The Great Ice Cream Cone Conundrum

There are three sorts of ice cream cone: the cup cone, the sugar cone, and the waffle cone.  Let us ignore the waffle cone, because they didn’t have them when I was a kid.  The cup cone has two advantages: you can set it down, and it is better for holding soft-serve ice cream.  The sugar cone has one advantage: it tastes good.

The conundrum: why can’t they make a sugar cone in the form of a waffle cone?  Is it because something in the process of making the sugar cone requires flat sheets that can be rolled by not shaped?   I have been wondering about this as long as I can remember.

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0 thoughts on “The Great Ice Cream Cone Conundrum”

  1. Aren’t sugar cones and waffle cones the same shape? Or do you mean why don’t they make cup cones out of sugar cones? I always figured it was just tradition.

    And now I want an ice cream cone!

  2. Because the waffle cone and sugar cone processes are basically the same (make wafer, shape wafer), you can’t really make the sharp edges needed for a stable cup-cone.

  3. As far as I can tell from Google, the manufacturing process produces the cones in the distinctive pointy-ended shape – “The TT25 automatic baking machine is used for rolling sugar cones. It offers cones to the next process to be filled with ice cream. First it dispenses batter on the baking plates to prepare the wafers for shaping, then rolls them up, keep them in shape unload them finally. It is the main device of the production line. Excellent performances have allowed International Standards to be comfortably met. “

  4. Great minds must think alike or something. I just stopped at Baskin Robbins on the way home and grabbed two scoops of chocolate-chip.

    I guess I’m a purist. Just give me the ice cream in a cup.. none of this cone stuff.

  5. Thanks, BSD and Netdancer. That’s sort of what I suspected. The process for making the sugar cone doesn’t permit the shape of the cup-cone.

  6. I saw a show on the History Channel called Modern Marvels, and one episode was devoted to all things ice cream. From what I saw, sugar cones are created by pouring out batter into a flat, circular shape, cooking it, and rolling them into a cone while still warm. Since they aren’t cooked in the conical shape, I suspect they could be created in the same shape as a cup cone, though it might require more work, as cup cones are actually cooked into their shape. Then again, maybe it would be as simple as pouring into a mold.

    Hmmm. Perhaps if you develop a simple, effective method and patent it, some ice cream company will buy it for an absurd amount of money and start mass producing sugar cups and we’ll all be able to enjoy our ice cream in them.

  7. Next time you see Gene Wolfe, ask him if he’ll design you a machine to do it. In his free time.

    (For those what don’t know, G.W. was one of the engineers who devised the machine that makes Pringles.)

  8. “Let us ignore the waffle cone, because they didn’t have them when I was a kid.”

    Ummm. Maybe they didn’t have them where you were a kid, but they did where I was; they were what soft serve got served in — and I don’t think there was a Waffle Cone Interregnum while I wasn’t looking… But how would I know, if I wasn’t looking? Deucedly tricky, that!

    Contrariwise, I never saw a “cup” “cone” [sic] where I grew up, until the first Baskin-Robbins swam into my ken, somewhere in my 20s.

  9. Oh wait. By “cup cone” you mean what we called a waffle cone? When you said “cup cone” the only referent I had was a paper/plastic cup.

    I might have been calling it the wrong name for all my life. My head just exploded. Fortunately, like the pawnshop guy in the good MIB movie, heads are just like streecars for me.

  10. It should be very possible to make something like a dip mold that would bake the waffle/sugar batter into a cup cone shape… A cold (to cause the batter to stick to the form) inner form that dipped into batter and dropped into a hot outer form that did the baking… remove the inner , invert…

    However, I’m fairly unsatisfied with *both* forms of cones. The sugar/waffle cones are too fractile and crunchy. They do not break well or chew nicely. And of course, the cup cones don’t taste good nor hold up to the liquidity of the melty ice cream.

    Also, historically, the waffle cone has always been around. I was going to spout some urban legendry, but will punt to the slightly more reliable wikipedia.

  11. @9/10

    If I’m reading it all correctly, “cup cone” refers to the kind of cone you’d get at McDonalds, with a flat bottom and a widened top; pale and crisp, rather than dark and sturdy. Essentially a wafer cone. I hate to use the M word in a discussion of delicious things but we’re in need of universal references and you can’t get much more universal than that.

    As it happens, if I’m eating soft-serve I prefer cup cones, because as you force ice cream down to the bottom of the cone, you’re left, at the end, with one bite that is the pinnacle of decadence, an almost orgasmic delight, with the ice cream forced into the braces at the cone’s base. Biting it triggers an explosion of deliciousness.

    For scooped ice cream, of course I would rather have a sugar cone: much sturdier, and since the cone will likely outlast the ice cream, it is important that it’s tasty in its own right.

  12. skzb @13:
    I almost went with Dairy Queen, but I wasn’t sure they were global enough to be a universal example for cone discussions. For all I know there may be entire regions of your readership who’ve never set foot in a DQ.

  13. Well, you can fix the stable-when-set-down problem without a huge modification. Sugar (or waffle) cones are, basically, round at the top. Take one cone and slice off about the bottom third (ideally you’d do this pre-cooking). Invert it and set it down on the large round end. Take a second cone and fill it with ice cream. Stick it in the inverted cone. You now have an hourglass-shaped edible ice cream holder with the advantage that if you hold it from the covered point, it protects your hand from drips.

  14. You appeared to know the answer to your question when you disregarded waffle cones. It’s all about tradition. If they didn’t have them when you were a kid, they don’t count.

    Same thing happens with candy bars, which are very hard to gain significant market share. People introduce their children to the ones they liked when they were young.

  15. Here’s my question: You remember when you were a kid that there were no waffle cones. But for as long as you can remember, you have been wondering why sugar cones weren’t shaped like waffle cones. What I wonder is how you came to wonder about this discrepancy before you ever saw a waffle cone?

    One other observation: what you call the “cup cone” isn’t really a cone at all. The word cone refers to the shape. And cup cones aren’t shaped like cones at all. I defy you to get a parabola out of one. If Kepler or Newton had grown up with cup cones, we might still know nothing about the true nature of the orbits of the planets.

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