One of the most popular spots in our area is Carl’s Frozen Custard. Carl’s is a family-owned ice cream “mecca.” It’s famous for its cones, sundaes (like Maple-Nut Ice Cream Sundae and Hot Fudge Ice Cream Sundae)–with dry nuts or wet nuts, shakes, malts, and slushies.
Carl’s has been in business since 1947 and still uses its original 1940s Electro-Freeze ice cream machine. Housed in an Art Deco-style building, Carl’s has colorful neon illumination, including a giant cone. This iconic location has been captured in paintings, on t-shirts, and more.
As far back as I can remember, my family and friends would go to Carl’s. Carl’s frozen custard has been on my mind lately because it opened for the season a week ago.
I don’t remember a time when we didn’t go to Carl’s as a special treat. We lived a half-hour away and we didn’t eat out all that often when I was growing up, so we didn’t visit frequently.
Now I still live a half-hour away—just in another direction—so we still do not visit frequently. That makes any visit to Carl’s a very special occasion.
However, there was a period of time (part of college and a few years afterwards) when I lived just a mile or two away from Carl’s. In college, I even devised a Carl’s diet.
Yes, I’ll admit it. I’d go to Carl’s when it opened at 11:00 am, get a small chocolate shake, inhale it, and then not ingest anything until I ate a small dinner. Oh, I did lose weight, but it was one of several foolhardy dieting strategies of youth and was soon abandoned. (Melissa’s recent post on her fabulous Montana Cookies mentioned The Hollywood Cookie Diet, which reminded me of my short-lived Carl’s Diet.)
Because Carl’s is not open year round, we tend to go immediately when it opens for the season, stop a few times during the summer, and then stop by right before it closes in November. There are always a line of folks waiting (except when it’s closed as shown in my photo).
Often it’s a very long line, but the staff is the picture of efficiency, taking no time to exchange pleasantries. Non-locals are often amazed at how short the wait can be.
My favorites at Carl’s have changed over time. There was a period of time where I went for a simple vanilla or chocolate sugar cone.
Then, I became somewhat addicted to the maple-nut sundaes. Imagine vanilla frozen custard covered with a gooey mixture of maple syrup and walnuts. That sundae was way too sweet, but hard to resist at the time.
When I became a teenager, hot fudge sundaes with nuts were my order. However, as I became more mobile, sitting to eat a sundae did not seem practical, so I moved on to chocolate shakes.
Then one day, Mr. GFE and I were both in line and we heard the person in front of us order a hot fudge shake. Hot fudge shake?!! We both looked at each other with raised eyebrows and when the cashier/server looked at me for my order, the words, “hot fudge shake” came out.
Mr. GFE ordered the same and we’ve never looked back. There’s nothing mysterious about this treat. They simply add a squirt or two of hot fudge to the chocolate milkshake before completing the mechanical stirring action.
The flavor is fabulous. We both agree that we could never go back to a regular chocolate shake again.
Yes, the hot fudge shake is definitely our choice these days. But, when I saw Diane’s secret ingredient was agave, Carl’s maple-nut sundae came to mind.
I found a maple-walnut syrup recipe at Recipezaar.com that sounded similar to what I wanted. However, it contained corn syrup, maple syrup, and granulated sugar.
I omitted the corn syrup, omitted the granulated sugar, and added a small amount of agave—all of which increased the ratio of walnuts to syrup.
In the end, the taste and consistency of the maple-nut syrup I made using agave, maple syrup, and water was just right—plenty sweet, but not too sweet, with softened walnuts hunks, and, of course, no refined sugar. When the maple-nut syrup was finished cooking, the vanilla ice cream was also ready.
I waited for the maple-nut syrup to cool just a tad before ladling some over the ice cream. The resulting maple-nut sundae was incredibly good.
Then my immediate concern became the fact that I was home alone with enough ice cream and maple-nut syrup to make several sundaes. Miraculously, Son and a buddy of his showed up … whewww, that was close!
I fed them lunch and then served their sundaes. Son raved over his sundae, especially how good the walnuts tasted. That’s saying a lot because he typically does not like nuts in his dishes.
This sundae is gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free, egg free, soy free, and probably “more free,” but it still tastes of indulgence.
Maple-Nut Ice Cream Sundae Recipe
Maple-Nut Ice Cream Sundae
This Maple-Nut Ice Cream Sundae is really every bit as good as the one you can get at the famous Carl's Frozen Custard!
