Recipes for old-fashioned ice cream bombes, plus tips & tricks

Watermelon old-fashioned ice cream bombe

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When it comes to desserts, what is a bombe – and how do you make one? We have answers! Get several recipes and tips for creating beautiful old-fashioned ice cream bombes right here.

Frosty finales: How to make old-fashioned ice cream bombes (1966)

By Poppy Cannon, Food Editor – Ladies’ Home Journal (July 1966)

A bombe is an ice, ice cream, mousse or parfait in its most elegant incarnation — to be eaten under glistening crystal chandeliers with an intricate silver spoon.

A bombe is a shape with rainbow layers of different flavors frozen together. So popular was the bombe during the age of Lafayette, that Prosper Montagne wrote, “It was soon the invariable custom to serve a Bombe Glace at the end of any formal meal.”

Escoffier lists 87 combinations, and we have eight of these classic bombes among our recipes.

Why have we come to love the bombe so? Because it’s the easiest grand-slam dessert in the world — and perfect for the hottest summer day.

Why slap raspberry sherbet in a dish when you could pack it whirl-whirl into a watermelon shell in two layers, as we did here, a layer of chocolate pieces in be-tween? Eureka! You have a Watermelon Bombe that can be sliced, served in wedges, the rest stored in the freezer till another Big Moment.

Next step — a watermelon made entirely of ice cream, with a “rind” of pistachio. Other frosty finales include Coupe Jacques and an Instant Charlotte Russe. Looks like hours of work.

Feeling more ambitious? Build bombes from your own, handmade, instant sherbets in fabulous flavors like Pomegranate and Passion Fruit. Or rival Grandmother’s homemade ice cream — we have some of the wildest tricky ways to do it.

The do’s and don’ts of bombe-making

1. Before lining mold, always let ice cream soften slightly. No need to let sherbet soften.

2. Any attractive metal mold (or even a metal bowl) can be used to make a bombe. Molds are usually available at variety stores and in housewares departments.

3. Use back of metal spoon to press ice cream or sherbet firmly against sides and base of mold. Smooth each layer with back of metal spoon.

4. We tested our recipes using a full-size freezer set at 0° F. If you use a refrigerator-freezer combination, the temperature will be about 15° higher, and you’ll have to allow longer freezing times.

5. If you want sharp definition between the layers of ice cream, don’t skip the step of freezing the first layer(s) briefly, or the layers may run together:

6. To unmold: Chill a flat serving platter. Immerse base and sides of mold in hot water long enough to count 20. Cover mold with platter and turn the whole works upside down. Shake mold to release ice cream. If it doesn’t come out, cover mold with a hot, wet dish-cloth and shake again. Return to freezer to firm up after unmolding.

7. All bombes can be garnished with fresh fruits, whipped cream or whipped topping.

8. For prolonged freezing, cover all molds with plastic wrap.

The great fake watermelon ice cream bombe

We used a 16-pound melon, perfect for a spectacular party dessert. You could, of course, use a smaller one. But you needn’t worry about leftovers, because you can put the filled melon back into the freezer and cut off slices as you need them.

  • 1 (16-lb.) watermelon
  • 5 quarts raspberry sherbet
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate pieces

Wipe the watermelon with damp paper towels. Split in half lengthwise. Remove all pink flesh (use it in fruit salads, or scoop most of it out with a melon-ball maker, freeze in plastic bags).

Using 6 pints of raspberry sherbet, line each half of melon shell (3 pints per shell). Freeze 30 minutes to firm sherbet. Coat sherbet lining with 2 (6-oz.) pkg. semisweet chocolate pieces, saving a few for final decoration. Use 1 pkg. per shell; these are the “seeds.”

Fill shells with rest of sherbet. Cover each shell with plastic wrap and freeze at least 2 hours.

At serving time, cut melon into wedges with sharp knife dipped in hot water. Outline “seeds” clearly with semisweet chocolate pieces you saved. Makes 20 servings.

How to make an old-fashioned ice cream bombe

Another fake melon old-fashioned ice cream bombe

This is entirely edible, even the “skin.”

  • 1 pint pistachio ice cream
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
  • 1 pint raspberry sherbet

Line a 1-qt. melon mold (or a 1-qt. metal bowl) with 1 pint slightly softened pistachio ice cream. Freeze 30 minutes. Fill center of mold with 1 pint raspberry sherbet mixed with 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate pieces. Freeze at least 2 hours.

Unmold, following the general instructions in “Do’s and Don’ts.” Makes 6 servings.

If you’re having a party, you might like to make one whole large melon, as at the Savoy Hotel, in London.

You’ll need two 1-qt. melon molds, each the shape of half a melon. Fill them as described above. Unmold and press together to make one whole melon. Smooth with your fingertips. Garnish and leave in freezer until ready to serve. Serves 12.

