Party Plan: Ice Cream Social

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There’s no easier, more sociable kind of hot-weather entertainment than an ice cream social! Ice cream, frozen yogurt or sorbet you can enhance yourself with many assorted toppings is appealing to virtually everyone. This versatile type of party can also be easily tied into almost any type of theme —birthday parties, All-American patriotic parties; old-fashioned garden parties, beach or pool parties; Old West parties, and more.

For those who would like to host more guests than they have room for in the house:
An ice cream social is the perfect event to have outdoors on your patio, deck or pier. Even if it’s hot, the ice cream is the perfect antidote, and all the drips of chocolate syrup and the like don’t land on your dining room carpet. Try to find a shady spot or one out of direct sunlight as your main course could melt too fast! Since this is the perfect type of party for a multi-generational group, the children can play in the yard after eating while the adults visit. You may want to spray the party area beforehand for flying insects and keep some bug spray on hand if guests need it. A container of disposable wet clothes is very good to keep by the party table for sticky hands and spills.

Ice cream socials for smaller groups work fine inside. Just consider having the serving table on a non-carpeted floor to avoid colored stains. One way to protect cloth tablecloths from spills is to place your bowls of toppings on matching trays.

For those who have ice cream churns:
Homemade ice cream is the pinnacle of true summertime treats! If you don’t have your own ice cream churn, see about borrowing one or more from family or friends. The taste is worth the effort. You may not want to overpower the pure homemade flavor by using toppings. Be certain to allot enough advance time to have the ice cream ready when your guests are. One freezer yields about 30-35 scoops—enough to feed about 15 guests. For larger parties, make two or more freezers.

For those who want to entertain big without spending big:
Buy inexpensive, store-brand large tubs or cartons of ice cream. Since you are covering the ice cream with sauces and other toppings, you don’t need to buy the more expensive gourmet brands.

If your family or friends are always asking what they can bring, let them bring a topping, drinks, or cookies or brownies to accompany the ice cream.

For those without serving help:
This type of party calls for self-service because the guests love choosing their own toppings and creating their own gooey concoctions. Once the serving table is set up, the guests don’t have to be served, so the hostess can mingle. If you have back-up bowls of topping choices in the kitchen or on a side table outside, you can easily switch out the emptied bowls with fresh, full ones, and still visit with your guests.

For ease and speed at serving time:
Scooping out the ice cream during the party can be a slow and messy process–try pre-scooping! You can place paper or foil liners in your muffin tins (borrow a few if you need to), and place a scoop in each spot before refreezing them. You can also take trays or rimmed baking sheets and cover them with plastic wrap or foil. For the smoothest ice cream balls, dip an ice cream scooper into cool water before scooping. Then place the tins or trays in the freezer until the scoops harden enough to hold their shape. You can transfer them to plastic storage bags at this point if your freezer space is at a premium. Pre-made scoops will make the cone- or sundae-making move quickly at party time (you also don’t have to have many ice cream scoopers this way).

At serving time, you can line up the single scoops in rows of different flavors (and colors) on trays or covered baking sheets. You can also place the scoops in large bowls or jars which can be placed in larger bowls of ice on the table or in coolers or tubs.

For keeping things icy cold on the serving table (while looking cute):
If you don’t have enough insulated coolers (or ice cream scoops), borrow from your neighbors or friends. If you want them all to look similar to match a color scheme, buy several plastic tablecloths in your chosen color, and cut them to fit into the coolers with enough drape to hang evenly over the front and sides (this makes the coolers color-coordinate). Then fill each cooler to the top with ice. You can put the tubs and cartons of ice cream in the coolers or even put the bowls of toppings into the ice.

The above could also be done with large galvanized tin tubs or plastic party tubs. Children’s plastic wading pools could also be used, as can wheelbarrows, wagons, large floral planters or window-boxes.

You can also line your tubs with dry ice and put the ice cream and regular ice over it. Do not touch the dry ice with your bare hands—wear work gloves. Wrap the dry ice in pieces of plastic wrap, and place the pieces along the bottom of the tub or cooler, separating the regular ice from it with a metal pan so you won’t end up with steam.

If you are having your guests serve themselves from large coolers or tubs, you will probably not want to place them on a tabletop since it will make the items too high for your younger guests to reach. You might want to place the coolers on picnic table benches or built-in deck benches. Instead of sitting the coolers on the deck or patio floor, put the coolers or tubs on top of plastic tablecloth-draped tubs or boxes so guests won’t have to bend over so far to serve themselves. This also keeps your sweet treats a level away from ants who might want to come to the party.

