Where did the ice cream sundae come from?

It's confirmed – it's ''sundae'' not ''Sunday''!

Image: The Spruce Eats

July 25 is National Ice Cream Sundae Day in the U.S. While it’s absolutely one of those made-up, offbeat holidays that the internet enjoys celebrating, some people need an excuse to indulge in a frozen treat, and there’s nothing wrong with that!

For a common dessert, there’s quite a bit of controversy surrounding where exactly the sundae craze started.

Story number one claims that the sundae was created in 1881 in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Longtime customer George Hallauer is said to have asked Edward C. Berners, owner of Berner’s Soda Fountain, to drizzle chocolate syrup over his regular ice cream. Reluctant at first, Berners eventually did add chocolate to the dessert, selling it for a nickel and adding it as a special to his Sunday menu — hence the name.

Story number two is a combination of claims that both come from New York. One version of the story places the sundae at Stoddart Bros. Drug store in Buffalo, New York, in 1889. Residents claim that the local "shoppe" sold ice cream sodas with garnishes of fruit syrup and whipped cream. The other version points at Ithaca in 1892. On April 3, 1892, John M. Scott and Chester Platt documented the creation of the first sundae. In a similar fashion, the partners of Plat & Colt Pharmacy covered dishes of ice cream with cherry syrup and candied cherries. The dubbed the dish the “Cherry Sunday” in honor of the day of its creation, eventually expanding into other toppings.

Story number three — Evanston, Illinois, 1890. The city was one of the first to pass a blue law against selling traditional ice cream sodas on Sundays. “Blue laws” are laws designed to restrict or ban some or all Sunday activities for religious reasons, particularly to promote the observance of a day of worship or rest. This restricted the sale of sodas in drugstores. What this did not limit is — you guessed it — the sale of ice cream. Using a loophole in the new law, confectioners served their ice cream with sweet syrups and toppings, but without the soda. These tricky treats became heralded as the “Sunday Soda”, and eventually the sundae.

Image: Food.com

The one thing that can be agreed on is that it is, indeed, an ice cream "sundae" and not a "Sunday." While it is absolutely descended from the day of the week, the spelling was changed over the course of time to give the dessert it's own special distinction, paying homage to its word of origin. 

Even with over one hundred and ten years of history, the delicacy has barely changed since its first iterations. The recipe is a very scientific combination of one or more scoops of ice cream, a sweet sauce made of fruit, chocolate, caramel or the like, toppings ranging from crushed nuts to sprinkles, and a healthy dollop of whipped cream. The possibilities from here are endless.

Which story do you think is true? More importantly, what is your favorite sundae?

Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


idkwut2use 55 months ago
Gimme some sauce (any of the kinds listed), rainbow sprinkles, maraschinos, gummi bears (Friendly's tiny ones are T H E B E S T), whipped cream/Cool Whip, maybe some nuts...maybe some other stuff...x-3
I love DQ's hardening cherry and butterscotch dips too.
SemperVaporo 59 months ago
PLAIN Vanilla ice cream (Whiteys is good), a small amount of PLAIN Chocolate syrup (Hershey's). Do NOT adulterate the ice cream with anything else. If you have to add other things, you need to buy a higher quality ice cream and chocolate syrup.
MsPlow 59 months ago
The picture at the top is a banana split.
ELEANOR MsPlow 59 months ago
Yes, that is a banana split. A sundae has ice cream, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and a cherry on top. I remember the Blue Laws. Life was so much easier, you went to church, came home, ate Sunday Dinner, and rested. No going to the mall, no grocery shopping.
RobCertSDSCascap ELEANOR 57 months ago
Yeah, and if a light bulb burned out, you were stuck until Monday!
Tresix 59 months ago
Out of those three stories, the one I've heard repeated the most is the Evanston one.
daDoctah Tresix 59 months ago
Same here. I even remember that being the story printed in the menu (which was made to look like an old-time newspaper, with articles and such) of Farrell's.
MrsPhilHarris 59 months ago
If I was still 5 years old I would want chocolate and vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce, whipped cream and a cherry on top.
stephaniestavropoulos 59 months ago
Since I'm from Illinois, {although I no longer live there;} I will support the Evanston Illinois story. My favorite sundae? The one made with ice cream of course! I know METV wants specifics, but...There's so many kinds of ice creams, toppings, and combinations of the two, and not enough space to list them all. {I feel I'm being very diplomatic in my answer. I don't want to offend any toppings or ice creams by forgetting one, or not including one, due to lack of space!}
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?