ALSO TRY: Fudge ribbon pie with peppermint ice cream recipe from 1968

How to make eight classic bombes

The classic bombes of French cuisine call for some exotic ice creams and sherbets that would be hard to come by these days. We’ve translated some of the “wilder” ones into ice creams generally available right at your supermarket.

For example, instead of praline, we use butter pecan ice cream; instead of kirsch ice, we use cherry vanilla.

For all, use a 1-quart melon mold or metal bowl. For details, please read The Dos and Don’ts of Bombe-Making.

Bombe Comtesse-Marie: Line mold with 1 pint raspberry sherbet and freeze 30 minutes. Then fill with 1 pint vanilla ice cream and freeze one hour longer.

Bombe Danicheff: Line mold with 1 pint coffee ice cream and freeze 30 minutes. Fill with 1 pint cherry vanilla ice cream and freeze one hour.

Bombe Patricienne: Line mold with 1 pint vanilla ice cream and freeze 30 minutes. Then line with pint butter pecan ice cream and freeze 30 minutes more. Fill with pint chocolate ice cream and freeze one hour.

Bombe Tutti Frutti: Line mold with 1 pint strawberry ice cream and freeze 30 minutes. Fill with 1/2 pint lemon sherbet mixed with a 1-lb., 1-oz. can fruit cocktail, very well drained. Freeze one hour.

Bombe a la Royale: Line mold with 1 pint cherry vanilla ice cream and freeze 30 minutes. Fill with 1 pint chocolate ice cream mixed with cup broken pecans. Freeze one hour.

Bombe Tortoni: Line mold with 1 pint butter pecan ice cream and freeze 30 minutes. Fill with 1 pint coffee ice cream; freeze one hour. Unmold and press 1/4 cup graham-cracker crumbs over outside and freeze until serving time.

Bombe a la Valencay: Line mold with 1 pint butter pecan ice cream and freeze 30 minutes. Fill with a 12-oz. pkg. thawed and well-drained frozen raspberries, folded into 3/4 cup heavy cream whipped with 2 tablespoons sugar. Freeze two hours.

Bombe Succes: Line mold with 1 pint peach ice cream and freeze 30 minutes. Fill with 1 cup chopped and well-drained peaches, folded into 1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped with 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 tablespoon light rum (or 1/2 teaspoon rum extract). Freeze 2 hours.

ALSO SEE: A party-perfect decorated dessert: The Milky Way ice cream log from the ’60s & ’70s

Neapolitan ice cream bombe cake
Original photo by James Camp |

Frozen Charlotte Russe recipe

The Charlotte Russe was invented by the great 19th-century French chef Careme, and, like many other examples of ‘haute cusine’, is utterly charming and simple.

  • 1 (3-oz.) package of ladyfingers
  • 1/4 cup apricot preserves
  • 1 quart pistachio ice cream
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped
  • 2 tablespoons silvered almonds

Split ladyfingers from a 3-ounce package. Spread cut sides with a little apricot preserves and sandwich back together. Use to line a 1-quart soufflé dish. Fill center with 1 quart pistachio ice cream. Press firmly with metal spoon to fill dish evenly. Cover with plastic wrap. Freeze at least 2 hours.

Unmold by quickly dipping dish in hot water and inverting onto flat, chilled platter. Place in freezer 5 minutes to firm up. Just before serving, frost top with 1/2, cup heavy cream, whipped; spike cream with 2 tablespoons slivered almonds. Serves 6.

SEE MORE: What is a Charlotte russe? 8 delicious classic Charlotte dessert recipesChocolate Charlotte Russe retro recipe (1967)

Roman punch

One of the noted collations of the 19th century — rum-flavored sherbet served in hollowed oranges. During several administrations, it was popular at the White House.

  • 2 tablespoon light rum or 14 tsp. rum extract
  • 1 pint orange or lemon sherbet
  • 3 large oranges, halved and hollowed out

Add 2 tablespoons light rum (or 1/2 teaspoon rum extract) to 1 pt. orange or lemon sherbet. Pile into 6 orange shells and freeze at least 2 hours.

Roman Punch is quite soft — soft enough to sip, if allowed to stand at room temperature for about 2 minutes before serving. Serves 6.

Frozen lemons of the Forum 

From the Forum of the XII Caesars in New York comes this idea.

  • 6 lemons
  • 1 pint lemon sherbet
  • 1/2 cup very finely diced mixed candied fruits

Cut tops off 6 large lemons and hollow out. Mix 1/2 cup very finely diced candied fruit into 1 pint lemon sherbet and pile into lemon shells. Replace tops of lemons to make lids and freeze at least 2 hours. Serves 6.

