Chilled Desserts

Cherries Jubilee

February 14, 2023
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Famed French chef Georges Auguste Escoffier had a long association with England, working with César Ritz of the Ritz Hotel empire to make The Savoy Hotel in London an unparalleled success with royals and the wealthy in the 1890s. Knowing of Queen Victoria’s fondness for cherries, Escoffier set to work creating a special dessert for her Diamond Jubilee in 1897. To make it, he poached cherries in sugar syrup, reduced and thickened the juice with arrowroot, placed the mixture in silver timbales, and set them aflame with heated Kirsch.

Soon after, Escoffier started serving the delicious mixture over vanilla ice cream.  Dubbed Cherries Jubilee, the dessert became popular in America, peaking in the 1950’s when showy tableside flambeeing was a hallmark of fine dining. Adapted by home cooks for their dinner parties, the recipe was simplified, skipping the thickening step, and substituting rum for kirsch. A little lemon zest and juice also became part of the sauce.

But if you’d like a thicker sauce that won’t immediately melt the ice cream, prepare it a day ahead of time. Pour some of cooked cherry liquid into a shallow dish, holding the cherries back with a slotted spoon. Left to sit in the dish, the sauce will set up and thicken with no need to add cornstarch or thickeners. After pouring the thickened sauce over the ice cream, you can add the cherries, warmed or at room temperature, over all.

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