Bourbon Black Walnut Sundae

Source: Recipe by Connie Green and Sarah Scott, authors of The Wild Table: Seasonal Foraged Food and Recipes (Studio, October 2010)  

Recipe Type: | Seasons:

Serves 4-6

Hide this from the children. If I’d known about this as a child, I’d have fallen in love with bourbon at ten insteadof twenty. Make this sundae and, like me, you’ll end up craving this easy dessert of luscious goo and liquored up nuts far too often. Caramel binds in marriage two of America’s greatest taste treasures: our rich, native black walnuts and fine bourbon. This recipe makes plenty of boozy caramel. This is a wise thing because you’ll absolutely require another sundae. The caramel holds nicely in your refrigerator for up to two weeks. Don’t soak the black walnuts in bourbon for more than fifteen minutes or you’ll drown the black walnut flavor. Hickory nuts or English walnuts are a noble substitute.


Bourbon caramel sauce
½ cup light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons bourbon
¼ teaspoon fresh lemon juice

¾ cup coarsely chopped black walnuts
¼ cup bourbon
1 pint French vanilla ice cream


For the bourbon caramel sauce

Whisk together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, corn syrup, butter, salt, and cream in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Be careful as the mixture comes to a boil because it will bubble up to the top of the saucepan. When the mixture is boiling, turn down the heat to medium and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until it is thickened, 7 to 8 minutes. It should be at a constant, energetic simmer. Whisk in the bourbon and lemon juice, then remove from the heat. Serve warm. Makes 2 cups.

For the sundae

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until fragrant and lightly browned, 6 to 7 minutes. Cool to room temperature.
  1. Place the walnuts in a small bowl and stir in the bourbon. Let sit for 2 to 3 minutes before proceeding.
  1. Divide the ice cream among 4 to 6 dessert dishes. Top with a generous spoonful of warm caramel sauce. Spoon the walnuts over the top.

Tips and techniques: The caramel sauce can be made ahead and kept, covered in an airtight container, in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks. Rewarm over low heat or in a microwave before serving. Try sprinkling a few grains of fleur de sel on the caramel topping.


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