Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

Almost anything can be flambéed, and numerous recipes exist for grilled, baked, poached, and fried fruit desserts, from kebabs to cake and ice cream toppings, as well as layered, folded, or rolled pancakes with various stuffings and sauces sent aflame to the table. Savarins, vacherins, babas, meringues, bombes, and sweet omelets are all excellent subjects for the flambé treatment, generally given the epithet “Surprise” to indicate their fiery incarnation. A lick of flame gives a spectacular finishing touch to a Baked Alaska. See baked alaska. The truly classic dishes are those in which the flambé is a component part of the dish, the ones unimaginable—even unworthy of their name—without the flambé step.

  • Bananas Foster is a 1950s creation from New Orleans, a variation on a banana split made with baked bananas over vanilla ice cream with a dark brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter sauce, flambéed with rum.

  • Cherries Jubilee was created by Auguste Escoffier for Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee celebrations in 1897. Cherries are lightly poached in lemon syrup and served flambéed with cherry brandy or kirsch over vanilla ice cream.

  • Crêpes Suzette is the ultimate in table-side flambé, of disputed late-nineteenth-century origin and now somehow redolent of 1970s restaurants, mustachioed waiters, and polished copper pans. Thin pancakes are spread with sweet orange butter enriched with curaçao, briefly fried in foaming orange butter and deftly folded in three to make a round-ended triangle. Brandy, Cointreau, or Grand Marnier is added to the caramelized butter in the pan, ignited, and poured over the neatly stacked pancakes.