Are you hosting a summer birthday fête and don’t particularly feel like hovering around a hot oven (that’s set roughly two degrees warmer than the temperature outside)—all in the name of baking a from-scratch cake? Here’s an idea that’s every bit as festive and way more weather-appropriate: a DIY ice cream bar.
With a few extra-special additions and a surprising accessory or two, even a gallon of plain old vanilla can be foundation for a celebratory (and customizable) dessert to remember. Here are a few essential ingredients to raise the bar for your self-serve sweets station.
1. Elevated (and unexpected) toppings
Old-fashioned chocolate sprinkles will always have a place in our hearts (and on our sundaes), but contemporary confectioners have dreamed up an array of unexpected toppings that make for a truly exceptional presentation: Think unicorn dust, rose-gold candies, and even dried flower petals. Add simple wooden scoops to each dish so revelers can get as much goodness as they want with a single dip.
2. Meta miniatures
Topping an ice cream cone with another ice cream cone (actually, a homemade cone-shaped sugar cookie, frosted in a rainbow of “ice cream” icings)? It doesn’t get much cuter than that.
3. Retro cups
We all know someone who won’t go for a cone (although we may never fully understand why). Indulge them with a stack of cheery striped cups with old-school soda fountain appeal.
4. Standout spoons
Chocolate-dipped wooden spoons decorated with the same fancy sprinkles you’ll set out as toppings are the detail most likely to have your guests talking long after the last confetti-filled balloon has been popped. And they’re pretty simple to make: Just melt milk chocolate over a double broiler, dip the spoons, add sprinkles, and arrange them on wax paper to cool. Once they’ve set, present them in a large mason jar or other clear vessel on the ice cream bar.
5. Dessert display
Give partygoers a place to step back and admire their handiwork (and perhaps snap a drip-free photo or two) with a handmade birch wood server designed to hold cones upright.