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Ice Cream Folks

Everything you ever wanted to know about...

Making Your Own Waffle Cones

Thinking of starting to make your own waffle cones at your store? Here's the skinny on getting started from the Ice Cream Folks!

This article is the first in a hopefully continuing series of "Everything You Ever Wanted To Know" articles from the Ice Cream Folks discussion group. The information here has been collected and condensed from discussions that occurred on the group, and represents the collective opinions of many folks with years of experience in the ice cream business.

'IceCreamFolks' is an email based discussion group, hosted on Yahoo.com, and consisting of over 300 professionals involved in the sale or manufacture of ice cream and other frozen desserts. You can find out more about the group by visiting the group home page at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/icecreamfolks/ New members are always welcome!

Within this article, direct quotations from the discussions are set off with this type of paragraph:

"I love the smell of waffle cones in the morning..."

If you find errors or anything that's unclear or that can be improved upon, please send an email to 'info@icecreamfolks.com'. We'll make sure to get a correction or clarification from the group as soon as possible!

Why would I want to make my own cones?

You can purchase pre-made waffle cones from a cone vendor, and that's an acceptable option for some, as there are some fine products made by several of the large cone manufacturers. By baking your own waffle cones though, you can differentiate your store from the others in the area, as customers will quickly come to know that they'll find great, fresh, delicious cones at your store.

The smell from freshly made waffle cones (which can last for hours after you're finished baking) is an incredible aid in up selling from singles to doubles and sugar to waffle cones. Many find that their waffle cone sales go up noticeably when they're baking fresh cones, as the smell and the sight of others eating a fresh cone encourages others to order one.

How much does it cost to make my own?

The food cost of making a cone falls somewhere in the 5 to 10 cent range. Compare this to a pre-made waffle cone, in the 15 to 25 cent range, and you can see that selling your own can save you a lot of money.

Since most of us who sell waffle cones simply add the price of the cone onto the price of a "normal" cone, you could look at the food cost as "free", since you're also saving the 4 to 10 cents cost for that cone or cup you'd otherwise serve it in!

You do need to factor in your labor cost of making these, but for most of us, there are plenty of times of slow customer traffic when making cones is a good use of the labor you'd otherwise have just sitting around anyway.

And of course, there's a cost to the new equipment that you need to buy in order to get into the cone making business. Make sure to factor this cost into your decision as to whether making your own cones makes financial sense for your store.

How much can I charge?

There's no simple answer here, as how much your customers are willing to pay is obviously dependent upon your area, your store, the affluence of your customers, and what your competitors charge.

With that said, store owners typically report getting from 50 cents to $1.00 extra for a plain, fresh baked cone, up to $2.00 for one dipped in cone dip and coated with sprinkles, candy, nuts, shredded coconut, or even crushed cone pieces.

What type of equipment do I need?

Well, you obviously need a cone baker, and you need a cone forming tool. There are several makers of both.

Regarding the forming tool, there are two predominate styles. The older ones are simply a wooden or plastic mandrel, and you just roll the cone blank directly onto it. (Some health departments will no longer allow you to use wooden ones, so check with them before purchasing one.)

The newer styles are all metal, and most come with a metal forming tool that makes it easier to roll the blank onto them.

Some other tools you may want to invest in to make your production easier:

  • An acrylic cone holder, both for holding the fresh cones while they cool, and for displaying them to the customers.

  • Stainless steel serving tongs, to aid in removing the hot blank from the iron.

  • A pancake batter dispenser, for dropping a measured amount of batter onto the iron.

  • A large, round mixing container.

  • A stainless steel whisk for mixing the batter.

What's the best waffle iron?

There are several manufacturers of waffle irons, and no clear answer on which is unequivocally "the best". But here are some comments on some of the common ones:

  • Cobatco - Cobatco is one of the bigger names in the waffle cone business. Some people who use them swear by them because of their guarantee:

    "Once you buy their baker, as long as you buy their mix, they
    will make sure the baker is always replaced when it breaks down. We've
    swapped them (we have two that we alternate so that, when one is down,
    we have a back up) quite a few times--they have super service."

  • Gold Medal

  • Star - these are often found used on eBay. They are a very heavy duty unit, newer ones have an electronic timer that you can adjust to your liking.

Where can I buy a waffle iron?