Vanilla Ice Cream
- 1/3 cup agave nectar or honey
- 3 cups full-fat coconut milk, chilled (2 cans)
- 1 ½ - 2 tsp vanilla extract (I used my homemade vanilla extract)
- some scraping from inside one vanilla bean (optional, to taste)
- 1/2 cup agave nectar (or honey)
- 1 cup maple syrup
- ½ cup water
- 2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts (or walnut halves)
Vanilla Ice Cream Instructions
- Mix all together in bowl with mixer or in blender.
- Add to ice cream maker and churn 20 to 30 minutes.
- Chill in freezer after churning if needed.
- Scoop and top with maple-nut syrup (recipe below).
Maple-Nut Syrup Instructions
- Combine agave nectar, maple syrup, and water in sauce pan.
- Bring to a boil slowly, stirring occasionally.
- Reduce heat and simmer until syrup thickens, about 15 minutes.
- Stir in walnuts; simmer about 5 minutes more. Mixture will thicken upon standing.
- Cool enough to serve warm (but not hot) over ice cream or refrigerate and serve later.
I used a very heavy pan that was much larger than needed so I would not have to worry about stirring constantly to keep the mixture from burning.
I loved the process. As the mixture simmered and bubbled, it put on quite a show as you can see from the photo above.
The syrup will “harden” quite a bit in the refrigerator. Therefore, reheating or at least allowing syrup to return to room temperature may be necessary if it has been chilled for a long period of time.
While agave nectar results in a syrup that's closer in flavor to the orginal Carl's maple-nut syrup, honey will also work.
It might be Friday, but it’s Sundae time … Maple-Nut Ice Cream Sundae time! Enjoy!
Originally published February 19, 2010, updated June 21, 2021.
Ali @ The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen says
MMMMMmmmmm, yummy! I love the sauce you made – sounds incredible! I make vanilla coconut milk ice cream that is almost identical to yours! With so few ingredients it can happen so easily – great chefs think alike my friend! Now I have to try your syrup sometime….. 🙂
Hi Ali–Thanks, my dear. Tickled to be in your great chef category! 😉 Simple, vanilla ice cream is a wonderful treat alone and topped with this syrup, it is a seriously yummy dessert. I used the last of our maple syrup (it was given to us almost exactly a year ago when our friends from VT visited), but it was worth it! Will be interested to see your version of the syrup when you whip it up. 🙂
Oh yum! That looks delicious. Especially the sauce – I love maple syrup. I’ve never used coconut milk as a base for ice-cream (or any dessert really) so I’m eager to try this.
Hi Learner–Nice to see you on this sunny Saturday morning! 🙂 Full-fat coconut milk makes wonderful dairy-free ice cream. I’ll be interested to see what you think and if you think the coconut flavor is very pronounced. I can barely taste it … just a very slight coconut flavor to me, but it adds that creaminess and great “mouth feel” as the experts like to say. 😉
Enjoy and please report back. Thanks!
Tried it this weekend… and you’re right, the coconut was just barely there as a background taste, but it added the right amount of “interest” to make me think “hummmm, is that a bit of coconut?” It was quite creamy, which is something I haven’t been able to get in other non-dairy ice-creams. It will definitely be making another appearance. In the summer, I’d love to play with this base and add in fresh fruits for flavors too. Thanks!
Hi Learner–So happy to hear that you enjoyed your vanilla ice cream! 🙂 Coconut milk has amazed me with its ice creamability. 😉 Even added to frozen bananas (and perhaps some sweetener and cocoa, if desired), it makes great ice cream. One of my favorite fresh fruit versions is the honeydew sherbet shown here. But, I also enjoyed peach sorbet shown here. Other great dairy-free ice cream recipes are Chocolate POMerdoodle, Snickerdoodle, and Cinnamon Honey Grand Marnier ice cream. I think you’ll find it really easy to play around and make great dairy-free ice cream that still meets your other needs, too.
FYI–Xagave is sponsoring a giveaway. Be sure to read the updated post for the details, including ways you can enter if you’d like. 🙂
Knock it off with these amazing ice cream posts, would you please! I’m trying to lose these 5 (okay, 6) pounds I’ve gained testing recipes over the past few months. There are undisclosed hazards to food blogging!
Anyway, this looks delicious as usual. And you know I love anything involving coconut milk and maple syrup.
Breathe in, breathe out.
Melissa–Next recipe will be savory … I promise! Okay, it might have some natural sweetness and a tinge of added sweetness. Yes, I know of your love of both, dear … especially the maple syrup. 😉
LOL on the breathing in and out … yoga session or meditation needed to combat cravings? 😉
Holy goodness, you live in my neighborhood!!!! I go to Carl’s ALL THE TIME!
