We have the, ahem, official scoop.
While its origins can be traced to both Europe and the Middle East, ice cream is now most often associated with the United States as it’s become a multi-billion dollar industry over the past century. And a good scoop of ice cream seems incomplete without a cone. But where did the ice cream cone, the frozen dessert's delicious life partner, come from? Get ready for the inside scoop, here’s a brief history of the ice cream cone.
Ice cream cones have existed in some shape or form since the early 1800s. However, in their original form, they weren’t even edible, existing more as a handheld cup, and even with their second incarnation in the mid-1800s, the rolled wafers known as gauffres or “small cornucopiae” were still used primarily as garnishes.
The first big step in turning the ice cream cone into part of the actual ice cream eating experience came with Agnes B. Marshall’s 1887 and 1894 cookbooks, Cookery Book and Fancy Ices. These books both included a recipe for “Cornets with Cream,” a name derived from the previous cornucopiea and a precursor to the modern day Cornetto. However, Marshall’s recipe was still designed to be a component of an elegant dessert for members of high society rather than the utilitarian item that the ice cream cone would soon become.
According to the International Dairy Foods Association, an Italian immigrant named Italo Marchiony created the first modern day ice cream cone in 1896 in New York City. Seven years later, he patented his creation. By shear coincidence, though, the ice cream cone was independently introduced at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair by Ernest Hamwi, an immigrant and concessionaire who was selling zalabias–a crisp, waffle-like pastry from his native Syria–next to an ice cream vendor.
The story goes that due to the ice cream’s popularity, the vendor ran out of dishes, but Hamwi saw an opportunity and immediately rolled one of his zalabias into the shape of a cone and gave it to the vendor. The wafer cone quickly cooled and as soon as the ice cream vendor plopped a scoop of ice cream into that first cone, the world was never the same.
Soon enough, ice cream cone producers popped up around St. Louis, including Hamwi’s own Cornucopia Waffle Company. Over time, two distinct styles emerged: The rolled cone and the molded cone. The rolled cone was a thin waffle, baked in a round shape and rolled as soon as it came off the griddle. The second type of cone was created by pouring batter into a shell or mold, the likes of which are still seen in some wafer-style cones and, of course, cake cones.