Who needs Dairy Queen when you’ve got this genius hack?
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When I was growing up, a special treat out at restaurants was the Elmer's Goldbrick sundae, a scoop of vanilla ice cream that would come with a side of a warm chocolate sauce filled with chopped pecans. You would pour the sauce over your ice cream and in seconds it would harden to a shattery coating that was fun to break through, like the top of a crème brulée. There is just something about that little bit of tableside magic that never failed to thrill. I'm also a fan of the Dairy Queen dipped cones: same delight, just handheld!

So, when I found out you can make your own at home with just two ingredients? You know I was insanely excited. I'm suspecting you will be, too.

How to make magic shell coating for ice cream at home

The basics couldn't be simpler, and you can double or even triple this recipe if you want a larger batch. Here's what you need:

  • 6 ounces chopped chocolate or flavored chips
  • 1 ½ tablespoons coconut oil 

A note on coconut oil: widely available at grocery stores, coconut oil is usually in the baking aisle or sometimes in the international aisle. Look for semi-solid products and use them at room temperature—don't buy liquid versions. (You can also order my favorite brand, Nutiva, on amazon.com.)

And here's all you need to do: Melt these two ingredients together either on the stovetop in a double boiler, or with 10-second bursts in your microwave. That's it. Pour over ice cream and watch the magic happen. 

I store my prepped topper in a squeeze bottle in the fridge, and then pop it in the microwave for 10-second bursts until it reliquefies for easy use. It is fun to bring it to the table warm and let everyone decorate their own scoops. 

Magic shell topping
Credit: Getty / Boston Globe

The best chocolates to use for magic shell coating

You can actually use any kind of chocolate, from super dark to white, and every color in between. Get fancy with ruby chocolate for a blushing pink version.

Want to go beyond chocolate? Hit your supermarket baking aisle to check out these incredible flavors (or order them online via these links!):

Nestle Toll House Espresso Baking Chip Morsels 2 pack ($9.19), amazon.com

Nestle Toll House Butterscotch Morsels 2 pack ($10.50), amazon.com

Reese's Peanut Butter Baking Chips ($2.39), target.com

HERSHEY'S Cinnamon Flavored Baking Chips ($2.24), Walmart.com

HERSHEY'S Kitchens Sea Salt Caramel Chips (starting at $4.49), Hersheys.com

Valrhona Inspirations coatings in strawberry, raspberry, yuzu, passionfruit, and almond (starting at $13.00), valrhona-chocolate.com

The best mix-ins to add to magic shell coating

In terms of mix-ins, think about the following bits of crunch:

  • Finely chopped toasted nuts
  • Toffee pieces
  • Crushed pretzels
  • Toasted shredded coconut
  • Rice Krispies

BONUS: Two extra uses for magic shell topping!

While magic shell topping is fabulous doing just that, I've found an even more magical use: to make homemade chocolate flakes in my ice creams. When the ice cream is at the end of churning, I slowly drizzle in the warmed (but not too hot) topping using the squeeze bottle, and it solidifies into little flakes and chunks when it hits the cold ice cream. Because the coconut oil it doesn't harden too hard, you get those perfect bits of chompable chocolate throughout your ice cream. Think about peanut butter flakes in your chocolate ice cream, espresso flakes in your coffee ice cream, or even yuzu flakes in a blueberry ice cream.

If you want to put a crunchy bit into your homemade ice cream that would get soggy once mixed in, like pretzel bits or cereals, you can use this mix to coat them in a thin protective layer of chocolate. Just add any mix-in to your warm coating, stir, spread on sheet pan to freeze, then fold into your churned ice cream. Didn't I say this was magic?