But since at least the 1970s, the cities of Two Rivers, Wisconsin, and Ithaca, New York, have battled over just that: Each wants bragging rights for the dessert's invention.
Fittingly, the war has been a cold one. But that changed on June 26, 2006, when Ithaca Mayor Carolyn Peterson delivered an official proclamation declaring that her town was the "Birthplace of the Ice Cream Sundae."
Residents of Two Rivers countered with a letter-writing campaign claiming that Two Rivers soda jerk Edward Berners first drizzled chocolate over a scoop of ice cream in 1881. Initially, the story goes, Berners sold the dessert only on Sundays, although that changed soon enough.
Not taking the barrage of letters lightly, Ithaca's city government bought ad space in Wisconsin newspapers, trumpeting the slogan "Got Proof?" Ithacans claim the sundae was invented one Sunday in 1892, when Chester Platt poured cherry syrup over vanilla ice cream for a local priest. At the priest's suggestion, Platt named his invention the Sunday, though he later changed the spelling.
We may never divine the dessert's true origins, but one fact is beyond dispute: The most expensive sundae in the world is the sugary chimera known as the Golden Opulence Sundae.
Created to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the famed New York eatery Serendipity 3, the Golden Opulence Sundae retails for a cool $1,000 and must be ordered 48 hours in advance. What's worse: The Golden Opulence Sundae just might be worth it.
So, what do you get for a sundae that costs as much as some cars? For starters, the dessert's backbone consists of five scoops of "the richest Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream infused with Madagascar vanilla and covered in 23K edible gold leaf." Serendipity tops the sundae with "the world's most expensive chocolate," Amedei Porceleana. The sundae, if we can still call it that, is then studded with "exotic candied fruits from Paris, gold dragets, truffles and Marzipan Cherries." Not done yet. Serendipity's chefs crown the dessert with a small bowl of passion fruit-, orange- and Armagnac-infused "Grand Passion Caviar," which the restaurant describes as an "exclusive dessert caviar, made of salt-free American Golden caviar." Served in a Baccarat Harcourt crystal goblet, the dessert comes complete with an eighteen-karat-gold spoon.
Think Serendipity's trading on snob appeal? At least you get to keep the goblet and spoon.
If you're not in the market for a $1,000 bowl-and-spoon set, might I suggest a package of "Original" Choco-Fudge Mallow Sundae? Made almost exclusively of sugar, corn syrup and colored dyes, a Choco-Fudge Mallow Sundae consists of four "scoops" of sugar: Strawberry-flavored sugar, vanilla-flavored sugar, chocolate-flavored sugar and green apple-flavored sugar*. Oh, and did I mention? The "sundae" is topped by a nipple of cherry-flavored sugar.
You won't find any melted Amedei Porceleana chocolate on this Kandy Kastle, Inc. concoction. Instead, a Choco-Fudge Mallow Sundae comes with its own pack of Chocolate Fudge Candy Gel. Not only that, but the folks at Kandy Kastle (who, incidentally, are also responsible for the world's supply of "Candy Hose Nose," a nose-shape piece of plastic out of which leaks a sugary syrup) have replaced that hoity-toity Baccarat Harcourt crystal goblet with a serving dish of their own albeit one that bears a "Choco-Fudge Mallow Sundae" sticker and is remarkably similar in shape and substance to a Dixie cup.
How does it taste?
Depending on which "scoop" you have the misfortune of choosing, a Choco-Fudge Mallow Sundae is a lot like a strawberry-, chocolate-, vanilla- or green apple*-flavored marshmallow that has been hardening in your pantry for a few years. Now take that desiccated nugget of corn syrup, add a few crystallized sprinkles, drown the thing in ratty chocolate syrup and chew.
In other words, it does not taste very good.
Ithaca and Two Rivers can fight all they want about who invented the ice cream sundae. Having endured a full-frontal Choco-Fudge Mallow Sundae assault, I'm raising the white flag.
*My personal favorite.