Awesome to know there’s someone else knowledgeable AND in this area who I can talk to when I’m stumped on gf issues.
Drop me a line sometime if’n you wish to. 🙂
Hi Mikki–How cool! Hello, neighbor! 😉 Thanks so very much for your kind words. I had no idea there was a fellow gf blogger right down the road from me. I also lead the King George Gluten Intolerance and Celiac Support Group. We’d love to have you join us some time. We have folks from KG, Stafford, Fredericksburg, Spotsy, etc. It’s a wonderful group of folks. One of the best parts is we start all our meetings with a group potluck meal. It’s always fabulous. 🙂 I can add you to our email list if you like (meeting announcements and other gf info). Let me know. And, I’m happy to help with gf concerns and issues any time!
Jennifer R. says
We love Carl’s too — but haven’t been in some time since we eliminated cow dairy from our diet. I remember going to Carl’s as a kid — wonderful memories!!
And you bet, I’ll be making this ice cream and maple nut topping. Thanks!!
Hey Jennifer–Yep, not much non-dairy at Carl’s. I think most area folks have wonderful memories of Carl’s, and keep making memories for that matter. One friend of ours proposed to his wife there when Carl’s reopened one year on Valentine’s Day. I’m always shocked when I meet the rare person who is not a Carl’s fan. These are folks who eat dairy, but just don’t like Carl’s. Different strokes …
I’ll look forward to your review and adjustments to this recipe! 🙂 Thanks,
A superb creation…creating old favorites in new ways is such fun. I’m curious about the taste of the agave you used; the ones I’ve tried have been very floral-y, not exactly bad, just distinctive. And this reminds me how much I want coconut milk ice cream; I have some in the freezer, but I buried it so it wouldn’t be easy to get to 😉 I think some excavating is in order now…
How nice! This looks very lovely & delicious =D.
Hi Lauren–Thanks so much … I think you’d enjoy this sundae very much. FYI–The Xagave folks have decided to sponsor a giveaway here, so be sure to get in your usual number of entries if you are interested. 😉
Thanks again! 🙂
[email protected] says
AT the recent Fancy Food Show is SF, I was also treated to Xagave and their cookbook. I have done extensive research into the ‘purest’ agave (which some take issue with) and agree with you, Shirley – this one has the best flavor and health components. The coconut ice cream is a staple in my freezer, and the maple topping is the bomb!
Hi Karen–Melissa’s post on agave is interesting, isn’t it? Well, if I’m using agave, I do enjoy using this one. Everyone should try coconut milk ice cream. Thanks for the kudos on the maple topping! Not something I’ll make very often, but it is fabulous. 🙂
Loflin Falls says
I just became your newest fan on FB…I already subscribe to your emails. I can’t wait to make this maple nut sauce, but I might end up eating it all myself! I’d love to try the Xagave and compare to the the brand I currently use.
Hi Loflin–Welcome to gfe (officially) and thanks for becoming a fan on Facebook! Thanks for being a subscriber, too. 🙂 Yes, the maple-nut topping could cause a person to eat it all. LOL It would be smart to enjoy it with others, and you can make a lot of friends (or happy family members) that way. 😉
Best of luck in the giveaway!
I am looking for cookbooks that will help me find some simple, sweet things to eat. I am new at changing my diet…… with multiple sensitivities it is difficult.
I am grateful there are give aways with great cookbooks to help find healthy recipes.
I am learning to use agave and coconut and almond milk and other ingredients in place of the ones I can’t use. Thank you and God Bless.
Hi Cathy–Welcome to gfe! I think you’ll find this cookbook helpful. 🙂 It’s nice to hear positive feedback about giveaways. Thanks so much for sharing that!
Keep the faith on the dietary changes. Sometimes it’s amazing how quickly one can adapt once you find a few key ingredients and a few standby recipes to build on. 😉 Best of luck in the giveaway!
Yummy!! I am dying to try making ice cream. I just found out that there is an ice cream maker attachment for your kitchenaid mixer! I need one!
Hi Katie–Looks like you are new here at gfe—welcome. 🙂 I’ve heard about that attachment … some folks really love it. Making ice cream is so easy and fun … a million different flavor possibilities all in your own hands. 😉
Sandy Metius says
Thank you for your blog. I know it is time consuming but I, and I know others, appreciate your time and dedication to supplying us who cannot eat gluten with such delicious recipes.
I would like to be entered in the Xagave Products Giveaway. I have not used these products yet and look forward to trying them.
Again, thanks for your time and efforts to keep us celiacs eating and enjoying safely!
