bowl of cherries and ice cream

Cherries Jubilee

Celebrate Victoria Day with this classic dessert recipe

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.

But still, it’s a heritage-based holiday, 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. (Some cookbooks and websites suggest using canned cherries as an option, but we find it’s just not as good as frozen.) 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?

A note about the flambee pan:

There’s an active discussion about whether it’s OK to flambee in a non-stick frying pan. We tend to avoid it, but others point out that alcohol burns at a very cool 75 degrees C, which is nowhere near hot enough to damage Teflon. The choice is yours. 

Cherries Jubilee can be prepared in a wide, open saucepan if you don’t have a frying pan that’s suitable.


1/2 cup white sugar

2 tbsp. cornstarch

1/4 cup orange juice

1 lb. sweet cherries, fresh or frozen, pitted

1/2 tsp finely grated orange zest

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup rum, brandy, bourbon or kirsch

vanilla ice cream


Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together in a wide pan (see note above about pan choice). Stir in the orange juice and a ¼ cup of water.

Heat over medium-high, bringing to a boil and whisking until it’s thickened.

Add the cherries and orange zest. Bring back to the boil then reduce heat and simmer for ten minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

Pour the alcohol on top of the cherry mixture and ignite with a long match or lighter. Shake the pan gently until the flame burns out.

Spoon over bowls of ice cream and serve.

For more delicious cottage-friendly recipes, check out these posts:

Posted in Thoughts on Food.