When I was a kid, one of the coolest dessert toppings was the magic shell syrup. This topping was typically made by Hershey’s or Smuckers.  What was so awesome about this syrup was that once it hit your ice cream it would harden up. As a kid this was a mind blowing invention. Your ice cream was soft; the syrup from the container was soft. But after a minute, your spoon hit the hard, delicious shell created all by itself in your dish.  Was it magic? Some kind of ice cream voodoo being displayed right into my bowl?

Unfortunately the answer is neither.  But thanks to science we can discover the real story behind this treat and how we can make our own at home.

The Secret Ingredient

It turns out that oils, such as coconut oil are the key ingredient in the chocolate dip. That’s because these oils are high in saturated fat.  Paula Figoni explains in her book:  “the more saturated fatty acids in fat, the more solid the fat. Tropical oils are all solid at room temperature but will melt quickly if the room is too warm”.  In other words, as temperature drops these saturated fats harden when cold. Add some melted chocolate to the mix and the combination keeps the syrup from getting too hard.

So how do you make it at home? As we just mentioned, coconut oil is the main ingredient. It can be purchased in most grocery stores or online. Next we will want to add our chocolate.  When it comes to this ingredient, there is no bad option. You can use regular chocolate, dark chocolate or whatever you desire. Since the chocolate’s sweetness gets a little lost with all that oil you can add some corn syrup or plain table sugar. According to Serious Eats you’ll want to use half a pound of chocolate, a cup of coconut oil and about a half a cup of corn syrup.

Alternatives to Chocolate

Just because chocolate is the original, does not mean it’s the only option. There are tons of different substitutes that you could use. White chocolate is an obvious choice but how about a peanut butter dip? Using freeze-dried strawberries or a strawberry cake mix and you can have a strawberry magic shell. The options are endless and you can find hundreds of recipes online.