 5,000 years ago in China!

The origins of ice cream

The origins of ice cream most likely begin with ice flavored with fruit and other flavorings by the ancient Chinese around 3000 BCE.  Later references tell us that the Roman emperor Nero (37-68 CE) ordered ice brought from the mountains and topped with fruit. King Tang (618-697 CE) of Shang, China was reported as having a method for creating ice and milk treats.  Legend has it that in the 13th century Marco Polo, the first explorer to visit China, brought the iced dessert back to Italy, although there is no real proof for this (nor for pasta either, by the way).  Today’s ice cream is a product of people over the centuries improving on the original.  During the 17th century Italy added the ingredients that created the dessert we enjoy today.  In fact, the term “iced cream,” which was made by cooling sweet cream or egg-based puddings, was first found in print in1688 according to the Oxford English Dictionary.[1] France’s version, which spread northward through Europe, used egg yolks, while the version that came to America used no eggs or egg whites only.  Here it was a favorite of presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and First Lady Dolly Madison.[2]

Want more on the timeline of ice cream?  Click here.

Chocolate beginnings

Cacao beans. Image courtesy of

Cacao beans. Image courtesy of

Chocolate, or “xocoatl” to the ancient Aztecs, was a bitter drink from the cacao bean.  The importance of the cacao tree is revealed by its Aztec name Theobroma cacao, which means “food of the gods.”[3]  While we don’t know exactly how long chocolate has been a special drink for the Mesoamericans, Sophie and Michael Coe in The True History of Chocolate propose that there is linguistic evidence that it could be three or four thousand years, reaching back to pre-Columbian cultures such as the Olmec.  University of Pennsylvania anthropologists recently discovered cacao remains on pottery excavated in Honduras that could be from 1400 BCE.

Cacao beans were so valued that they were used as currency or money, as a 16th-century Aztec document describes.  Both the Mayans and and their later conquerors the Aztecs thought the bean had divine properties and used them in their rituals.

The idea of sweetening chocolate with honey or sugar came from the Spanish warriors or conquistadors who came from Spain looking for New World riches.  They didn’t like the bitterness of the Aztec drink.  It is said that the Aztec king Montezuma served the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes a meal that included chocolate.

Once introduced to Spain, chocolate became widely popular, a fashionable drink among the wealthy thought to have many health benefits.  Not until the invention of the steam engine that made mass production possible was chocolate able to be enjoyed by everyone other than the rich.  Today, chocolate is an important ingredient in hundreds of recipes.  Who knew a little bean could come so far?

See more chocolate samplings at:

Whipped cream

The exact history of how whipped cream came into popular use is unknown.  Some people think it was accidentally discovered when someone, most likely living in a cool climate, was making butter and being in a hurry, whipped it rather than churned it. Another version has it being the result of containers of cream being jiggled by a rider on a fast horse—who ever thought a horse could make whipped cream!  Whatever its origins we do know that it is recorded that the famous French chef Vatel served sweetened whipped cream at a reception for King Louis the XIV in 1661.[4]

The Sunday sundae (say what?)

One of the first sundae recipes was published in the Modern Guide for Soda Dispensers in 1897 in the United States.[5] While there is no definite timeline for the sundae’s origins (although many towns even today claim that sweet piece of history), it is generally thought that sundaes were created to avoid the Sunday Blue Laws that in many states didn’t allow selling soda water on Sundays.  The result?  No ice cream sodas, a very popular treat of the day.  But take out the soda water, and what’s left?  The sundae (with a funny new spelling, maybe to poke fun at the anti-soda water laws).

So that’s how the hot fudge sundae became such a sensation.  Now all you have to do is get out the ingredients in the recipes below, make a homemade batch of ice cream and fudge (we’ll leave the whipped cream for you to figure out.  Hint:  whip heavy cream until it peaks and add sugar and a splash of vanilla; cherry optional) and sit back and enjoy 5,000 years of history.


These are delicious recipes for you and your parents to make.  Of course, you could always buy the ice cream and fudge sauce in the supermarket.  Even so, look at how all the ingredients combine to make this wonderful treat.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream Recipe

This outstanding vanilla bean ice cream recipe is a custard ice cream infused with three vanilla beans, more than most recipes call for. This makes it an expensive treat – but what a treat! The other unusual ingredients here are the dry milk and raw sugar, which enhance the strong vanilla flavor.

4 C milk

¾ C cream

3 vanilla beans

7 egg yolks

2/3 ounces raw (turbinado) sugar

½ C nonfat dry milk

  1. Warm the milk and cream in a medium saucepan until it is hot, but not simmering.
  2. With a sharp knife, slice down the length of each vanilla bean, spread them open and scrape the seeds out into the pan, then add the bean pods.
  3. Boil the milk then immediately reduce to a simmer. Simmer 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from fire and allow to cool.
  5. Whisk egg yolks and sugar until light and foamy.
  6. Slowly pour the milk into the egg mixture, stirring to blend.
  7. Whisk in the milk powder.
  8. Pour entire mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat until the custard thickens slightly and reaches about 70 C (160F).
  9. Strain custard through a sieve.
  10. Allow to cool.
  11. Cover surface of custard with plastic wrap and chill overnight.
  12. Pour into ice cream maker.

Note – this recipe makes 1.5 quarts

Hot Fudge Sauce

Recipe courtesy of Rachael Ray

Total Time:  22 min

Prep:  15 min

Cook: 7 min

Yield: 4 servings


  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate chopped (you can use morsel if you don’t want to chop chocolate)
  • 1/2 cup very strong black coffee
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter, cut into pieces
  • 4 tablespoons (three turns around the pan) heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


In a heavy saucepan over medium low heat melt the chocolate and the coffee; once melted remove pan from heat and stir in the butter, cream, and cinnamon.

Scoop ice cream into serving dishes top with sauce and toppings of your choice

Other ice cream toppings

Two other popular toppings are gumdrops and sprinkles.

gumdropsGumdrops were created by Percy Trusdale in 1801.  Or at least that’s the story.  We don’t know for sure.  Gumdrop favorites are cherry, grape, orange, lemon and the spices of clove, cinnamon, mint and licorice.  Today’s Gummy Bears are another version.  The original gumdrops were invented as cone shaped sweets.  Did you know that NASA Apollo Command modules were called gumdrops because of their shape?   Gumdrops really are out of this world![6]

cupcakeSprinkles has an interesting history across many countries.  Did you know that they are called “hundreds and thousands”  in England and “hagelslag” In Holland?  History tells us that sprinkles were invented in the 18th century in France by bakers who put them in cakes and other desserts and called them “nonpareils.”  In French “nonpareil” translates as “without parallel,” which means there’s nothing else like it.    In 1936 Dutch chocolatiers made the chocolate sprinkle, which was originally a topping for bread and toast.[7]









4 responses to “KIDS’ BLOG! Hot Fudge Sundae: A Dessert 5,000 Years in the Making

  1. Pingback: Bon Appetit Wednesday! Recipes for Summer in the Northern Hemisphere | AntiquityNOW

  2. Pingback: Bon Appetit Wednesday! Kids Take Over the Ancient Kitchen | AntiquityNOW

  3. Pingback: Bon Appetit Wednesday! National Sundae Day | AntiquityNOW

  4. Pingback: Bon Appetit Wednesday! National Ice Cream Sundae Day…Again | AntiquityNOW

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