We are always looking for a reason to celebrate in this house, so when my step-son got engaged of course we started planning an engagement party! I always need at least a loose theme in my head when I am planning a party. The invitation list was about 40 people, so we knew it would not be a dinner party. Being a pastry chef, that defaults me to drinks and desserts! During the summer at one of our family dinners, I had done make-your-own ice-cream sundaes for dessert and it was a huge hit. Of course, that led me to think it would also be a great theme for our engagement party!
An ice-cream party is a versatile theme. It can be customized to make anyone happy, from kids to adults, and it can be as little or as much work as you want. If you are like me, you can go overboard and make everything yourself or you can purchase everything so all you have to do is lay it out! You can also easily adjust your budget on this one. If not making your own ice-cream, you can splurge on premium ice-creams or local artisan varieties or to save a bit, use supermarket ice-cream and let the sauces be the stars. A little premium chocolate in your fudge sauce or a creamy salted caramel will have people swooning! The best thing about it, is that almost everything can be made ahead.
First some logistics. How much ice cream? All the estimates I found suggested that you should estimate 1 ½ cups per person. Most homemade ice-cream recipes make about 1 litre or 4 cups of ice cream, which meant I needed 15 batches. I made 16 (four quadruple batches) just to be safe and lets just say we were eating a lot of ice-cream after the party! Unless you have some very big ice-cream eaters, I would say you could safely estimate 1 cup per person.
As for sauces, again the general consensus out there is about ¼ cup of sauce per person. I went with this amount and while I did have leftovers, that is not an issue as a lot of toppings, like hot fudge, caramel and coffee syrup, will keep for a month or more (I am actually drinking a latte with a spoonful of hot-fudge sauce in it as I write this) and fruit based sauces can be frozen for future use.
As for toppings, you can’t have too many! Think of chopped fresh fruits, nuts, candies, cookies (I made homemade graham crackers - yes, I do have a problem), liqueurs, olive oils, vinegars, salts and of course whipped cream!
If you don’t have enough small serving dishes (because a full dish always looks better), consider using inexpensive treat boxes from your local party or craft store. I have cupboards full of serving vessels, but I stilled used some of these boxes to bring in the party colours.
The biggest concern for an ice-cream party is keeping all that ice-cream cold. You can put single servings of ice cream into small mason jars and place them in a large bowl of ice. You can also do this with full containers of ice-cream, but I find when people have to scoop their own, things can get messy. I rented chaffing dishes with removable hotel pans. I pre-scooped the ice-cream into the hotel pans. I pre-chilled the chaffing dishes and then added extra ice on the bottom of the dish and placed the pans with the pre-scooped ice-cream on top. This method kept the ice-cream from melting for the four hours of our party.
I hope that gives you some ideas if you are thinking about doing a make –your-own sundae bar! Let me know if you try it and pass on any tips you have!