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You, Too, Can Make Magic Chocolate Shell

Don’t worry. We can keep this chocolaty secret between us. 

My first memory of magic chocolate shell is from when I was a kid. I ordered that famous vanilla custard cone from Dairy Queen: a cone topped with three thick blobs of vanilla soft serve (don’t forget the curlicue hat!). Then it was dunked in shiny chocolate sauce and alakazam: The sauce hardened, holding those ice cream blobs together. It was like magic!

It seems like magic, but it’s not impossible to recreate. 

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Cook's Illustrated Deputy Food Editor Andrea Geary did some digging. The secret? Coconut oil. Coconut oil is extremely high in saturated fat, which makes it solid at room temperature and brittle at cooler temperatures. Combining melted coconut oil with melted chocolate produces a satiny mixture that solidifies into a perfect, shatteringly thin shell over ice cream.

As magical as store-bought is, we thought the actual chocolate flavor fell flat. Our recipe brings chocolate to full attention (thanks to some espresso powder!), but you’re still getting that presto chango hardening effect. This sauce tastes great drizzled over ice cream or really any of your favorite frozen treats. 

I encourage you to make this. Wow your kids (or grown friends for that matter). We can keep this chocolaty secret between us. 

Magic Chocolate Shell Sauce

Makes about ¾ cup

  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅛ teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped fine
  • ⅓ cup coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder


1. Stir vanilla, espresso powder, and salt in small bowl until espresso dissolves. Microwave chocolate and coconut oil in medium bowl at 50 percent power, stirring occasionally, until melted, 2 to 4 minutes. 

2. Whisk in vanilla mixture and cocoa until combined. Let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes, before using. (Sauce can be stored at room temperature in airtight container for up to 2 months. Before using, gently warm in microwave, stirring every 10 seconds, until pourable but not hot.)