You can call any of the manufacturers (listed at the end of this article) to purchase a new machine. Used machines often appear on eBay, especially in the fall or winter.

As with purchasing any used equipment, "buyer beware" should you choose to go the used equipment route - you might get a great deal, or you might end up purchasing a unit that hasn't been well cared for, or is near the end of its serviceable lifetime. The best approach is to know the price of new equipment and only purchase a used unit if you feel you're getting a sufficient deal to justify the lack of a warranty and/or guarantee you'd get with a new unit.

How do I clean the waffle cone iron plates?

Get a bronze-bristled barbecue brush (for cleaning outdoor barbecues). They have a steel comb (a point with a circular cut-out underneath). This can be used to "run the creases". Draw the point towards you (while pressing firmly) and free up the dribs and drabs of burned material while not scoring the metal plates.

Some use a brass bristle brush attached to an electric drill. Bristled bits can be had for under $2. You want to clean any leftover waffle product from the plates without removing the black stuff (seasoning). Or at least, you want some seasoning, just not so deep that the waffle won't cook or the material continues to burn rather than transmitting the heat to the waffle-to-be.

NEVER use soap or chemical cleaners!

One contributor writes:

What I have done occasionally, which I am not sure has ever been recommended, is to put ice on the hot surface, then close the waffle baker. (No one knows I do this - but scrubbing the baker takes a lot of muscle -- and sometimes I just don't have it!!) It creates a lot of very hot steam so be careful if you try this. Put a few towels around it because it will be a little messy. Between this and the wire brush, you should have some success. Oh, WEAR GOGGLES while cleaning your plates!

What is "seasoning"?

Seasoning is basically oil burnt on to a surface so that the product cooks on the annealed surface and not the metal (to which it would stick). Cast iron is seasoned as well as aluminum and steel (pizza pans for instance). That spray oil is intended only to build the season, not for constant use. You want the black patina (seasoning) on there, just not so deep that the waffle won't cook or the material continues to burn rather than transmitting the heat to the waffle-to-be.

How often do I need to season my iron?

You'll need to season a new unit, and you'll want to season an existing unit anytime you've cleaned it aggressively enough to remove the existing seasoning layer. Some on the group like to clean their irons once a year, usually in the springtime before the heavy use season. Others who make a lot of cones do it several times a year - even monthly.

How do I season my iron?

If you're preparing to re-season your existing iron, you'll want to clean the griddles as much as possible. Scrape the grid lines, even removing the existing seasoning, and clean the flat surfaces as evenly as possible, right down to the bare metal if you can.

Heat your iron for 10 to 15 minutes, minimum. When it's up to temperature, spray coat all cooking surfaces (just coat, don't drown) with a good quality vegetable oil (not olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, nor peanut oil.) I like corn oil best. During this time you might get some haze. Waffles cook in the 400 degree range, corn oil smokes and anneals in the 550 to 650 degree range. Continue to heat for another 10 minutes, then turn off the iron and allow it to cool . Don't make waffles today! You want the iron to completely cool before using it. (Because of this, some folks clean and re-season at night after the shop is closed.)

Next day, turn the iron on, and allow it to heat for 10 to 15 minutes. Now, lightly spray both top and bottom with oil and close the griddle. Hide the spray oil, so your employees don't keep applying it! Five minutes later (15 to 20 minutes after turning on) put your first amount of prepared (you can refrigerate leftovers overnight) waffle mix on the griddle and close the lid. You are now set up to make waffles all season long.

Do I need to spray the iron before each use?

There's conflicting advice on this subject. Some never spray the irons again once they've been seasoned. Some spray lightly at the start of each batch, using a product like "Pam" or "Waffle Off". If you do spray your iron, you might want to throw out (or give away as a free sample!) the first cone you cook, as it'll absorb the spray - it'll taste fine, but the color will be a little blotchy.

What "utensils" do you use to get the waffle off the iron?

Everyone seems to have their personal favorite tool for this, Some of the suggestions:

  • A small set of metal tongs

  • An 8" metal spatula (the type you might use to frost a cake)

  • The tip of the mandrel

  • Your fingers (in a glove)

  • A paring knife

Try them and use whatever one you're most comfortable with.

What's the best cone forming tool?

Again, it's a subjective thing, but some people claim that the Gold Medal # 5038 tool is the best. Others prefer the Cobatco forming tool.

How are the waffle cones made?

