16 Ways to Fancy Up Store-Bought Ice Cream

August 26, 2016

The first thing you might notice when flipping through Amanda and Merrill's new book, A New Way to Dinner, is that they love gussying up store-bought ice cream.

When we make ice cream, we do it because we love making ice cream, not because we need to. We live in a happy time (for the freezer section at least) when most grocery stores carry great quality ice cream in increasingly interesting flavors. Talenti, Haagen-Dazs, Jeni’s, Graether’s and SoCo Creamery are just a few of our favorite brands.

With excellent ice cream as a base, you’re just minutes away from a more fancy-pants dessert, something that you can put together as easily for your kids on a weeknight as for guests at a weekend dinner party.

We lean on store bought ice cream all the time, as you’ll see in our upcoming book, A New Way to Dinner. Here are some of our mini-recipes from the book for gussied-up ice creams, organized by flavor base:


  • Affogato: Pour a shot of your best espresso over a scoop of the highest quality ice cream you can find; e finito!

  • Vanilla Ice Cream with Rhubarb Compote: Here’s a (not)recipe: Cook down virtually any fruit with a little sugar and some aromatics (citrus zest, wine or port, spices), then spoon it—hot or cold—over ice cream.

  • Roasted Rhubarb with Clementines and Cardamom + Vanilla Ice Cream: Toss thickly sliced rhubarb and clementine sections (skin and all) with sugar, cardamom, and clementine juice; spread out in a baking dish and roast at 375°F until browned on the tips. Let cool a bit then spoon over vanilla ice cream.
  • Toasted Brown Sugar Pound Cake with Ice Cream: Toast slices of leftover or store-bought cake (angel food is also good here) and while it’s still warm, plop on a scoop of ice cream; the cake will start to absorb the melting ice cream as you eat it, which is a good thing.

  • Banana, Kefir, and Maple Shakes: blend up a ripe banana, some tangy kefir, and vanilla (or even coffee) ice cream, and sweeten with maple syrup.

  • Peppermint Stick Ice Cream: Crush candy canes or starlight mints and blend them into softened vanilla ice cream for a minty take on a blizzard.


  • Crispy Crunchy Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Ice Cream: For an ice cream sandwich with some crunch, sandwich crisp oatmeal cookies (store bought or homemade) with scoops of softened chocolate ice cream; wrap and keep in the freezer until you’re ready to eat them.

  • Chocolate Ice Cream with Toasted Brioche Crumbs, Almonds, and Salt: A great use for leftover brioche or challah. Pull the bread into bite-size pieces and toast them, sprinkled with honey, chopped almonds, and flaky salt, on a baking sheet. Crumble the mixture over chocolate ice cream.

  • Chocolate Ice cream Topped with Cinnamon and Chile Dust: For the laziest, yet good cheat on Mexican hot chocolate, dust a scoop of chocolate ice cream with cinnamon, ground chile (we like piment d’espelette), and a tiny pinch of salt.
  • Chocolate Ice Cream with Hot Honey and Maraschino Cherries: By maraschino cherries, we mean the real deal, not the technicolor cherries from the grocery store. Here’s a source for the good kind. Drop a few of these cherries over scoops of chocolate ice cream and spackle with Mike’s Hot Honey.

  • Chocolate Ginger Ice Cream Sandwich: Smoosh a mound of chocolate ice cream between chewy, peppery molasses ginger cookies.

  • Ginger Syrup over Ice Cream: Infuse simple syrup with sliced fresh ginger and use it to perk up plain Jane vanilla.


  • Coconut Ice Cream with Plums: Almost anything gets along with coconut ice cream. In the summer, we like to sauté sliced plums with a little sugar, until they’re caramelized and a bit glassy (use a nonstick pan to make your life easier) and drape them over bowlfuls of coconut ice cream.

Strawberry (or other Berry)

  • Strawberry Ice Cream Floats: Add a scoop of strawberry or vanilla ice cream to a tall cold glass of homemade strawberry soda (or add strawberry ice cream to a good store-bought vanilla soda), and be transported back to soda shops of yore. (Try the same trick with the ginger syrup above and make a homemade ginger ale float.)


  • Mint Ice Cream with Toasted Cake and Whipped Cream: Break any leftover cake (we prefer chocolate, if you’re making this for us) into small pieces and toast on a baking sheet. Whip some cream—no sugar needed! Then layer your mint ice cream, cake, and whipped cream in any order or ratio you please.


  • Coffee Ice Cream with Toasted Marshmallows: Put a few marshmallows under the broiler (bonus points for good quality marshmallows but any will do) until puffed and toasted. Meanwhile scoop your coffee ice cream into bowls and top with the hopelessly gooey marshmallows.

Tell us: How do you gussy up store-bought ice cream?

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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horwatwifey July 10, 2018
Toasted chocolate cake crumbs in mint ice cream seems absolutely perfect. Such a great idea!
Andy September 4, 2016
Aged balsamic on vanilla ice cream is the bomb.
Greenstuff August 29, 2016
Don't forget the Marcella Hazan favorite--vanilla ice cream, a shot of Scotch whiskey, and a sprinkling of powdered espresso.
Siri B. August 27, 2016
a drizzle of good olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt on plain vanilla ice cream !
702551 August 26, 2016
The easiest way to gussy up commercial ice cream is to pour booze on it.

Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Chambord, and Kahlua are four examples.
702551 August 26, 2016
Oh, and this isn't limited to spirits or liqueurs. You can also use wine or beer.

Vin santo is the first wine that comes to the top of my head.

Guinness floats had their fifteen minutes of fame in the Eighties.
amysarah August 26, 2016
Saute banana slices in butter, add brown sugar and a pinch of salt (adding a glug of rum or bourbon never hurts,) simmer a minute or two and serve over or under a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I like coffee ice cream a lot with this too.
sarah August 26, 2016
It may sound silly, but I love balsamico on ice cream, especially the richer, creamier varieties like stracciatella.
Smaug August 26, 2016
Seems to me the ice cream makers are doing enough "gussying up" of their own. Ben and Jerry makes what, 3 actual flavors of ice cream? Yet they sell about a million varieties. In a way, the proliferation of manufacturers has been a boon for ice cream eaters, but it has it's price- stores have limited freezer space, and when they add a new line, something has to give, and it's usually selection of other brands' flavors (and usually, it seems, the ones I prefer). So I go to the store, I have my choice of 40 brands of vanilla, in addition to various low fat, non dairy etc. versions, but nary a Spumoni or Butter Pecan.
702551 August 26, 2016
You're better off going to a real ice cream shop rather than the grocery store to buy ice cream although for sure, an independent shop will not have *ALL* flavors, but a selection of what they recently made.

The ice cream shop by my regular grocery store has prepacked quarts, etc. of the most popular flavors (like vanilla) so you don't have wait for the counter person to scoop a quart. Plus, their ice cream is G-O-O-D.
Smaug August 27, 2016
There is a plentiful lack of ice cream stores anywhere near me, and anyway that way you only get 1 brand. I find that most brands only have a couple of flavors that they do particularly well.
Niknud August 26, 2016
Homemade Magic Shell! You did an article/have the recipe up here somewhere. Ridiculously easy (like 2 ingredients and your microwave easy), delicious and (bonus!) the kiddos think I am the coolest parent ever. Not bad for 2 minutes worth of work. Oh yah, and you can keep leftovers in the fridge and just heat it up later.