Ice Cream/Frozen Desserts

A 3-Ingredient Hot Fudge Sundae That's 100% Homemade

June 12, 2018

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big, BIG everything else: flavor, ideas, wow factor. Psst: We don't count salt or cooking fat (say, olive oil to sauté onions), since we're guessing you have those covered. Today, we’re making a homemade hot fudge sundae with a few tricks up its sleeve.

At its most basic, a hot fudge sundae has three components: ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream. But what if we made those three components—like, from scratch—from three ingredients? Is that crazy? Even possible? Should we find out?

As if I even had to ask.


No-churn ice cream has been the darling of the frozen dessert world for awhile now. Martha Stewart’s since-shuttered magazine Everyday Food wrote about it in 2011. In that version, you combine sweetened condensed milk with bourbon and vanilla extract, then combine that with just-whipped cream.

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The idea is: The sweetened condensed milk acts as a custardy ice cream base. And the whipped cream—double the volume of the cream from which it came, because of all that fluffy air you added in—simulates the churning of an ice cream machine.

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Top Comment:
“I would add some Toasted Nuts. Either Toasted Walnuts or Toasted Almonds. :-)”
— Lois G.

For its itty-bitty ingredient list and enormous ease (all you need is a whisk!), it’s an astonishing doppelgänger. Creamy, silky, infinitely adaptable. You could, say, bring in some caffeine, like Nigella Lawson does—a riff so addictive, we dubbed it Genius in 2014.

Or you could Big Little Recipe-fy it, and cut out all ingredients but the sweetened condensed milk and whipped cream. These could become the bedrock of our sundae.


Hot fudge should be chocolatey and pourable and gooey and shiny and not too sweet. (Is that too much to ask?) To accomplish this, hot fudge recipes call in a slew of reinforcements, such as: chocolate, cocoa powder, cream, milk, butter, sugar, and corn syrup. But we don’t need all that.

We already have sweetened condensed milk and cream. Because it’s hot fudge, we need some sort of chocolate—either chocolate itself or cocoa powder. Which is when I started to think about a recipe I’d seen on the Eagle Brand website: sweetened condensed milk, semisweet chocolate chips, butter, water, and vanilla extract.

What if we cut out the butter and vanilla extract? Would just sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips, and water work? And what if we used a different type of chocolate? Sweetened condensed milk is already plenty, well, sweet. So, maybe bittersweet instead? Or unsweetened? The last, it turned out, was my favorite. Unabashedly, confidently chocolatey, with a big pinch of salt.


The last step. (If you're whipping by hand, more power to you! Lots of tips, right this way.) To each sundae, add a floppy, oversized dollop. Totally unsweetened, which lets the cream be itself. Top with a cherry, if you pretty, pretty please. That would technically make it four ingredients. But I won’t tell anyone if you won’t.

What else, if anything, would you add to your Big Little hot fudge sundae? Tell us in the comments below.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Matt
  • Lois Goetzinger
    Lois Goetzinger
  • Emma Laperruque
    Emma Laperruque
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


Matt June 12, 2018
Does anyone else count six?
Emma L. June 13, 2018
Hi Matt! With Big Little Recipes, we don't count a few staples, since most kitchens have them covered: salt and water are two here. And the cherries are an optional add-on—pretty but totally not necessary.
Lois G. June 12, 2018
I would add some Toasted Nuts. Either Toasted Walnuts or Toasted Almonds. :-)
Emma L. June 13, 2018
Yes, please!