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It’s easy to turn simple scoops of ice cream into sensational desserts with a variety of sauces and toppings.

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I am always rethinking dessert. I’ve never been a big consumer of plain ice cream on its own - but I am a longtime fan of sundaes, banana splits and ice cream sodas. I started serving “embellished” ice cream at informal dinner parties and discovered that everyone loves digging into a delicious combination of ice cream, flavorful toppings and other components.

Take the basic ingredients of these two delectable favorites, add a scoop or two of ice cream, and you have a delightful dessert for a summer dinner party or an afternoon barbecue, or simply a lazy-day treat. And though they both start with vanilla ice cream, the results are anything but ordinary “vanilla.”

Make your own vanilla ice cream (try my recipe at marthastewart.com/vanilla-ice-cream), or use a good-quality store-bought version. Then add simple-to-make components that can be prepared in advance. Butterscotch and strawberry sauces, rich pound cake and chocolate, almond and coconut clusters are my preferences. Invent your own sundaes. Blueberry pie? Peach cobbler? Italian plum cake? Enjoy!

Strawberry-shortcake Sundaes

Make the most of berry season by swirling a quick sauce into ice cream and spooning more on top.

Active Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours

Servings: 6 to 8

1 quart vanilla ice cream

Strawberry Sauce*

2 cups sliced strawberries, plus whole berries for serving

3 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Pinch of coarse salt

Pound cake (store-bought or homemade; for recipe, go to marthastewart.com/cream-pound-cake)

Whipped cream, for serving

1. Beat ice cream in a bowl just until softened. Fold in 3/4 cup Strawberry Sauce, leaving streaks. Transfer to a loaf pan; cover with plastic wrap. Freeze at least 2 hours and up to 2 weeks.

2. Toss strawberries with sugar, lemon juice and salt in a bowl; let stand 30 minutes.

3. Slice pound cake 1/2 inch thick, then cut out 2 1/2-inch rounds with a cookie cutter. Place 2 scoops of ice cream in each serving glass. Add a pound-cake round, more sauce and some sliced-strawberry mixture. Top with another scoop of ice cream, a dollop of whipped cream and a whole berry; serve.

* Strawberry Sauce

Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

1 pound strawberries, quartered

1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, sugar

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Stir together berries, sugar, salt and lemon juice in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, mashing with a potato masher and stirring frequently. Cook at a low boil, stirring more frequently as mixture thickens, until sauce clings to a spoon, about 10 minutes. Skim foam from top. Let cool completely.

Coconut-Chocolate Sundaes

If you love coconut-chocolate candy bars, this may be your dream dessert. Ice cream coated in shredded coconut is served with bourbon-spiked butterscotch sauce and a crunchy chocolate-almond topping. You will have more of the topping than you need — and that’s a very good thing, as it’s also excellent on its own.

Active Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes

Servings: 6 to 8

1 quart vanilla ice cream

3 cups sweetened shredded coconut

Chocolate, Almond and Coconut Clusters*

Vanilla-Bourbon Butterscotch Sauce*

Unsweetened flaked coconut, for serving (optional)

1. Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap. Scoop ice cream into 1/4-cup balls. Roll in sweetened coconut to cover and place on baking sheet. Cover with more plastic wrap and freeze at least 2 hours and up to 2 weeks.

2. Place a coconut-coated ball in the bottom of each serving glass. Sprinkle with Chocolate, Almond and Coconut Clusters. Top with a second scoop and more clusters. Spoon Vanilla-Bourbon Butterscotch Sauce over top, sprinkle with unsweetened coconut and serve.

* Chocolate, Almond And Coconut Clusters

Active Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 3 cups

1 1/4 cups slivered almonds

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1/2 cup unsweetened flaked coconut

3 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1. Heat oven to 350 F. Spread almonds on a baking sheet and toast, tossing occasionally until golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool completely.

2. Bring sugar and 2 tablespoons water to a boil in a saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Continue to cook without stirring, until a thermometer registers 235 F, about 3 minutes.

3. Add almonds. Cook, stirring until sugar begins to crystallize, about 1 minute. Stir in salt. Continue to cook, stirring, until a sandlike coating forms on nuts, about 1 minute more. Stir in coconut. Pour onto a parchment-lined baking sheet; let cool 30 minutes.

4. Transfer nut mixture to a bowl. Add chocolate, stirring to coat. Return to sheet; separate into clusters with a fork. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to 2 days. Before serving, toss with cocoa powder, tapping off excess.

* Vanilla-bourbon Butterscotch Sauce

Total Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 1 cup

1 cup packed light-brown sugar

1 stick unsalted butter

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

1/3 cup heavy cream

1 to 2 tablespoons bourbon

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

In a saucepan, bring brown sugar, butter and vanilla bean to a boil; cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in cream, bourbon and salt. Return to heat, bring to a boil and cook 30 seconds. Let cool slightly before serving. Sauce can be stored in refrigerator up to 1 week; warm over low before serving.

Questions should be addressed to Ask Martha, care of Letters Department, Martha Stewart Living, 601 W. 26th St., 9th floor, New York, N.Y. 10001. Questions may also be sent by email to: mslletters@marthastewart.com. Please include your name, address and daytime telephone number.

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