Sundae: The History of this Icy Treat


While National Sundae Day isn’t until November, we can’t deny that this ice cream is a perfect dessert for the summer. A mix of ice cream, sauces/syrups, and an array of topics, this icy treat has combinations that suit anyone’s taste buds. But what is the history of the sundae? In today’s blog, we’ll try to avoid brain freeze as we uncover the past of this dessert. Plus, provide some fun ice cream recipes for you to try!

What is a Sundae?

Like we mentioned, a sundae is an ice cream dessert. It typically consists of one or more scoops of ice cream topped with sauce or syrup. Additionally, in some cases, there are toppings such as sprinkles, whipped cream, marshmallows, peanuts, maraschino cherries, or other fruits. A maraschino cherry is a preserved and sweetened cherry. 

There are a few different varieties of sundaes. 

The Controversy of the Invention

There is much contention about who invented the sundae. However, a frequent theory is the dessert is a variation of an ice cream soda. According to accounts, soda was prohibited on Sunday in Illinois. Thus, the birth of another dessert in order to keep customers coming on the weekend. 

Although many states claim to be the birth place, this biggest rivalry is between Two Rivers, Wisconsin, and Ithaca, New York. 

Two Rivers, Wisconsin 

In this town’s lore, a patron asked the owner of a soda fountain to drizzle chocolate syrup over ice cream in 1881. Eventually, the owner was selling the treat for a nickel, but only on Sundays. The spelling changed when a glass salesman order canoe-shaped dishes. When the owner died in 1939 his obituary read ‘Man Who Made First Ice Cream Sundae is Dead”. 

However, others argue that the owner would have been 16 or 17 in 1881 and therefore improbably owned an ice cream shop that year. Additionally, the obituary dates the dessert to 1899, not 1881.

Ithaca, New York

In 1892, a minister and pharmacist created the first historically documented sundae. He covered dishes of cream with cherry syrup and candied cherries. Thus, in honour of the day of its creation, it became a “Cherry Sunday”. 

In terms of evidence, Ithaca Daily Journal placed An ad for a “Cherry Sunday” in April 1892. A month later, the store also served Strawberry and Chocolate varieties. These desserts grew in such popularity that by 1894 they tried to trademark the term ice cream “Sunday”.

Some Sundae Recipes

Does reading this blog have you hankering for a sweet treat? Check out these ice cream and topping combinations!

About the Author

Lydia B.

Lydia B.

Lydia B. is a Marketing Coordinator and Music Club Coach for Gooroo, a tutoring membership that matches students to tutors perfect for them based on their unique learning needs. Gooroo offers Math, English, SAT, Coding, Spanish tutoring, and more.