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For many of us, summer means gravitating away from regularly scheduled responsibilities and toward sunshine and fun. Warm weather means people walking up and down boardwalks and sidewalks—and if they’re lucky, they might just have an ice cream cone in hand. 

These crunchy pastries are a staple of summer eating. But with all the variety out there on ice cream shop shelves, it makes you wonder: What kind of ice cream cones are there? And which ice cream cone is best? To ensure you have the tastiest season possible, read on for the ultimate guide to ice cream cones’ history and variety!

chocolate ice cream
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I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream cones!

What is an Ice Cream Cone?

Ice cream cones, in their most basic form, are cone-shaped wafers used to serve ice cream. A little sweet and a lot of crunch, they pair perfectly with the creamy scoops they hold. 

These days, there are so many types of ice cream cone choices, each with a unique flavor, durability, and scoop capacity. Will a classic cake cone do the job? Or will two scoops sit better atop a sugar cone? Maybe the sweet flavors of a waffle cone recipe be the perfect complement to the scoops you choose—or even a waffle cone bowl! Or how about something salty like a pretzel cone? 

Cones can serve as both utensil and bowl—they can be paired with a spoon or eaten on their own. And whether it’s a sugar, waffle, or wafer cone, sweet and crunchy goodness is guaranteed.

The History of Ice Cream Cones

For more than a century, ice cream cones have been enjoyed by children and adults alike. But who invented the ice cream cone?

The first ice cream “cone” patent was granted to Italo Marchiony in New York City in 1903. An Italian immigrant, Marchiony invented what was more like a modern-day ice cream cone bowl. In the illustrated patent documents of Marchiony’s invention, his ice cream wafer dishes resemble small, flat-bottomed teacups much like the top half of a cake cone. 

In 1904, some 950 miles west of New York City, what we know today as the quintessential ice cream cone was being created and sold at the World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. It just so happened to be a stroke of good luck when Syrian concessionaire Ernest A. Hamwi set up his station beside an ice cream booth. His offering—zalabis, or thin, crunchy, waffle-like pastries—came in handy when his neighbor ran out of serving bowls. Rolling up one of his own zalabis into a cone-like shape, Hamwi struck a deal with the ice cream vendor, selling him these edible cones, or cornucopias, with which to serve his ice cream. This was the start of the ice cream cone in its true cone-shaped form! 

While Hamwi’s success at the World’s Fair led him to open the Cornucopia Waffle Company just a few years later, there are also stories and accounts of others, such as Stephen Sullivan, Abe Doumar, David Avayou, Nick and Albert Kabbaz, and Charles and Frank Menches, being credited with the invention of the ice cream cone. Perhaps each one invented some version of the cones cherished today or had a different technique and ingredient list. It’s difficult to say who exactly should be given the credit, but one thing’s for certain: All of these creators were on to something big. After a hundred years, the ice cream cone is such a popular treat that millions are made each day! 

3 Different Types of Ice Cream Cones

1. Cake Cone a.k.a. Wafer Cone

three scoops
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Have your cake (cone) and eat it too!

The cake cone, often called a wafer cone, is considered the most basic of all cone choices—though it is often not even cone-shaped! These light and flaky flat-bottomed options are subtle in flavor and have much less sugar than alternate varieties. They’re often used for kid-sized servings but can vary in size.

2. Sugar Cone

ice cream with sprinkles
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Sugar cone goodness!

Sweet and sturdy, thick and crunchy, sugar cones are made with molasses and brown sugar. They tend to last longer than a cake cone before turning soggy, making them a reliable choice for your scoops! 

3. Waffle Cone

waffle cone ice cream
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Wonderful waffle cones

Waffle cones are the best of both worlds! They bring together ingredients from both of the previous cone options: cake and pastry flours—like the cake cone—and molasses and dark brown sugar like the sugar cone. Waffle cones are made in a special press that maintains the waffled exterior, and their conical shape is designed to collect any melty runoff. These cones also come in an assortment of shapes, sizes, and flavors—and you can even make them at home!

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