When it comes to ice cream, there are cone people, and there are cup people. I’m a cone person. My mother is a cone person. Her mother was a cone person. My father-in-law passed away not long after my husband and I met, but I like knowing he was a cone person too.
Now, I don’t dislike cup people (my husband is one, after all, as is my dad), but to me, it’s just not the same to eat ice cream from a cup. Ice cream is quintessential summertime, which means it’s carefree and messy. Enjoying an ice cream cone makes me as relaxed and happy as getting a massage, and, thankfully, cones are a whole lot cheaper.
And yet, while I’m a steadfast cone advocate, the cones in my life have always been relegated to the occasions when I buy a scoop. I’ve just never been able to put homemade ice cream on a store-bought cone. So, I decided it was time to put the churn aside and focus on perfecting the vessel.
There are plenty of waffle cone recipes out there, but I’ve always considered them overkill since they’re such scoop swallowers. And most recipes for sugar cones call for a cone roller and really just have you make tuiles, a delicate, shatteringly thin French cookie. After some tinkering, I found the magic formula, no special equipment required. The flavor will remind you of commercial sugar cones, but these are far fresher tasting. They’re also more delicate, but not too much so.
Even if you are a cup person, maybe it’s time you give cones a try. These cones just might win you over.
At first, I thought making a template for the circles of batter was fussy, but after many rounds of variously sized cones, I realized it added five minutes on the front end but made the process a whole lot easier. To speed up the process and make all the cones identical, I like to cut one circle out of poster board or use a 4-inch lid, so I can quickly trace the circles onto the parchment.
Making the cone molds takes a little effort, but they’re cheap (poster board, tape, scissors, foil), and you can keep them for the next time you make cones. Cut out a 10-inch circle from a sheet of poster board, then cut the circle into quarters. Bring the two straight sides of one quarter-circle together and overlap them slightly to make a cone shape, then tape it shut (scotch, masking, duct, it doesn’t matter).
Wrap the outside of the mold with foil, keeping it as smooth as possible. The baked cones will easily release from the aluminum foil better than they will from the construction paper. Repeat this to make four molds.
My preferred brand of store-bought sugar cones uses brown sugar, and I found a near 1:1 ratio of granulated to dark brown sugar gave me cones with the flavor I wanted, and that were still crisp. A whole egg plus some milk also helped make my cones sturdier.
Drop 1½ tablespoons batter into the center of each outlined circle visible through the silicone mat (if you own two mats, you can set up two sheets and spread the batter for a second batch while the first is in the oven), then fill in the circle using a small offset spatula. The batter should be spread pretty thin; too thick and it won’t crisp properly, but any especially thin areas run the risk of overbrowning and becoming too brittle to roll. Take your time and make sure the whole circle is even.
Bake the cookies in a 325-degree oven until they are browned around the perimeter and golden toward the center. Don’t overbake them because they’ll be impossible to mold, but if they’re underbaked your cones will be doughy.
Working quickly, place a mold about a third of the way from the edge of a cookie, making sure the tip of the mold is about 1/4 inch from the cookie’s edge. This will make it easier to roll the tip end tightly (I try to avoid leaky cones, although you can always drop a treat like a chocolate chip in the bottom to close it off if you find it’s a little bit open). Use a wide metal spatula (like you use to flip pancakes) to lift the cookie edge onto the mold. Then, holding the edge of the cookie on the mold, tightly roll the mold over the remaining cookie to form a cone. Try to make sure the tip end is tightly shut when you first start rolling. Then, press firmly on the seam of the cone to seal.
Stand the cones, still on the mold, on a wire rack. Quickly repeat with the remaining cookies. If you find a cone tip is too open or the last cookie has cooled too much, just put the cookie back in the oven (on the mold if already rolled or still on the baking sheet), for one minute to soften. Once the cones are completely cool, you can remove them from the molds. They might get a little stuck, so just be gentle when loosening the mold. For subsequent batches, make sure to use a clean and cool baking mat and baking sheet (the parchment template can be reused). This ensures that the cookies will set properly and cook evenly.