Cool Concoctions—The Sweet History Of Our Favorite Frozen Desserts

July 2014 View more

SmallFeature_800wThere’s nothing more enjoyable than a cold scoop of ice cream on a warm summer night.Not even the dripping of the melting dessert on shoes and clothes can deter the joy gleaned from a frozen delight. Naperville definitely has its fair share of frozen dessert shops, but when did our love affair with this dairy dream begin?

The Beginnings

The origin of frozen desserts is debated among historians. It really depends on who you ask, but there is documented evidence of frozen deserts dating as far back as the second century B.C.

Centuries ago, iced desserts were a luxury item. Alexander the Great (B.C.356-323) indulged on snow and ice flavored with honey and nectar, according to the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA). Emperor Nero Claudius Caesar of Rome (A.D. 54-86) sent runners up the mountains to bring down snow to cool his favorite fruit beverages. Some believe ice cream origins in Europe began when Marco Polo brought a sherbert recipe from China to Italy. According to the IDFA, historians estimate what we now know as ice cream evolved sometime in the 16th Century.

Ice Cream in America

Early ice cream in America was still enjoyed mainly by the elite. The first documented account of ice cream in America was from a guest of Maryland’s Colonial Governor, Thomas Bladen. The frozen dessert was famously enjoyed by some of the country’s earliest leaders, such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

Ice cream became available to the masses after the invention of ice houses. Baltimore milk dealer Jacob Fussell was the first to manufacture ice cream in 1851. The trend of American soda fountain shops kicked off in the mid 1870s complete with its soda jerks and followed shortly by ice cream sundaes. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, ice cream cemented itself as an American symbol during World War II and boosted troop morale. So much so, that in 1943, the U.S. Armed Forces were the world’s largest ice cream manufacturers.

Frozen family of desserts

Ice cream might be the American staple, but that hasn’t stopped other variations of the frozen dessert family from infiltrating the popular dessert culture. Of the many varieties, here are a few of the most popular.

Frozen Yogurt – Frozen yogurt, or “froyo,” has skyrocketed in American culture in the last decade. The dessert is considered by some to be healthier than ice cream, often made with yogurt and low fat dairy. Yogurt has been consumed for more than four millennia, but it wasn’t until the health food craze in the 1970s that the frozen version came around as a substitute to ice cream. According to the International Frozen Yogurt Association, the first wave of frozen yogurt popularity in the U.S. was seen with TCBY soft serve style in the 1980s.

Snow Cones – Ice and brightly colored syrup might seem like a simple combination, but in the heat of the summer sun, it’s a high demand cool treat. The dessert is crunchy, crushed ice with flavored syrup served most often in a wax cone. In 1919, Samuel Bert, aka “King Sammy” from East Dallas, debuted the icy dessert at the State Fair of Texas. In 1920, Bert also invented and began selling the snow cone machine at the Fair. According to, Bert’s stand at the state fair was selling one million snow cones per year in the early 1950s.

Gelato – The Italian-style frozen dessert is different than American ice cream in that it is served at a higher temperature and contains less fat and less air. The result is a treat with a more dense and creamy texture. The Gelato Museum Caprpigiani in Bologna, Italy accounts the birth of gelato from its dairy free ancestor sorbet. The museum credits Bernardo Buontalenti with creating the first egg cream gelato in the late 1500s. Gelato’s growth mirrored ice cream, in that it was first considered a dessert of the elite, appearing in haute cuisine recipe books in the 19th and 20th Centuries. The invention of artificial ice helped gelato move to the general public, bringing about the birth of gelato shops and push carts.

Ice pops – Ice pops, also known by the brand name Popsicle, are a famous frozen dessert on a stick invented by none other than an 11-year-old boy in America. According to, in 1905 a young Frank Epperson left a glass filled with water, powdered soda mix, and a wooden stirring stick outside his California home overnight. The result was an ice pop he called Episicle, a much-loved summer dessert by kids and adults alike. In 1923, Epperson filed for a patent for his invention and changed the name to Popsicle, a name more popular with friends at school and eventually his own children. The rest is history.

Naperville Nostalgia

Cool dessert spots are a frequent sight in a sizeable, family-friendly community such as Naperville. However, as many as there are now, one of the original and most famous spots was Prince Castle, later known as Cock Robin. Founded in Naperville in 1931, the first Prince Castle was an ice cream shop located along the Riverwalk in Downtown Naperville. The shop was known for manufacturing its own equipment and making ice cream in an onsite factory.

Prince Castle was changed to Cock Robin in 1967 by the Fredenhaugens, the family part of the original business venture. Known for its square ice cream scoops, “one in a million” shakes and steak burgers, the restaurant chain was a hoppin’ spot in Naperville for more than 60 years. The restaurant eventually closed in 2000, but remains a piece of Naperville history many won’t soon forget. The Fredenhagen family donated the one-acre piece of land to the City of Naperville after its closing, which is now known as Fredenhagen Park.

Naperville’s Guide to Cool Desserts

Naperville has dozens of spots where cool dessert-seekers can find something refreshing. Here’s a sampling of a few options.

Colonial Café and Ice Cream
1101 S. Washington St., 630.420.7722
Specialty: The famous and decadent “Kitchen Sink” and customizable sundaes.

2879 95th St., Suite 155, 630.922-7756
Specialty: Old-fashioned ice cream fountain, served in glassware with metal spoons.

24 W. Jefferson Ave., 630.848.7500
Specialty: Gelato of course, but don’t miss the Italian Ice and espresso drinks.

1163 E. Ogden Ave., Suite 719, 630.305.7905
Specialty: Frozen yogurt, with a myriad of fun flavors and toppings.

Cookie Dough Creations
22 W. Chicago Ave., 630.369.4833
Specialty: Ice cream topped with a scoop of (eggless) cookie dough batter.

Forever Yogurt
22 E. Chicago Ave., 331.213.7095
Specialty: Frozen yogurt in a cup. You pick the flavor and add the toppings.

Red Mango
111 W. Jackson Ave., 630.904.0994
Specialty: Frozen yogurt and smoothies.

Yogurt Beach
3027 English Row Ave., Suite 115, 630.778.0182
Specialty: Paradise-themed froyo shop, complete with tiki huts and surfboard tables.