“I’m making magic shell for Allison’s birthday present!” I excitedly whispered to my coworkers all last week. Allison’s recent stories of indulging in this childhood treat as her comfort food had put this easily dismissed ice cream treat front and center in my mind.
“Oh wow- I haven’t had that since I was a kid!” was the most common reply I received. However, it was the question from my Chinese coworker that really made my brow furrow in an attempt at a reply: “What is Magic Shell?”
Beyond the mystery industry ingredients used by Smucker- what is Magic Shell’s functionality?
Why not just melt up chocolate and pour that over ice cream? It will harden into a shell with snap, just like Magic Shell. One can do that, I definitely have. However, melting chocolate for ice cream tends to yield a topping that would be more accurately described as Magic Glop. The thick layer that melted chocolate over ice cream yields is a formidable force to your spoon- one that will squish the ice cream underneath- not exactly a thin shell.
Additionally, chocolate’s temperature range in which it remains a fast running syrup like liquid is a small window. One that a teenager at a microwave will likely have little patience to experiment with on a weekly (or daily) basis. A free flowing liquid like syrup is easier to pour on ice cream to achieve a thin shell easily snapped with a spoon. Hence, why there is such a thing as Magic Shell in the world.
All this translates into a good science lab example on melting points of mixtures. The melting point of a mixture will be lower than the melting point of mixtures components individually, a property exploited by this topping. Homemade magic shell will melt easier than chocolate, and stay liquid longer too.
How to Make Magic Shell at Home
Food blogger Naomi Poe has a recipe on her blog the Accidental Vegetarian that sounds like the best way to make magic shell. It doesn’t use butter, as a lot of other recipes online do, but instead uses coconut oil, our favorite multitasker! Theoretically, with the correct chocolate, you can even make Magic Shell vegan (the mind boggles at the discongruities in that statement).
Poe’s basic recipe is to simply melt together coconut oil (1 cup) and eating chocolate (1 – 2 cups), adding more chocolate than coconut oil.
At home, I found the following weights to work well for measuring out the ingredients for the Magic Shell recipe:
- 150 g finely chopped eating chocolate
- 100 g of refined coconut oil*
- pinch of salt
* I feel that using a touch of unrefined virgin coconut oil helps aid in the elusive “fake” flavor that store bought Magic Shell imparts. If you really want to go the nostalgia route, try out 80 g refined coconut oil + 20 g unrefined virgin coconut oil.
Combine the ingredients in a pyrex or glass bowl and melt in the microwave till almost, but not completely liquid. Stir to finish the melting outside of the microwave.
Pour melted mixture into a squeeze bottle or recycled pancake or maple syrup container. The mixture does not need to be refrigerated for storage. It will be liquid at room temperature in the warm summer months, and will be hard during the winter.
To reheat the Magic Shell to drizzle on your favorite frozen dessert, heat in the microwave (~ 40 seconds twice at 80% power), or sit the closed container in a cup of hot water for about 10 minutes.
Making different flavors and varieties of Magic Shell
Starting from the basic recipe format, several varieties of Magic Shell can be made in your kitchen.
Altering the fat affects flavor
Coconut oil comes in two basic varieties, refined and virgin. Refined coconut oil acts as a neutral fat with minimal flavor. Using virgin unrefined coconut oil imparts a light coconut flavor.
Altering the chocolate changes flavor
Any chocolate can be used in this recipe: bittersweet, semisweet, milk, or even white. Heck, you could melt your favorite dagoba bar or other high end gourmet flavored chocolate bar and use that in your magic shell. Xocolatl Magic Shell with chilies and nibs? Yes please!
Adding fat soluble flavors
Oil based flavors will blend easily with your Magic Shell since it is a mixture of mostly fat. Food grade essential oils are great for this project for that very reason, just use them sparingly as they are very potent. Some flavoring extracts found in grocery stores are oil based vs alcohol based. Just check their labels. I didn’t test alcohol based flavorings. They will probably work, though may run the risk of not staying in solution when the mixture hardens.
Natural sources of flavor (bacon) outside from extracts can be gently heated in coconut oil (bacon) and left in the cooled fat to imbue their flavor (bacon) This is a method used in perfume making as some scents are more soluble in fat than alcohol. Cinnamon, teas, and other whole spices may yield up different flavor notes under this method of extraction.
Adding color to your Magic Shell
Using your typical food coloring to make pretty magic shell colors with the white chocolate will be a bit frustrating. Average food coloring is water based, and fights combining with all that melted fat. If you can find a paste food coloring that is fat based, use it with the white chocolate magic shell for a special colored treat.
Different flavor ideas for homemade Magic Shell
I’m a sucker for variety, and this is a great recipe to play with. Simply toggling a flavor with different varieties of chocolate will yield nice variety.
- Peppermint Patty: drops of mint flavoring with dark chocolate
- Creme de Menthe: drops of mint flavoring with white chocolate and green coloring
- Candy Bar: 70:30 mixture of refined:virgin coconut oil, drops of almond flavoring and milk chocolate
- Silky Orange: drops of orange oil in dark chocolate
- Creamsicle: drops of orange oil in white chocolate with orange coloring
- Spring Lemon: drops of lemon oil in white chocolate with yellow coloring
- Lime Me Up: drops of lime oil in white chocolate, and a sprinkle of salt on the shell as it hardens
- Midnight Chocolate: dark chocolate with smoked salt
See how tantalizing this project gets? One thing is certain, stock up on ice cream now before you resort to eating this off of frozen spoons.