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An Easy Old-Fashioned Cherries Jubilee Recipe to Swoon Over

Making your partner swoon over with an elegant dessert on Valentine’s Day (or anytime, really!) doesn’t have to require hours of preparation. Sometimes, the simplest recipes are the most impressive. Case in point, this warm and boozy Cherries Jubilee served over creamy ice cream.

Chef Claire Saffitz takes the traditional dessert sauce to another level with this old-fashioned Cherries Jubilee, which is featured in her new cookbook, What’s For Dessert? Saffitz’s version retains the deep red hue and tartness of a typical Cherries Jubilee, but switches up the booze for an exciting twist that will literally ignite the night. (Yes, you light this dessert on fire!)

To make your date night even sweeter, check out our guide on how to plan the most romantic Valentine’s Day ever—and don’t forget to pair dessert with a festive Valentine’s Day cocktail.

What Is Cherries Jubilee?

Cherries Jubilee is a simple dessert made by flambéing cherries with sugar and liqueur (usually kirschwasser or rum). Despite the large flames that emerge while making this dish, it’s deceivingly quick and easy to throw together. It’s typically served as a warm sauce over ice cream.

Who Invented Cherries Jubilee?

The dish was created by Auguste Escoffier, a French chef, restaurateur and food writer who rose to prominence at the turn of the 20th century. According to the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, Escoffier invented the dish in honor of the United Kingdom’s Queen Victoria for her Diamond Jubilee celebration in 1897, a nod to the monarch’s love of cherries.

Inspired by the dessert’s timeless nature and incorporation of booze, Saffitz’s version simmers Angostura bitters and bourbon in orange juice to mimic the flavors of an Old Fashioned cocktail. She further customizes the classic dish by using jarred sour cherries in syrup instead of fresh cherries (which eliminates the finicky task of removing pits).

Can You Make Cherries Jubilee Ahead of Time?

“Partially, yes,” shares Saffitz in her cookbook. Of course, flambéing the cherries just before serving adds a wow factor. But for practical measures, making Cherries Jubilee ahead of time will do the trick. “The orange juice, demerara sugar, bitters, salt and cherry syrup can be combined in the skillet and reduced several hours ahead of time.”

Saffitz recommends storing leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several weeks. To enjoy later, reheat the mixture in a saucepan over medium-low heat.

How to Make Old-Fashioned Cherries Jubilee

Recipe adapted from What’s For Dessert? by Claire Saffitz


1 (24 oz / 680g) jar pitted sour cherries in light syrup
½ cup fresh orange juice (4 oz / 113g), strained
3 tablespoons demerara sugar
1 tablespoon Angostura bitters
Pinch of kosher salt
3 tablespoons bourbon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ pints best-quality vanilla ice cream, for serving
6 store-bought ladyfingers, for serving (optional)


Drain the cherries and reserve some syrup: Empty the jar of cherries into a mesh sieve set over a medium bowl. Shake the sieve to release any liquid, then set the cherries aside. Measure out 1 cup (8.8 oz / 250g) of the syrup and discard the rest (or reserve it for cocktails).

Reduce the liquid component and skim: In a 10-inch skillet, combine the orange juice, demerara sugar, bitters, salt, and reserved cherry syrup. Bring the mixture to a lively boil over high heat, whisking to dissolve the sugar, then stop whisking and use a spoon to skim off and remove the orangey foam collecting in the center of the skillet (this will help make the final syrup translucent rather than cloudy). Reduce the heat to medium-high and continue to boil, whisking often, until you have just a thin layer of syrup in the skillet that’s teeming with high-rising bubbles, about 3 minutes. The mixture should be very reduced, otherwise the bourbon will not ignite as dramatically, so err on the side of more reduced rather than less (the cherries and bourbon will add more liquid).

Add the cherries: With the heat still on medium-high, add the drained cherries to the skillet and stir with a wooden spoon or heatproof flexible spatula to coat them in the syrup, also scraping around the sides. Heat the mixture, swirling the skillet often, just until the cherries are hot and the syrup is bubbling vigorously around the sides, about 1 minute.

Flambé: Have the lighter or match ready, then add the bourbon to the skillet all at once and, holding your head back, quickly ignite it. Shake the skillet with a gloved hand until the flames subside (the flames might appear modest at first, but shaking will increase their intensity). Turn off the heat, stir in the vanilla, and slide the skillet to a cool burner to cool for a few minutes.

Serve: Let the ice cream soften for a few minutes at room temperature before serving. Then scoop it into six serving bowls and spoon the warm cherries and syrup over top, dividing evenly. If desired, garnish each bowl with a ladyfinger. Serve immediately.

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