For making a pretty presentation:
Bright colors are always appealing and festive, so once you choose a color scheme, perk up your party with a colorful cloth, napkins, bowls, and flatware. Your centerpiece probably doesn’t need to be large since the toppings take up a lot of space. It should tie into your theme in color and concept. A pool party might feature bright-colored beach balls sitting atop vases of varied heights or a patriotic party might feature flags. If you use flowers, make certain they are not in direct sunlight if you are serving outside.

To add continuity, try to put all of your toppings in the same kind of bowls—small/medium clear or white salad/cereal bowls or brightly colored ones to match your color scheme. Use your imagination—for instance, mini-loaf pans are just the right size to use for a country look.

If you are using pointed sugar cones, you can wrap a coordinating paper around the bottom of the cones (attach with glue or tape) to match your décor and catch drips while you eat. Tie paper doilies on cones with thin ribbon for an elegant look at a Victorian afternoon ice cream social.

For variety:
Instead of letting your guests make their own individual sundaes, have the whole group make a gigantic sundae. This would be especially fun to do with a family group or one with lots of children; this type of sundae party is definitely best done outside! There are two ways to make a very long “sundae dish”:• Down the length of a picnic or banquet table (or two, to accommodate a large guest list), run several sheets of wide aluminum foil. Fold up the edges of the foil to form side walls. You now have a giant tray covering the table(s). This can just be rolled up at the end of the party and thrown away.
• You can also use lengths of mental or vinyl gutters, lining the gutters with foil or plastic wrap. You may also cut 10” PVC pipe cut in half and line with foil or plastic wrap. At clean-up time, you can throw away the ice cream-covered covering and rinse the gutter or pipe with a hose before putting away until the next use.

Instead of scooping ice cream, buy cartons of ice cream and sometime before the party (even a day or two earlier), remove the carton to cut each block into one-inch-thick slices. Place the slices between pieces of waxed paper, and repack in carton or store in plastic storage bags in the freezer.

Just before serving time, get your helpers to place the ice cream slices lengthwise down the center of the foil tray. Put small bowls of toppings with spoons, pitchers or bottles of sauces and sliced bananas along the length of the tray and of course, spoons for your guests to use as they design and eat their “spot of sundae.” See how many different sundae combinations you and your friends can create!

Typical ice cream selections:
Any favorite flavor
For 30 people, you will need three or four flavors and a total of 2 gallons of ice cream. (one gallon yields 16 two-scoop servings). When in doubt, err on the side of fewer, more popular flavors rather than struggle to keep an odd flavor cold.

Typical toppings:

Chocolate Sauce
Hot Fudge Sauce (use a fondue pot or slow-cooker to keep sauce warm)
Caramel Sauce (use a fondue pot or slow-cooker to keep sauce warm)
Butterscotch Sauce (use a fondue pot or slow-cooker to keep sauce warm)
Strawberry Sauce
Pineapple Sauce
Maple Syrup
Espresso Sauce
Jams and Jellies
Magic Shell –flavored ice cream sauces that harden when on ice cream
Assorted sliced fruit/berries: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries,
peaches, bananas
Chocolate sprinkles
Rainbow-colored sprinkles
Crushed cookies (Oreos, Thin Mints, vanilla wafers, etc.)
Mini-chocolate chips
Mini M&M candies
Mini-peanut butter chips
Chopped candy bars (Heath bars, etc.)
Crushed granola
Marshmallow crème or fluff
Chopped nuts (peanuts, walnuts, almonds, macadamias)
Maraschino cherries
Whipped cream

An assortment of eight to ten toppings offers a good variety. A sprinkle-on serving is one tablespoon, and most people will choose two to three; thus, you will need about five to six cups of toppings for 30 people. You will need three 8-ounce containers of whipped topping (or the equivalent of the spray type). Most people will sample two types of sauces at the rate of ¼ cup each, so for 30 people, you will need 15 cups of your sauces.

Cold Drinks to Serve:
Water (to cut the sweetness)
Milk (for milkshakes)
Cola (for floats and ice cream sodas)
Root beer (for floats and ice cream sodas)
Ginger ale (for floats and ice cream sodas)
Lemon-Lime soda (for floats and ice cream sodas)
Other sodas or lemonade
(Straws for floats, sodas and milkshakes and long-handled spoons)

Other refreshments:
Ice Cream Cones (regular and sugar)
Plain cookies and pound cake (no icings to melt in the heat)
Sugar wafers
Rice Krispies Treats
Chocolate chip cookies—can be used with ice cream in between two for ice cream sandwiches

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