This Strawberry Sundae Is My New Go-To Spring and Summer Dessert

published Apr 21, 2023
Kitchn Love Letters
Strawberry Sundaes: Vanilla Ice Cream, Pulsed Strawberries + Meringue Recipe

This easy yet elegant sundae features vanilla ice cream, in-season strawberries, and homemade meringue.

Makes4 sundaes

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Strawberry sundae recipe, from Abra Berens' newest cookbook, Pulp, features a fresh strawberry sauce and crunchy meringues atop vanilla ice cream, all finished with flaky sea salt.
Credit: Lauren Kodiak

I have a major sweet tooth, and I love to bake year-round. But my favorite time to enjoy sweet treats is, hands-down, spring and summer. With the influx of seasonal goodies like strawberries, rhubarb, and peaches, my desserts become bright, vibrant, sweet, and juicy. This affinity for fruit-based sweets led me straight to author and chef Abra Berens’ newest cookbook, Pulp: A Practical Guide to Cooking with Fruit.

Pulp explores fruit’s place in both sweet and savory cooking, with recipes like Roast Chicken over Blueberries, Cornbread + Lemon and Rum-Plum Clafoutis. But the one that immediately caught my eye was the Strawberry Sundae recipe. With creamy vanilla ice cream, crunchy meringues, sweet strawberry sauce, and flaky salt, this dessert seemed both impressive and approachable.

Why I Love This Strawberry Sundae

The first thing I noticed is that this recipe meets you where you are. While there are instructions for making all three components — ice cream, strawberry sauce, and meringue — from scratch, it’s the combination of ingredients that makes this recipe so special. So if you’re not really a baker, but you love making homemade ice cream, you could buy some vanilla meringues from your local grocery store or bakery. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, like me, then you can buy your favorite vanilla ice cream. I love that if you have a pint of ice cream in the freezer, some meringues in your pantry, and the strawberry sauce in your fridge, you can assemble this showstopping dessert in a matter of minutes — it’s perfect for dinner parties, or for the guest who stops by on short notice.

I grabbed my favorite Van Leeuwen vanilla ice cream, then set out to make my meringues. The meringue “batter” came together quickly and easily in my stand mixer. After the two-hour bake time at 250°F, my meringues were crunchy on the outside and slightly marshmallowy on the inside, albeit a little darker than I prefer.

The strawberry sauce was also so simple to put together. After hulling two pounds of strawberries, I dumped them in the food processor with a tablespoon of sugar and blitzed it until “coarsely chopped,” as instructed. Mine came out looking a little bit like strawberry salsa, but the flavor was spot-on — even with grocery-store strawberries. I can’t wait to try this with tender, fragrant farmers market strawberries in the coming months.

When it was time to assemble, I scooped some of the ice cream into a bowl, drizzled over some strawberry sauce, and topped with some crushed meringue and a pinch of flaky salt. When I took a bite, the salt hit my tongue first and then quickly gave way to the ice cream and strawberries, which evoked memories of my favorite childhood drink, Nesquik Strawberry Milk, in the best way possible. The crunchy meringues gave the perfect textural contrast, and lended a bit more sweetness to balance the salt. This is a truly impressive dessert that just so happens to be gluten-free.

In the headnotes, Abra shares the inspiration behind the recipe: “Through most of June, my favorite dessert is a bowl full of hulled strawberries, splashed with heavy cream, a spoonful of sugar, and a sprinkle of the coarsest salt.” I would say her ode to this combination more than lived up to its inspiration.

If You’re Making This Strawberry Sundae, a Few Tips

  • Use store-bought shortcuts if you need to. Go all out and make every component from scratch, or opt to buy the ice cream and/or meringues to make this dessert super simple to put together.
  • Mash the strawberries with a fork. The recipe gives the option to either mash the strawberries and sugar together with a fork or to pulse it all together in the food processor. I initially went the food processor route for ease, but I think the fork-mashing method gives a more rustic appearance that’s less salsa-like.
  • Consider using an oven thermometer. The recipe calls for a 250°F oven for the meringues, but I’ve had a hunch for a while that my oven runs hot. Based on the darker appearance of my baked meringues, I am now even more convinced. Next time I’ll use an oven thermometer to confirm I have the correct temperature.

Strawberry Sundaes: Vanilla Ice Cream, Pulsed Strawberries + Meringue Recipe

This easy yet elegant sundae features vanilla ice cream, in-season strawberries, and homemade meringue.

Makes 4 sundaes

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the meringue:

  • 3

    egg whites (3 ounces)

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    cream of tartar

  • 3/4 cup

    sugar

For the ice cream base:

  • 2 cups

    heavy cream

  • 3/4 cup

    whole milk

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla paste, preferably with the seeds in it

  • 6

    egg yolks

  • 1 1/4 cups

    sugar

  • Pinch of salt

For the sundaes:

  • 2 pounds

    strawberries, hulled and halved

  • 1 tablespoon

    sugar

  • 1 quart

    Ice Cream Base, churned and frozen

  • 1/2 to 1 cup

    dry Meringue, broken into crumbles of various sizes

  • Coarse salt, such as Maldon or fleur de sel

Instructions

Make the meringue:

  1. Preheat the oven to 250°F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.

  2. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks start to form. Decrease the mixer speed to medium-low and add the sugar one spoonful at a time, continually whisking until the meringue is stiff and glossy.

  3. Pipe or spread on the prepared baking sheet and bake until puffed and fully dry, 2 hours. In restaurants, we would also bake meringues last thing and then turn off the oven, prop the door open with a wooden spoon, and let slowly cool and dry out overnight.

Make the ice cream:

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, milk, and vanilla over medium heat. Bring to a scald (bring to just below a boil). Just as the cream mixture starts to bubble, remove from the heat and set aside.

  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and salt. Beat until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

  3. Temper the cream into the egg yolks. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over low heat while stirring in a figure-8 motion the entire time. The mixture will start to thicken after 6 to 8 minutes. Continue cooking until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon and leave a clean line when you drag a finger through it. Remove from the heat, then strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap to the surface of the custard, like you would for a pudding. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until completely cool before using. Store refrigerated for 7 days or until it sours.

  4. Churn and freeze per your ice cream maker’s instructions.

Make the sundaes:

  1. In a food processor or large bowl, combine the strawberries and sugar and then either pulse or mash with a fork until coarsely chopped.

  2. Divide the ice cream among four bowls.

  3. To serve, top with a hefty ladle of the strawberries and several crumbles of meringue. Sprinkle each bowl with a pinch of salt.

Recipe Notes

Reprinted with permission from Pulp: A Practical Guide to Cooking with Fruit by Abra Berens, © 2023. Published by Chronicle Books. Photographs © EE Berger.

Make ahead: This strawberry purée freezes wonderfully and is my preferred way to preserve strawberries for late-season sundaes.

Even the most perfectly dried meringue will get gummy when exposed to high humidity. Always store in an airtight container at room temperature and use silica packets if you really need to keep it dry — though that is often reserved for restaurant scenarios.