Pumpkin Ice Cream Sundaes With Spiced Caramel Sauce And Gingerbread Croutons

I know many of you have been waiting for this recipe, and I don't blame you. Everyone who tried this dessert loved it. It's definitely perfect for fall. While ice cream isn't a typical fall treat, pumpkin ice cream paired with a warm, spicy caramel sauce can fit in that category pretty easily. The gingerbread croutons just put this over the top.

The idea for this sundae comes straight out of The Craft of Baking. This is one of my favorite baking books. The recipes are approachable, and until now, they have always worked out perfectly for me. That said, the recipes for all three components of this sundae were a bit troublesome. Luckily, for you, I've already tested and made all of them, and now I can give you better instructions.

I started by making the gingerbread. The batter was easy enough, and the recipe instructed to pour it into an 8 1/2- by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan. I poured the batter in, noticed it went nearly all the way to the top of the loaf pan and thought to myself that it looked like way too much batter for the pan. 

I double-checked the recipe, and I had done exactly as it said, so I figured maybe the loaf didn't rise all that much. I stuck the loaf in the oven, set the timer, and didn't think of it again until I smelled something burning. I opened the oven to find gingerbread batter dripping everywhere and realized I should have followed my instinct. Jeff and I spent the next 5 to 10 minutes cleaning up the oven, and I slipped a pan under the gingerbread so I could finish baking it. My advice to you: Divide the batter between two loaf pans if you don't want to end up with this!

I was so relieved that I was merely cutting this loaf into cubes rather than trying to serve it as a whole. It was entirely unpresentable by the time I cut away the excess and coaxed it out of the pan.

Next, I made the caramel sauce. Now, this is partly the recipe's fault and party my own, but I didn't let the caramel darken enough and ended up with a very white caramel sauce. The recipe said to cook the sauce until it was a deep caramel color, about 8 minutes. Well, I cooked my sauce for about 18 minutes and still only saw the vaguest hint of amber color. The caramel was getting thicker and it was already at softball stage. I didn't want to take it farther and risk it hardening up on me. In retrospect, I probably could have kept cooking it because there seemed to be enough butter, cream, and creme fraiche added in to prevent the sauce from hardening. Instead I took the sauce off the heat at softball stage, still pale in color, and added in the remaining ingredients. I let the sauce cool and steep in the fridge overnight, and in the morning I reheated the sauce and made a small batch of caramel. When the caramel got to a deep amber color, I poured my light caramel sauce into it, and got the whole thing a few shades darker. Nothing that couldn't be fixed, but it was still frustrating. My advice to you: Cook the caramel as long as you need to in order to get a deep caramel color. Pay no attention to that 8 minute suggestion.

On Saturday night, I made the custard for the pumpkin ice cream. This was the most bizarre custard recipe I've ever seen. After heating up the milk and tempering it into the egg yolks and sugar, I was instructed to put the custard in the fridge overnight. I've never made an ice cream custard that didn't need to be returned to the stove to cook. The next morning, I pulled out the bowl of custard, and it had completely separated and curdled. I whisked it back together, whisked in the pumpkin puree, and strained it. It seemed fine, and I churned it in the ice cream maker. The final product came out okay, but I was nervous about it the whole time. My advice to you: Use David Lebovitz's version of this recipe instead. His method makes much more sense to me.

Gingerbread Croutons (adapted from The Craft of Baking)


3/4 cup stout beer (I used Guinness)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons brewed coffee
3/4 cup dark molasses (I used Grandma's)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
3 tablespoons Demerara sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
1 egg
1 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/4 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


Preheat oven to 375 F. Line the bottoms of two loaf pans with parchment paper and butter the pans.

Whisk together beer, coffee, and molasses in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and carefully whisk in baking soda. The mixture will bubble. Let cool for 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, oil, Demerara sugar, and grated fresh ginger. Whisk in the egg.

In another bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, ground ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, white pepper, and salt. 

Add one-third of the flour mixture to the sugar mixture. Whisk to combine. Then add one-third of the beer mixture to the sugar mixture, and whisk to combine. Continue alternately adding the flour and beer mixtures, whisking after each addition, until smooth.

Divide the batter between the two loaf pans, and bake for 40 minutes to an hour, rotating pans halfway through.

Place pans on wire rack and allow to cool completely. Remove loaves from pans. The loaves can be wrapped and stored overnight at this point.

When ready to bake the croutons, preheat oven to 300 F. Cut the loaves into cubes. Spread the cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating halfway through. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack and allow cubes to cool completely. The croutons can be stored in an airtight container at room temp. for up to two weeks.

Spiced Caramel Sauce (adapted from The Craft of Baking)


8 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped, seeds and bean reserved
Zest of 1 orange, removed in strips
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup creme fraiche
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt


In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, toast the cinnamon sticks, star anise, and black peppercorns until fragrant, about 5 minutes.

Add the sugar, corn syrup, vanilla bean and seeds, orange zest, and 1/2 cup water. Whisk gently to wet all of the sugar but avoid sloshing any up on the sides of the pan.

Cook over high heat until the mixture turns a deep caramel color. This could take anywhere from 8 to 20 minutes (at least in my experience -- let me know how it goes for you). 

It helps to keep a white plate next to the stove and drizzle some of the caramel on it every so often to check the color. Get your cream, butter, and creme fraiche ready to add in while the caramel cooks.

Remove the pot from the heat, and whisk in the butter, cream, and creme fraiche. Then whisk in the ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, and salt.

Refrigerate the sauce with all of the spices for at least several hours (and up to 2 weeks) in an airtight container. 

Before serving, rewarm the sauce over low heat. 

Strain it into a bowl. (Look at all those spices!)

And serve warm!

Pumpkin Ice Cream -- follow David Lebovitz's recipe.

When all of the components are ready, assemble your sundaes! 

I hope you enjoy this spicy fall treat!