Cherries for Victoria

Cherries Jubilee

For nearly two centuries, Canadians have been celebrating the birthday of Queen Victoria, shooting off fireworks and having picnics on May 24 since at least the 1830s.

The date is still the official birthday of the monarch, but for most of us the really significant part of the date is that it marks the beginning of summer.

Still, this is a year of heritage celebrations, so why not mark the weekend with a heritage dish? Cherries Jubilee was created by August Escoffier to mark Queen Victoria’s jubilee (some sources say her 50th year on the throne, others say it was for her 60th.) It went out of fashion for a while, but is making a bit of a comeback as people rediscover the easy-yet-impressive art of flambé.

You can use fresh imported cherries or frozen ones – either work just as well. (This recipe writer suggests using canned as an option, but we disagree.) Just be sure to use the best ice cream you can find, or even make your own if you have an ice cream maker.

A dessert for an English queen, created by a French chef, using American cherries and Canadian ice cream… what could be more Canadian than that?

1/2 cup white sugar

2 tbsp cornstarch

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup orange juice

1 lb dark sweet cherries

1/2 tsp finely grated orange zest

1/4 tsp vanilla or almond extract

1/4 cup brandy (can also use rum, bourbon or kirsch)

vanilla ice cream



Whisk together the sugar and cornstarch in a wide saucepan. Stir in the water and orange juice; bring to a boil over medium high heat, whisking until thickened.

Stir in cherries (pitted and cleaned) and orange zest, return to boil, then reduce and simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove cherries from the heat and stir in the extract.

Pour in the brandy (do not stir in – just pour on top of cherry mixture) and ignite with a long lighter. Shake the pan until the blue lame has extinguished itself.

Spoon the cherries over bowls of ice cream and serve immediately.


Posted in Thoughts on Food.