There’s no better time than July for eating ice cream in a cone, particularly if you can do so outside and with a sprinkler nearby. Cones have the power, if only for 10 minutes, to bring back the positive connotations that summer held for many in childhood: few responsibilities, and no worries beyond the possibility of ice cream dripping on your shirt. They’re a fantastic chance to take a break, go outside and enjoy a refreshing treat.
In more ideal years, we’d likely recommend you enhance your summer by buying yourself a freshly dipped cone at your local creamery or ice cream parlor. Given the continuing need for social distancing and quarantine measures, however, that kind of outing will hardly be on the menu for most this year. Still, there’s no reason to bypass cone treats altogether. To find out which cones most deserve a place in your freezer this summer, we sampled treats from four different brands, all of which are available online or in your local grocery stores. In conducting this test, we chose to stick principally to variations on cones with a hard chocolate shell or nut topping incorporated. We also tried several variety packs that included variations on this sundae inspired treat. Here are our rankings, from best to worst.
FatBoy’s Sundae Best ($5.89 for 4)
Unlike most of the other cone treats we sampled, FatBoy’s cone was not fully covered in hardened chocolate; the vanilla ice cream in the cone was still visible through the chunks of chocolate coating and nut sprinkles decorating the top. If you closed your eyes while eating FatBoy’s offering, however, you could be forgiven for thinking that the company included more chocolate shell than some of its competitors. FatBoy has bits of its hard chocolate shell, along with a softer fudge swirl, running throughout the cone. A few nuts are also swirled into the ice cream, which makes the cone more tantalizing for those who particularly enjoy the nuts crowning most premade cone treats. FatBoy only includes four cones in its boxes, so its treats are among the most expensive in this list; they’re worth it, though, if you’re a huge fan of quality cone treats.
Best Vanilla Ice Cream
Blue Bunny’s Vanilla Mini Swirls ($4.29 for 8)
We praised Blue Bunny’s vanilla in our ice cream sandwich round-up, so it’s no surprise that they sweep the category for best vanilla in this taste test. Blue Bunny’s vanilla does taste just a tad artificial, but that slight hint is perfect for when you want a sugary, nostalgic treat. The mini swirl line is also just enough ice cream to satisfy a slight craving without leaving you feeling sluggish later; if you’re looking for smaller portions to satisfy your sweet tooth, then Blue Bunny’s varieties might be the best bet for your buck.
Best Chocolate Coating
Drumstick’s Super Nugget Variety Pack in Strawberry, Vanilla Fudge and Vanilla ($8.49 for 8)
Drumstick certainly hypes up its “super nugget” quite a bit on its variety packs, and while that chocolate chunk at the end of each cone is certainly a delicious feature, we can’t say that the nugget is particularly bigger, or better, than the hardened chocolate pool featured at the bottom of some of the other cones we tried. We will say, however, that Drumstick’s chocolate shell seems to have a superior advantage. The texture is closest to a freshly-dipped Dairy Queen cone, which is certainly a plus, and the shell also fell off the cone the least after being bitten during our testing. If the chocolate shell is your favorite part of the cone, then Drumstick has your back.
Best Nut Topping
Signature Select’s Sundae Cones Variety Pack in Caramel Vanilla, Chocolate and Vanilla ($5.99 for 8)
FatBoy’s decision to include nuts throughout their cone was a special stroke of genius, to be sure. Still, their cones did not have the sheer volume of nut topping that Signature Select managed to pack onto their cones. The Safeway cones were so covered in crushed nut topping that our testers could scarcely take a bite without scattering several over the ground. If peanut toppings are your speed, then you certainly won’t mind Safeway’s generic.
Best Caramel Center
Blue Bunny’s Caramel Mini Swirls ($5.49 for 8)
Cheap caramel is a curse upon the earth, and far too often it’s included in sweet treats. Thankfully, the caramel used in Blue Bunny’s cones tastes neither cheap nor flavorless. The caramel center is also just present enough to lend intrigue to the cone, while still not overpowering the vanilla.
Best Fudge Center
Drumstick’s Super Nugget in Vanilla Fudge
Drumstick’s fudge center is as delicious as their chocolate coating. Our only complaint here is that they could include more fudge swirled throughout the cone, instead of concentrating it in the center. No need to be stingy.
Best Specialty Flavor
Drumstick’s Super Nugget in Strawberry
Most variety packs we found for this taste test incorporated caramel as their specialty flavor; we appreciate Drumstick branching out and including strawberry instead. Lovers of chocolate-covered fruit will especially enjoy this cone, which balances out the sweetness of the strawberry ice cream with the usual hardened shell.
Not Our Favorite
Signature Select’s Sundae Cone in Chocolate
Signature Select’s offerings were, by and large, delicious. Their chocolate ice cream was just a bit too artificial tasting for our liking, however. That’s a shame, because the chocolate coating itself was fine. With a better chocolate ice cream to fill the cones, this variety pack might have our winner, but as it stands, one of the three flavors included is almost inedible.
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