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Decor Ideas

Ice Cream Party Tips From a Pro — And a Delicious Use for Leftover Ice Cream

Turn your favorite summer treat into a perfect excuse for a party!

During the dog days of summer we all scream for ice cream — and throwing a showstopping ice cream party in your own backyard is surprisingly simple. All you need are a few pastel-hued accents, a variety of ice cream treats and a fun signature cocktail to serve up to friends and family. Here, we tapped a top party planner and got all the easy tips and tricks for turning your backyard into an adorable ice cream shop!

“On a summer evening, I hosted a dreamy ice cream party and it turned out so sweet,” says party pro Tara Berger, founder of One Stylish Party. “The color palette for the party was inspired by sherbet ice cream — and these subtle, refined colors (like blush and peach) really elevate all the decor.”

To get the look of Berger’s party spread (above), start by topping a picnic table with a white tablecloth. Set a patio umbrella behind it. Next, drape a faux floral garland across the front of the table. Make a balloon swag by knotting inflated balloons to a length of string. Tape one end to the umbrella and the other to a table leg. Line up trays of toppings and slip ice-cream cones into the wells of a clear “champagne wall” holder (buy at Amazon, $69.99). (For extra flair, Berger’s other little party details were from Bonjour Fete.)

Prep your scoops ahead of time with this trick

You’ll have more time to enjoy the gathering when you get all of the ice-cream scooping done ahead of time. The night before your party, pop scoops of ice cream into cupcake liners, place on a baking pan and freeze. When you’re ready for fun, place the pan on your buffet. To build each cone or sundae, instruct loved ones to grab a scoop (or two!) by the liner, place it scoop-side-down on a cone or in a cup and then peel off the liner.

Variety of ice cream scoops in cones with chocolate, vanilla and strawberry

Customize ice cream with a toppings bar

Offer guests sundae toppings like nuts, fruit, chopped candy bars and small candies. Sprinkles, of course, are a classic! Tip: Pour toppings into cupcake-wrapper-lined wells of a muffin tin to make serving easier on you. To serve trendy themed blends (like mermaid, unicorn or watermelon) without paying for expensive mixed packs, just stir a small pouch of shaped sprinkles like Wilton Sprinkles Mermaid Tail Pouch (buy at Bake Supply Plus, $1.50) in a bowl filled with basic supermarket or dollar-store or on-hand sprinkles to make a custom blend. (Click through for a surprising ice cream topping that is all the rage right now: olive oil.)

Also smart: Sauces like hot fudge, butterscotch and peanut butter are crowd-pleasers, but open jars can lead to sticky messes that beckon bugs. Instead, pour sauces or syrups into dollar-store condiment squeeze bottles for easy pouring. Pro tip: Pour simmering water into a small cooler, place on the table and add the squeeze bottles. The water bath will keep the sauces at a perfectly warm temperature.

Surprise guests with creamy milkshake cocktails

Three boozy milkshakes topped with whipped cream

Introduce guests to a delicious cocktail trend: boozy milkshakes. For each, blend up 5 oz. of chocolate, vanilla or strawberry ice cream and a splash of milk, then add the following flavorful mix-ins and blend: For chocolate, add a drizzle of chocolate syrup and 1 oz. of Bailey’s liqueur. For vanilla, add 1 oz. of vanilla vodka and for strawberry, add ½ cup of chopped strawberries and 1 oz. of vanilla vodka. Pour into glass and top with whipped cream.

Charm loved ones with cone-kissed place settings

Paper Ice Cream Shaped Cone on Pink Plate Place Setting

At her party, Berger dressed up place settings with fanciful cone-shaped appetizer plates (buy on Amazon, $16 for 48 plates). To make your own, simply cut out a “cone” shape from tan or white paper, then add waffle details with a black marker. Next, tape cone to the back of a small white paper plate. Draw on a cherry with marker. Optional: Add a gift card to the plate as a party favor.

Sweeten the day with a ‘cake cone’ dessert display

"Ice Cream Cone" Cupcakes

In addition to ice cream, Berger served a few treats that wouldn’t melt, like these creamsicle cupcakes made by Kelsey Elizabeth Sweets Boutique. Make your own by baking cupcakes using orange cake mix (like Duncan Hines Orange Supreme) to box directions. After baking, let cool and ice with a dollop of orange-tinted vanilla frosting. Insert a Popsicle stick into each cupcake and add to cake plate. Round out the display with cute ice cream cones dipped in sprinkles. To make: Spread vanilla frosting on the lip of each cone, dip into sprinkles and set upside down onto cake plate so guests can grab a cone and fill it with their favorite ice cream.

Brighten any table with a beautiful sherbet-hued bouquet

"Sorbet" bouquet

For her gorgeous floral arrangements, Berger took inspiration from the soft colors of sherbet. “The blush and peach tones of sherbet are trending in the party world,” she says. To get the look of this bouquet styled by floral pro Ashley O’Dell, pop full blooms, like garden roses and ranunculus, into a pink vase; tuck in greenery to finish. (Click through for savvy, simple tips on keeping this bouquet fresh for longer.)

Turn leftover ice cream into this decadent dessert

Cake made with melted ice cream and rainbow sprinkles on a plate

Don’t toss ice cream that may have melted! Instead, use it to make a dreamy dessert that you can enjoy tomorrow: ice cream bread. To do: Preheat your oven to 350°F. Mix 2 pints of melted ice cream with 3 cups of self-rising flour and pour into a greased loaf pan; bake for 50 minutes. Not enough “leftovers” on hand for the recipe? Pour melted ice cream into ice cube trays, freeze and use cubes to flavor iced coffee.

For more party inspiration check out these stories:

Party Planner Shares Her Secrets to Throwing a Lemon Party — and the Easiest Ever Lemonade Cupcakes Your Crowd Will Love!

Luau Party Planning Tips from a Pro — Plus a Fun Tiki Cocktail Your Guests Will Love!

6 Unique Ice Cream Recipes to Indulge in This Summer

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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