'A Month of Sundaes'

This booking photo released by the Cambridge, Mass., Police Dept., shows Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who was arrested while trying to force open the locked front door of his home near Harvard University Thursday, July 16, 2009.
Ice cream, flavored syrup, nuts and fruit could only be the recipe for an ice cream sundae.

Around since the late 1800s, the sundae's history has been vague until now. "A Month Of Sundaes" chronicles the birth and decadent legacy of the ice cream sundae with 150-sundae recipes. Michael Turback, the author, visits The Early Show to share some of his recipes and talk about his book.

Sundaes have expanded a lot from their introduction. To appreciate those more unusual sundaes, it's good to have an understanding of the basics: vanilla ice cream, a syrup or topping, and, of course, the obligatory cherry on top.

"A Month of Sundaes" provides 150 different recipes. The following are just a few:

The Merry-Go-Round Sundae

1 scoop vanilla ice cream
Chocolate syrup
Animal crackers
Paper umbrella

Dip one large scoop of vanilla ice cream onto the center of a flat sundae dish. Cover the ice cream with chocolate syrup and stick a paper unbrella in the top. Surround with animal crackers for the ride.

Yankee Doodle Dandy Sundae

1/4 cup marshmallow syrup
2 tablespoons crushed maraschino cherries
2 large scoops vanilla ice cream
2 tablespoons blueberries

Pour half of the marshmallow syrup into the bottom of a wide sundae glass, and add the ice cream. Top with the remainder of the marshmellow syrup and place the cherries on one side of the glass and the blueberries on the opposite side, leaving a white stripe down the middle.

Royal George Sundae

25 scoops of ice cream
Several waffle cones
Whipped cream
Hot fudge

Dip 25 large scoops of vanilla ice cream (or your choice of flavor - plenty of room here to mix several) into an oversized shell. Surround the ice cream with waffle cones, upside-down to form a crown for "Royal George," and load on the whipped cream. Accompany with a tray of hot-fudge pitchers and six bowls, each filled with a different favorite garnish.

Inside-Out Sundae

4 ounces hot fudge
4 ounces caramel
1/4 cup honey-roasted peanuts
1 scoop vanilla ice cream
4 ounces strawberry topping


  1. Paint hot fudge on half of the exterior of the tulip glass and caramel on the other half.
  2. Sprinkle chopped peanuts on the hot fudge and caramel.
  3. Freeze the glass for up to an hour.
  4. Scoop vanilla ice cream into pre-coated glass.
  5. Cover ice cream with strawberries and top with whipped cream and cherry.
  6. Top contents inside the glass with hot fudge.
  7. Drizzle medium-size round plate with hot fudge and place sundae in the center of plate.
  8. Sprinkle plate with chopped peanuts.

The ice cream sundae is the quintessential American dessert - "a simple, big idea...something Americans love". "A Month of Sundaes" explains why the sundae dessert has remained a constant, while many other foods that evolved at the same time have fallen by the wayside.

Turback says he felt compelled to write this book not just because he loves ice cream sundaes, but also because he found no one had complied a full history of the sundae ever before.

The book takes readers back to the very beginning, when Thomas Jefferson topped his vanilla ice cream off with maple syrup, to years later when Dolley Madison added strawberries to her ice cream. While researching this book, Michael, a marathon runner able to stay in shape while sampling, ate four to five sundaes a day. The book also attempts to clear up the confusion that surrounds the exact origin of the sundae. Wisconsin and Evanston, Ill., claim to be its birthplace.

However, "A Month of Sundaes" supports the story that the first sundae was sold at the Platt and Colt Pharmacy, on State Street, in the town of Ithaca, N.Y.

As the story goes: "About the much discussed origin of the ice cream concoction called Sunday, Sundae and Sundi; About 45 years ago (in 1892), on a Sunday afternoon, John M. Scott, then pastor of the Unitarian Church, and Chester Platt were having their usual Sunday confab in back of the prescription counter, when Mr. Platt proposed that they have some refreshment. Mr. Platt then came up to the soda fountain, where I was holding forth, asking for two dishes of ice cream, and on each he placed a candied cherry, then, after considering a bit, he poured cherry syrup over them, making a very attractive looking dessert. When he and Mr. Scott tried out this new concoction, they became very enthusiastic about its flavor and appearance, and immediately started casting about for a suitable name. It was then that Mr. Scott said why not call it Cherry Sunday in commemoration of the day on which it was invented. This name appealed to Mr. Platt, so from that day on we served Cherry Sunday, and later on Strawberry, Pineapple, Chocolate, etc. - DeForest Christiance, May 25, 1936

Turback says that this version is the most probable for two reasons: First, the story was recounted to the Ithaca librarian and historian by Christiance, the clerk who actually witnessed the event as it happened. Second, Platt placed an advertisement in the local newspaper promoting his new creation. This advertisement dates back the furthest in sundae promotion.

The growth and popularity of the sundae can be tracked easily throughout the years. Here are several milestones that have contributed to the dessert's longevity:

  • 1882, the birth of the ice cream sundae
  • 1904, the arrival of the Banana Split in Atlantic City
  • 1906, the Hot Fudge Sundae in Los Angeles
  • 1920s, bigger and the grander sundae recipes
  • 1930s, the Depression made the sundae a special treat
  • 1940s, World War II sugar shortage made the sundae a revered splurge in times of rationing
  • 1950's, popularity grew with the birth of soft serve (Carvel and Dairy Queen drive-ins)
  • 1978, McDonalds added the sundae to its menu

Over the past two decades, the sundae has faced some tough times. Gone are the days of the "great sundae" served in elaborate fluted glasses with matching underdishes and long, fancy spoons. Now, most are served in disposable cups.

But all has not been lost. "A Month of Sundaes" does offer the reader a cross-country guide to the few sundae -aking shops still remaining that serve their treats in the traditional fashion. Here are a few of Turback's recommendations:

  • Serendipity in New York City - known for their over-the-top sundaes that can never feed just one person
  • Margie's in Chicago, which still has pictures of Al Capone enjoying a sundae and the Beatles relaxing after a performance at Comiskey Park.
  • The Candy Crown Kitchen in St. Louis, Mo., has been in continual operation for more than 90 years, all by the same family.

  • Of course there are many more. The word "OPEN" in the book denotes the establishments still in operation.

    About the author:

    Michael Turback has lived most of his adult life in Ithaca, N.Y., where he owned and operated the award-winning restaurant Turback's. His passion for the sundae has always been great. The dessert's history was printed on the front cover of his restaurant menus. He sold Turback's in 1997 and then sat down to write "A Month of Sundaes." After a year of research, travel, writing and editing, the first book dealing with the history and lore of the sundae was ready for print. Although his travels did not take him to every soda fountain or ice cream parlor mentioned in the book, he has done extensive research and completed exhaustive interviews on each establishment.