Preheat your iron while you mix your batter. Most cone mix batters are simple "just add water" mixes, so add the amount of water that they recommend. A wire whisk does a good job of mixing, though some like to use a kitchen mixer for this job. Most mixes recommend that you stir, let the batter "rest" for 10 minutes, then stir it once more before using it. If you do not let the mix sit for at least 10 minutes it does not do as well.

Pour the recommended amount of batter into the center of the iron and gently (but firmly) close the top. If you press down too hard you'll spread the batter too thin and end up with a thin brittle cone. If you just place the maker down solidly it comes out nice. On the other hand if you mess up with the handle so that it doesn't spread out the batter evenly, you get a thick soft waffle that would probably work well with ice cream sandwiches.

When it's a nice, golden brown, take the hot waffle off the griddle, push it into the former so that the edge of the waffle begins to curl up the end (1/4") and roll it around the mandrel into a cone shape. You need to be a little nimble here - you have five to ten seconds from the time you remove the cooked blank from the iron until it cools and will break if you try to roll it. When you first start making cones, plan on ruining at least a few cones before you get the speed and technique down. One trick is to cut a paper towel into an 8" circle, and use it for some "practice cones" to help you get the rolling technique down before trying it under the pressure of a quick cooling waffle!

Leave the mandrel in the forming tool for a few seconds so that the cone has a chance to form and cool. If you leave it in too long the cone will contract around the mandrel as it cools, and you will break the cone trying to remove it. Then drop another 1/4 cup of mix onto the center of the griddle and close the top. While that steams away, gently twist and pull the mandrel from the former and move the cone to the drying rack.

Some folks like to add a Buddy #4 disposable cone holder onto the cone at this point. It adds about 4 cents to the cost, but also gives you a way of handling the cone without touching the cone itself.

One of our waffle expert states:

On the mechanics of rolling the cone - place the mandrill three squares up from the bottom of the cone, turn the mandrill a quarter turn to form the shape of the cone, fold up the bottom up (this seals the bottom of the cone), then finish rolling the cone. This should get you a nice looking sealed cone rather than a short stubby cone.

Can I use the same mix to make waffle bowls?

Absolutely! Several of the cone maker manufacturers also sell a bowl tool for forming bowls. Many of us don't use them though, we just center the hot waffle blank on an empty plastic or paper cup (foam cups will melt under the heat...) and use either another empty cup or some other utensil (a malt cup, a ceramic mug, etc - really, anything you can find that fits nicely) to quickly push the hot blank into the serving cup. Leave the waffle bowl in the serving cup so that if your customer's waffle bowl cracks, you won't end up with a mess to clean up!

Whose waffle cone mix should I use?

There are many good manufacturers of cone mix. Choosing one is a matter of finding out which brands are available to you, and tasting samples of each to see which ones taste closest to what you're looking for. Some of the brands that you'll want to try (in alphabetical order):

  • Cobatco

  • Concord Foods

  • Gold Medal

  • Krusteaz

  • R&H (available through Sysco)

Anything else I can add to the mix?

Many folks 'spice up' their cone batter by adding some flavoring. Feel free to experiment by adding a touch of vanilla, or cinnamon, or cocoa, or whatever else you think might make your cones taste better. Some report have tried almond, anise, or hazelnut extract with good results.

Some of us even mix sprinkles into our cone batter to produce a colorful cone.

Also, many of the mix vendors also sell a chocolate version of their mix. Some folks make their own by adding cocoa to the vanilla batter - try about ¾ of a cup of cocoa to a 5 lb bag of cone mix. One less item to inventory and order! You might need to add a little extra water to the mix to compensate for the extra dry ingredient.

How long does it take to bake a cone?

While some claim that their irons bake a cone in as little as 25 seconds, for most, the typical baking time seems to be in the 45 to 75 second range. You want the cone to be a golden brown, too long and your cones will be dark brown and brittle, too short and they'll be pale and soggy. Most machines have an adjustable timer that you can set to help you get the cooking time just right.

How do I store the cones?

Many of us use Rubbermaid or Sterlite plastic containers to store the cones in. Others place the cones on a tray, then slip the cones, tray and all, into a large Ziploc bag. They'll stay fresh longer if you can keep them in some type of airtight container, especially in humid conditions.

