For most people (including myself), ice cream is the most important food group. Ice cream comes in cups, tubs, cones, shakes, and in sundaes—it doesn't matter as long as it's the good stuff. Sundaes in particular are as classic an American dessert as you can get, but the origins of this treat are a bit unclear. Who invented the ice cream sundae? Two different people claimed to have created the first ever sundae. Let's dive into some history so you can get back to enjoying your sundae in peace.

The Competing Claims

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Sarah Silbiger

The biggest contender for the invention of the sundae is a guy named Ed Berners from Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Berners was the owner of a soda fountain at the time. The development of the ice cream sundae all happened back in 1881 when one of Berners' soda fountain customers wanted an ice cream float on a Sunday. Because it was the Sabbath, Berners had to compromise and put the soda syrup on top of the ice cream. He liked his concoction so much that he began selling "ice cream with syrup" in his store.

Although Ed Berners widely believed to be the inventor of the ice cream sundae, there's a twist. It's been speculated that the original ice cream sundae was actually created in Ithaca, New York. New Yorkers believe that the first sundae wasn't created until 1892, when a local proprietor named Chester Platt served a priest vanilla ice cream with cherry syrup on top. The priest thought the treat should be called Sunday, after the day it was served to him on, but the spelling was later changed so it didn't offend anyone.

The mayor of Ithaca told the New York Times, "We have the historical documents and they don’t," referring to an ad from 1892 promoting a new "cherry sunday." 

Barring the hard evidence, Berners is still the sundae king in my eyes.

The Meaning of the Name "Sundae"

Dessert, ice cream, chocolate, cream and chocolate sauce HD photo by Madeline Tallman (@lookatthedawg) on Unsplash

lookatthedawg on unsplash

What's even more interesting about the classic ice cream sundae is where the term "sundae" even comes from. The alleged definition of the term "sundae" is that it refers to "ice cream left over from Sunday, on sale later."

Another definition for the term sundae states that "people began ordering the treats on other days of the week, and Methodist leaders objected to naming it after the Sabbath, so the spelling was changed to sundae."

Whether or not people can agree on one solid definition for the term sundae, we should still be thanking whoever actually invented this delectable treat.