Hi Sandy–Welcome to gfe! Looks like this is your first comment and such a sweet one, too—you’re quite welcome and thank you! Your comment totally made my day when I read it yesterday. 🙂 I’m truly glad that I’m helping with the gfe approach and recipes.
Best of luck in the Xagave giveaway, Sandy! Hugs,
Christy B. says
I’m definitely getting educated through your site. I store all your recipes in a folder on my laptop and hope to find out if gluten is what’s causing the issues here. Thank you!
This recipe looks DELICIOUS!
Hi Christy!–So good to see you again. 🙂 I’m really glad that gfe is helping you. What a compliment to be storing all my recipes in a special folder for later use … thank you! There will be a special guest post next week that you may find very helpful in your quest for answers … stay tuned, dear. 😉
And, best of luck in the giveaway … you might just win your agave to make this recipe!
Christy B. says
I already subscribe through email. 🙂
Christy B. says
I’m already a Facebook fan. 🙂
Charlene Hobot says
I love this what a way to enjoy oneself. Thank you for the helpful hints as well. I posted the link on my facebook and I sent out a tweet.
Hi Charlene–Welcome to gfe! Yes, this is quite the way to have a little party so to speak. 😉 You’re quite welcome. Thanks so much for spreading the word! 🙂
I got to try Xagave nectar a few months’ back – and I love it. The flavor is definitely better than the other agave nectars I’ve tried. I just ordered some more! This sundae sounds delightful. Definitely need to try it!
Hi Alta–I do think Xagave is a great product. I know there’s the whole agave controversy and I’m staying tuned to the findings with the wisdom of folks like Melissa (Gluten Free for Good). I’m using Xagave occasionally and am fine with it. Enough of that … DO try this sundae. 🙂
Whoops, Forgot to do the other things =D.
I subscribe via Google reader.
You are now super entered! 😉
And, I follow you on twitter!
i am now following you on twitter! and i saw the coconut whipped cream recipe on the oscar dinner blog- can’t wait to try both! 🙂 hopefully, i’ll win something in addition to all the good recipes 🙂
Hi jamie–Nice to see you again! 🙂 Love the name of your blog, Cranky Little Redhead … must check it out!
Hmmm, now you’ve got me thinking … Diane’s whipped cream on this maple-nut sundae–wouldn’t that be phenomenal? 😉
Best of luck in the giveaway!
scrapper al says
Oh, I’d love the chance to try this agave nector. I’ve been using an organic blue agave nector.
Hi scrapper al–Good to see you at gfe again! 🙂 Xagave seems to be the best of the different kinds of agave, being a combo plus, so to speak. Do check out the info on it.
Best of luck in the giveaway! 😉
Wow, I’ve never heard of Xagave before, nor did I know there were different agave plants to choose from. Now I’m curious to try it some day to see if there really is a big difference!
Hi Magess–Welcome to gfe! I learned a lot that I didn’t know before in reading the info on Xagave, too. Enjoy your taste test and research! 🙂
Best of luck in the giveaway!
Diane-The W.H.O.L.E. Gang says
You always make me drool. Love the whole thing. I could eat the whole thing! Thank you for sharing it on Friday Foodie Fix.
Hey Diane–You would love this whole thing. You’d have family members you could share it with though. And, yes, top it with your whipped coconut cream! Now, that would make me drool. 🙂
Kay Guest says
Hey Shirley! Can I be entered in your nice giveaway if I can only leave a comment here? (Remember me, the one who has to be told TWICE how to make a smiley face?) I love your photos here with all that lovely walnut goodness spooned over ice cream, looks delicious. Just wondering, would you ever use pecans instead of walnuts? Cheers! Kay 🙂
Kay–Anyone who leaves a comment on a giveaway post is automatically entered. 🙂 The other options are for additional entries, so no worries.
I’m an equal opportunity nut … uh, I mean nut lover. 😉 Pecans would be wonderful, too, Kay. A pecan pie effect, so to speak! Please report back, of course.
April J Harris says
I love reading about places like Carl’s, Shirley. There are so few left of them these days. Your Maple Nut Sundae looks delicious and I love how wholesome and allergy friendly it is too! Scheduled to share on Sunday on our Hearth and Soul Facebook page. Thank you so much for being a part of the Hop!
Shirley Braden says
April–That’s so true! Carl’s is both an icon and a mecca throughout our state. It was recently voted best in the state, too. 🙂 I missed when you shared this so I’ll have to play more catch up on your post. This is truly a delicious recipe and I really appreciate the feature!