With warm, sweltering weather on our doorstep, I get a hankering for cool desserts like ice cream sundaes. My current muse for a sweet sundae recipe is the tropical piña colada drink, from which I borrowed the flavors of pineapple, coconut and rum (because, as is common with most of my recipes, there’s booze involved in one form or another).
In my opinion, there’s definitely a science to building the perfect sundae and every one should have these four basic elements: ice cream (which is a given), sauce, crunchy stuff, and “other stuff”.
Vanilla was my go-to the ice cream for this piña colada-inspired sundae. While I usually consider vanilla a rather boring and unadventurous choice by itself, it does serve as a wonderful canvas for a sundae where there are many other strong flavors going on. I mean, what doesn’t go with vanilla?
Next up: sauce. A sweet sauce transforms a simple bowl of ice cream a sundae. I took the rum element of the piña colada and incorporated it into a quick and easy-to-make caramel sauce. It may sound fancy and a bit daunting to some, but it is simply made up of butter, brown sugar, and rum. Heat the ingredients up together (with a few steps in between) and — voila! — it becomes a caramel rum sauce fit for just about any dessert.
To cover the “other stuff” on the sundae checklist, I chose to use fruit — my fruit of choice being pineapple — and toasted coconut. Fresh pineapple is wonderful by itself, but when roasted it becomes even more sweet and ambrosial. By simply tossing pineapple in brown sugar the exterior will caramelize, turning to a golden-brown color, taking the flavor to heavenly heights. Toasted, unsweetened coconut flakes add a final pop of flavor and tie the whole dish together to achieve the piña colada essence.
And last but not least: the crunchy stuff. There are no crunchy bits in a piña colada, but a sundae simply must have something crunchy on top — the obvious choice being nuts. I decided to use toasted pistachios for some crunch and a pop of color, but cashews or macadamia nuts would also play well with the other flavors in this dessert.
For a sweet taste of the tropics, have a go at the recipe below. I’ve also listed some dairy-free/vegan substitutions for those with special diets so that they, too, can enjoy this treat.
Roasted Pineapple and Coconut Sundae with Caramel Rum Sauce
Makes 2 sundaes
2 cups pineapple, cut into chunks or diced into large pieces
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Toss pineapple with brown sugar, then place it on a baking sheet tray lined with aluminum foil.
Place tray in oven and cook for 10 minutes. Turn pieces over then cook for another 5 minutes or until tender and browned. Be careful when opening the oven and have a fan or vent on as the some of the sugar sticking to the foil may be burned and smoking a bit (thus setting off your fire alarm).
Quick Caramel-Rum Sauce:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (substitute vegan butter or coconut oil)
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons dark rum
1/2 cup heavy cream (substitute coconut milk creamer or canned coconut milk)
Melt the butter in a small sauce or saute pan over medium-high heat, add the brown sugar and rum and cook, whisking until the sugar has melted and the mixture is smooth and bubbling. Lower the heat a little, whisk in the heavy cream and cook until heated through and slightly thickened. Let cool for a few minutes before pouring over ice cream.
Vanilla ice cream, as needed (or substitute vanilla coconut or almond milk ice cream)
1/4 cup toasted unsweetened coconut chips or flakes
1/2 cup toasted pistachios, chopped
Assembly: Scoop ice cream into dishes and top with warm caramel rum sauce, roasted pineapple, coconut, and pistachios. Then grab a spoon and dig in!