Editor’s note: There are some things that never get old—a favorite movie, song, or food to name a few—these are the things you can indulge in over and over again. And in the dessert world, the ever-popular ice cream sandwich is a sweet classic that consistently gets better with time. That’s why we brought back this P Magazine article “The Not-So-New, But Beloved Novelty: The Ice Cream Sandwich” by Camille Hawkey, area manager, PreGel North America, to shine a spotlight on summer’s favorite sammie just in time for National Ice Cream Month.
Though once branded a cheap, street food treat, the ice cream sandwich is now considered a classic. This is quite an accomplishment, as the history of the ice cream sandwich paints a much humbler beginning. According to several food history sources, the popular sweet delight was introduced in the late 19th century and was sold to the “common folks” for no more than a penny. Today, brands capitalize on nostalgia to develop different forms of ice cream sandwiches, and the treat is so popular that it has its own national day on August 2nd!
A Little Bit of History
By the end of the 19th century, ice cream was so popular in American society that many inventions emerged. According to the Joy of Baking, the 1920s saw the first chocolate-covered ice cream bar, also known as Eskimo Pie®, the now-famous banana split, ice cream cakes in many forms and the ice cream sandwich.
Even if the true origins of the ice cream sandwich remain blurry, Jeri Quinzio says in his book Of Sugar and Snow: A History of Ice Cream Making that it was seen for the first time in New York City in 1899. The treat back then differed a little bit from what you think of the ice cream sandwich today both in its simplicity and its price. As the story goes, a pushcart peddler was selling ice cream sandwiches in the street as an innovative solution for ice cream lovers to enjoy their favorite dessert on the go – he simply put a scoop of ice cream in between two graham wafers. The idea behind the creation of the ice cream sandwich was to keep your hands clean. At that time, the ice cream sandwich man, who sold these treats for only one cent to the crowd, became a source of attention to a large audience, including journalists. In the summer of 1900, the New York Tribune dedicated a whole column to the vendor.
The success of the ice cream sandwich was so great that a single man could not respond to the growing demand in New York, and other cart vendors started to imitate the creation and spread the concept throughout the country.
Evolution & Recent Developments
Moving into the 20th century, in 1977, Richard E. Lamotta invented the Chipwich, an ice cream sandwich made with chocolate chip cookies as the “bread”, which quickly became very popular, according to The Dictionary of American Food and Drink by John Mariani. In 1987, U.S. scientists created freeze-dried Space Bar Ice Cream Sandwiches that featured ice cream frozen to a solid -40°F. According to Nitro-Pack, the sandwiches were used by NASA during the Apollo space program. Today, the ice cream sandwich is a very popular dessert that can be found on restaurant’s menus, mom & pop shops, food trucks or simply in anyone’s kitchen, as the preparation does not require vast culinary skills.
Recent innovations in the U.S. that fall into the ice cream sandwich category include all sorts of creative flavor combinations, cookies, macarons, chocolate cakes, donuts and decorations to satisfy all taste buds. From flowers to herbs and spices, the ice cream sandwich leaves open doors to inspiration and original creations.
Inspired from other Italian culinary offerings, the Panini Gelato is a new sandwich option that consists of a sweet bun and a scoop of gelato heated to perfection in a special panini press machine. The treat is gaining a lot of attention as the concept combines a favorite and typical Italian fast-food snack – the Panini and ice cream – to create a delicious dessert that can also be enjoyed on the go. Flavoring can be added with fillings and sauces to realize an elaborate delicacy or to create fancy combinations.
Undoubtedly, the ice cream sandwich is the perfect edible canvas for dessert innovation. This may explain why, even with the increasingly growing list of mouthwatering sandwiches such as sliders, gyros, burgers, flatbread, grilled cheese, etc., and all the yumminess dining out brings, the ice cream sandwich in all its trendy and diverse presentations remains a go-to delicacy all year round, but especially as summer’s favorite sammie. Bonus: they’re Instagrammable, too, which is great for business!