I have good news for the chubby-cheeked child within you and the possible real children who might live with you: You can make homemade Magic Shell with just two ingredients.
For the uninitiated, Magic Shell is the Smucker’s term for an ice cream topping that lives up to both halves of its name. It starts out as a runny sauce, like any sauce that might appear atop a sundae, but upon impact with ice cream quickly hardens into a solid layer, necessitating the (highly pleasurable) experience of cracking through it with your spoon to dig for the dairy within.
Anyone who’s ever purchased a jar of coconut oil knows that it’s solid at room temperature, but becomes liquid in a warm kitchen. Therein lies the magic of Magic Shell. If you melt chocolate and mix it with coconut oil, you will create a substance that pours liquid and solidifies when it makes contact with anything cold. Below, I’ve included a basic method that you can use to make chocolate, cherry, peanut butter, mint, and endless other varieties of Magic Shell.
Chocolate shell: Chocolate + refined* coconut oil
Peanut butter shell: Creamy peanut butter + refined* coconut oil
Cherry or other flavored shell: White baking chocolate + refined* coconut oil + flavor extract + food dye
Optional additions: salt; a liquid form of sugar; baking spices; and other seasonings
*Note: Do NOT use unrefined coconut oil. It will make your magic shell taste like a coconut. If you do want to make a coconut shell, then use unrefined coconut oil and white chocolate chips.
For a peanut butter shell, avoid chunky varieties unless you’re looking for peanut chunks in your shell—and if you are, you might not want to store it in a squeeze bottle, where the nuts can get stuck in the nozzle. When recipe testing, I used a store brand peanut butter with a consistency similar to Jif or Skippy, and I’d recommend sticking to a variety like that. If you’re using a “natural” peanut butter that separates and requires you to stir the oil and solid peanut sediment together before each use, forgo stirring and try to take spoonfuls of just the peanut sediment without the oil.
Method: Heat the solid ingredient (peanut butter, chocolate, etc.) in short bursts in the microwave. Depending on the strength of your microwave, that might mean anywhere from 15- to 30-second intervals. Stir between each heating to ensure that the contents of your bowl melt evenly and don’t burn.
Once your chocolate is entirely melted, or your peanut butter is sufficiently smooth and liquidy, stir in the coconut oil. Start by adding ¼ as much oil as your solid ingredient. Continue stirring and add more oil if needed. Stop when you reach a consistency just a tiny bit thicker than Hershey’s syrup.
If you’re making a flavored shell, like the classic cherry variation seen at drive-ins all over the country, stir in food coloring until you reach your desired color, then add a small dash of cherry flavor extract. Taste your shell and determine if you need to add sugar. If you do want to sweeten the shell, use a liquid form of sugar like honey, corn syrup, or simple syrup. (If you add granulated sugar it will make the shell gritty.) You can add a tiny pinch of salt if you think it’s needed.
Spoon this over ice cream, frozen bananas, frozen marshmallows on a stick, and much more! Store your Magic Shell in a warm space to keep it liquid for quick use. I leave mine in a squirt bottle on the stove (you can usually find squirt bottles at dollar stores). But if you don’t plan to use it often, store the Magic Shell in the fridge and simply reheat it before each use.