When I think of the ideal dessert, my option always favors ice cream. Go-to birthday celebration? A scoop of Van Leeuwen’s Strawberry Cookie Crumble. Mid-finals pick me up? Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia. Given one day to live, my last meal on Earth would culminate in a Brownie Sundae (with vanilla ice cream, of course). Heaping toppings onto my 16 Handles swirl is a specific type of joy, one that makes me an expert in what you should and should NOT be covering your scoop in.

My convictions are strong when it comes to developing sundaes. Agree to disagree or get out a pint, and test the Spoon-approved roster of worthy toppings.

Crushed Waffle Cone

For practical reasons, I am a cup over cone kind of gal. Even as a kid, my extraordinarily neat mother would order our ice cream with a cone on the side to avoid cleaning up. Satisfyingly crunchy and not too sweet, waffle cone pieces are to ice cream what croutons are to salad: a welcome source of texture.


With nearly 100 years of candy credibility, M&Ms are a clear choice for ice cream topping. The sheer variety of the Mars Co. classic makes for endless experimentation. Mint chocolate, pretzel, cold brew or caramel, every ice cream has an M&M counterpart. Add Fudge Brownie M&Ms to a cookie dough base for a Brookie replica.

Hot Fudge

No matter where we are, my dad’s go-to order is a small scoop of Mint Chip, drowned in hot fudge. There’s something decadent and a little devious about the hot-and-cold combo; you have to eat tactfully before melting time runs out. Mint Chocolate Chip holds up beneath the bold sauce, along with Strawberry, Rocky Road and Coffee.

Peanut Butter Cups

Justin’s, Reeses or Trader Joe’s dark chocolate minis, peanut butter cups are a top tier topping choice. Lucious in their own right, these nutty morsels melt right into whatever scoop selection you please. Chocolate, Mocha and Caramel Pecan are fitting choices to carry such an iconic treat.

Fresh Fruit

Nature’s candy needs a spot at your ice cream bar. Seasonal berries like strawberries and blueberries are refreshing atop a vanilla bean cone (not to mention patriotic). Ripe mango is unmatched when combined with other tropical options like coconut, passion fruit and pineapple. Channel island vibes and get your antioxidants while enjoying a special treat

Coconut Flakes

Toasted or freshly flaked, I’m huge into coconut on ice cream. It could be my affinity for tropical flavors or all the Mounds I filled my Halloween basket with growing up, but I’m definitely a coconut enthusiast. Chocolate, vanilla, fruity or inventive flavors are simply better with a generous coconut sprinkle.

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Rainbow Sprinkles

You can’t be unhappy eating Rainbow sprinkles, that’s why they’re the key to Funfetti. Despite a shortage of distinct flavor, in the world of “phone eats first,” a pop of color is essential. Raise a spoon to Dutch confectionaire Erven H. de Jong for his 1913 invention and get working on your vibrant delight.


Chocolate covered, honey rye or classic twists, you can’t go wrong with pretzels in dessert. A popular pie crust replacement for graham crackers, the Snyder’s staple counters bold ice cream flavors like Moose Tracks and Cheesecake, and shines alongside Salted Caramel.

Potato Chips

Like pretzels, the sweet and salty combo is unbeatable. A well-rounded meal requires a multitude of complementary components, and ice cream is no different. Think of potato chips as the crunchier version of dipping your french fries in a Wendy’s Frosty. Presentation points if the chips are coated in chocolate and dusted with flaky sea salt.


Corn flakes, Rice Krispies, Coco Puffs, Lucky Charms, you name it. Cereal is reliable for a reason and you should take advantage of your pantry stash to up your topping game. Some brands have gone as far as to include best selling cereals in their base for you, like Milk Bar’s Cereal Milk, Blue Bell’s I ❤ Cereal and Cinnamon Toast Crunch’s ice cream variety.


Milk’s favorite cookie unsurprisingly elevates an icey milk-based product. Secretly vegan and now available gluten free, Oreos really are the universal cookie. Add the famous wafer sandwich to Double Chocolate, Black Raspberry or Vanilla Bean, or flavor blast Cookie ‘n’ Cream with an even larger helping of Oreo.

Caramel Sauce

Less of a chocolate lover and more drawn to vanilla, caramel is my sauce of choice. A drizzle of salted butterscotch or helping of toffee-like flavor is a guilty pleasure worthy of indulgence, especially matched with Dulce de Leche or Peanut Butter swirl.

Photo by Piotr Arnoldes from Pexels

Brownie Bites

Preparing a homemade brownie sundae is an unlikely task when it comes to managing classes and weeknight dinners, but a few brownie bites does the trick. Crumble your favorite brand of fudgey, chocolatey goodness on top of your ice cream go-to (Vanilla or Cherry Garcia), grab the whipped cream and dig in.

York Peppermint Patties

Start refrigerating your York Peppermint Patties, it will change your life. The creamy center, chocolate coating and cooling mint adds to the already chilly treat and beat-the-heat mentality. Chop up a few circular patties and toss with Mint Chip, Chocolate Chip or Cookies ‘n’ Cream.

Chocolate Covered Raisins

Hot take: I love raisins (and dried cranberries). The red Sunmaid boxes hold a special place in my heart and I choose oatmeal raisin cookies over chocolate unprompted. Though controversial, I can’t deny the tasty meld of chocolate and dried fruit — a pairing I appreciate on my ice cream. If raisins aren’t your thing, opt for chocolate covered cherries or Hershey’s Brookside berries.


Gummy Candies

Keep the candy for the movie theater and October 31st. Gummy candies have no business around Mister Softee. Extensive chewing is not a routine part of the ice cream experience, and it’s impossible to get down a Sour Patch Kids or Gummy worm without taking some hard-earned bites. Quell your sour craving with cherry or key lime pie ice cream instead, and cover in graham cracker crumbs to emulate a summer pie.

Chocolate Sprinkles

0 for 2 on color and flavor, chocolate sprinkles are effectively dental hazards atop a creamy oasis. Chocolate chunks, chips or shavings are a far better way for cocoa fiends to intensify the chocolate experience. I like to balance vanilla bases with chocolate toppings, but double chocolate never hurt anyone.


Objectively the worst nut, walnuts can stay far away from the pints in my freezer. I’ll take slivered almonds, pistachios or peanuts any day of the week — Sicilian pistachio is an excellent scoop on its own — but I will never accept a walnut voluntarily.

Maraschino Cherries

Aesthetically speaking, I understand the appeal of maraschino cherries. They are the poster child ice cream topper included in every childhood drawing, but there is nothing “cherry” about them. A sugar bomb cosplaying as fruit, stick to the real thing if you want the tart taste or opt for jam as a fresh mix in. 

Photo by Gayatri Malhotra from Unsplash