You'll want to display the cones that you're ready to sell in a prominent location where they'll catch the customer's eye. Consider investing in an acrylic cone display case, with a closeable door to help keep those cones fresh.

A few other quotes from some high volume cone sellers:

"Our best solution to keep waffle cones fresh is when we make them, we stack them in rows on half sheet pans covered with a food grade Rubbermaid bag, then we twist the bags before we chip clip it. This will keep the cones better than even a Rubbermaid container because those aren't airtight. This keeps cones in the summer for more than a week, and in the spring and fall longer than that."
"We put regular waffle cones stacked on a half sheet pan, 7 rows across on the bottom, then 6 rows, then 5 rows for around 200 cones per tray, then tied with a Rubbermaid bag. We then label it with the date. For dipped cones, we stack them 6 rows across, two rows high, in a Rubbermaid bin and then tie it with a Rubbermaid bag. If you refrigerate some kinds of chocolate it gets funky. The specs on the bag are Rubbermaid Clear 5008 bag, 200 pack. We reuse the bags until they get holes in them."

"...you're right about the Rubbermaid product not being airtight. That's why I use Sterilite Lok-Top's. I just bought a larger version for my second store (opening Friday) for $3.68. A one-time purchase. The 3 smaller ones (about 2'x1'x8"D, I think) each cost 2 dollars and some odd cents."

"I found something that works even better this year though at Restaurant Depot. It's similar in shape to the Sterilite boxes (maybe10" wide x 4" high x 18" long), but is a hard white, rugged plastic, with a top that snaps very securely in place. The tops are made to nest into the next box, so they stack well. If I remember correctly, I think these boxes are sold as dough containers (for pizza dough, etc.) They're a bit more expensive than the Sterilite ones, probably $10 or so, but I think they'll last longer, and they stand up to a lot of abuse."

How long will the baked cones last?

If they're stored in an airtight container as described above, the cones will last up to a couple of weeks in the humid summer and a couple of months in the dry winter. If you don't store them properly, the cones will get soggy and you'll end up tossing them out or giving them away.

What about dipping cones?

Dipping cones in a chocolate (or other flavor) coating can attract even more sales, especially if you also roll the dipped cones in sprinkles, nuts, or candy while the dip is still wet.

Again, there are several brands of cone dip that store owners use. Some of them that have been mentioned:

  • Kalva

  • Murray's

  • Oringer

Some of these can be dipped at room temperature, some need to be gently heated. Follow the manufacturer's recommendation on this.

Any other tips I should know?

Sure, there are plenty of tricks, and you'll learn your own as you gain a little experience with baking your own cones. Here are a few to get you started though:

  • You can shorten the cooking time, and save yourself some cost, by making a smaller cone. If you have a 8” diameter iron, and use the full 1/3 cup that most cone mix vendors recommend, you can count on each cone taking between 45 and 90 seconds, depending upon how hot your iron gets, and on how thick your batter is.

    If you use just a 1/4 cup of batter on the center of the griddle rather than 1/3 cup you get a cone that is only about 1/2" shorter but uses only 2/3 of the "normal" amount of batter, and you'll find that this smaller amount of batter requires less cooking time.

  • Many people purchase a pancake batter dispenser to dispense the batter onto the iron, and find that this helps with portion control while also helping to keep the cleanup to a minimum.

  • Some folks like to drop a mini-marshmallow in the bottom of each cone while it's still warm. The marshmallow melts into the point of the cone, sealing it up in case you didn't get the point quite tight enough.

    (Make sure you tell your customers if you do this - one customer came back to the window complaining that she thought someone had lost their chewing gum into her cone!)

Where can I find more information:

Visit or phone the following:

  • Cobatco :
    Peoria, Illinois, 1-800-4-COBATCO (1-800-426-2282) or http://www.cobatco.com/

  • Gold Medal Products Co:
    10700 Medallion Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45241-4807 1-800-543-0862 or http://www.gmpopcorn.com/

  • The Kalva Corporation:
    3940 Porett Drive, Gurnee, Illinois 60031, 1-800-525-8220 or http://www.kalvacorp.com/

  • The Buddy System:
    3495 Winton Place, Suite 290, Rochester, New York, 14623, Phone: 1-585-427-9940 or http://www.buddysystemusa.com/

  • JARCO Concession Systems:
    (800) 458-7578 or
    http://www.concessionstands.com

Last Updated: December 28, 2006 Page 7