ALSO TRY: Lemonade chiffon pie with lemonade crust recipe (1956)

Sorbet au liqueur

Endless variations are possible. For a start, try cherry-flavored liqueur or crème de cassis with raspberry sherbet, crème de menthe or cognac with lemon sherbet.

  • 1 pint orange sherbet
  • 2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur

Mix 1 pint orange sherbet with 2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur. Replace in sherbet container and freeze at least 1 hour. Do not attempt to mold, for the alcohol makes the mixture too soft. Serves 6.

Make your own instant sherbets

Now comes the great drama — sherbets that you make at the table and serve immediately. These sherbets obey the dictum of the great Escoffier. They are light and barely congealed, which is the way they should be served.

We’ve found also that they freeze beautifully, and are perfect for making unusual bombes. Why not try pomegranate with pineapple… tangerine with lemon… passion fruit with lime? Please refer to Eight Classic Bombes (above), for proportions and method.

MORE: Easy homemade strawberry ice cream – no ice cream maker required (1982)

Master recipe for instant sherbet

  • 1 (6-ounce) can frozen fruit juice or fruit drink concentrate
  • 1 egg white
  • Dash salt
  • 3 cups finely crushed ice
  • 2 tablespoons superfine sugar (optional)

Place in the glass container of an electric blender 1 (6-ounce) can frozen fruit juice or fruit-drink concentrate, 1 egg white, a dash of salt and 3 cups very finely crushed ice. If the concentrate is unsweetened, add 2 tablespoons superfine sugar.

Turn motor to high until well mixed and smooth, using a rubber spatula to stir. When mixture is snowy and has an even hue throughout, the sherbet is ready. Serve immediately, or freeze 1 to 2 hours until firm enough to use in a bombe. Serves 6.

If you have no blender, you may use a well-chilled bowl and an electric beater at high speed. Or use a rotary beater and set the bowl in ice water.

Snow ice may be purchased if you have no ice crusher. Or use a canvas bag and a mallet, or whatever other method you choose. Be sure, however, that the ice is very fine. Use it as soon as it’s crushed, or store in the freezer until needed.

Starting with the Master Recipe, there is no limit to the possible variations.

Orange Marquise: Use a 6-oz. can frozen orangeade concentrate and add to Master Recipe 2 tablespoons instant dry milk.

Passion Fruit Sherbet: Use u 6-oz. can frozen Hawaiian-style fruit drink concentrate (which has several ,tropical fruits, including passion fruit in it), and, add 2 tablespoons instant dry milk to Master Recipe.

Pineapple-Orange Sherbet: Use a 6-02. can frozen pineapple-orange juice concentrate and use a whole egg instead of an egg white. Follow directions for the Master Recipe, at the left.

Pineapple Sherbet: Use a 6-oz. can frozen pineapple juice concentrate, and add a whole egg instead of an egg white.

Pomegranate Sherbet: Use a 6-oz. can frozen grapefruit juice concentrate. After 30 seconds in the blender, add 1 tablespoon Grenadine syrup (which is made from pomegranates).

Tangerine Sherbet: Use a 6-0z. can frozen tangerine juice concentrate, and follow the Master Recipe.

ALSO SEE: Fluffy Fruit Pie recipe: Cherry, lemon & pineapple flavors from the ’50s

Lime Sherbet: Use a 6-0z. can frozen limeade concentrate (or use lime Juice concentrate, with 2 tablespoons superfine sugar). Add a few drops of green food coloring after mixing 30 seconds in the blender.

Lemon Sherbet: Use a 6-oz. can frozen lemonade concentrate (or concentrated lemon Juice, with 2 tablespoons superfine sugar). Add a whole egg instead of an egg white.

Grape Sherbet: Use a 6-oz. can frozen grape Juice concentrate, and then follow the Master Recipe.

Revolutionary fruit ice cream

Real old-fashioned fruit ice cream, made in seconds in the blender. Like the ice cream our grandmothers made, this one needs a brief period of “ripening’’ — but in the freezer, not the icebox.

Flavor can be anything you like — peach, strawberry, raspberry, even rhubarb or blueberry! If you like, you may add one or two drops of food coloring of the appropriate color to intensify the color of your ice cream.

  • 1 (10-oz. to 12-oz.) package frozen fruit in syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup finely crushed ice
  • Dash salt

Let a 10-oz. to 12-0z. package frozen fruit in syrup thaw just enough to break into chunks. Place in electric blender with 1 egg, 1 cup sweetened condensed milk and a dash of salt. Put 1 cup finely crushed ice on top.

Blend at high speed 30 seconds. Stir mixture down with a rubber spatula. Blend mixture 30 seconds longer at high speed. Pour into metal bowl; cover bowl with plastic wrap.

Place in freezer at least 45 to 60 minutes. If you like firmer ice cream, freeze 4 to 6 hours. Makes about 1 quart.

MORE: Spumoni Elegante: How to make a deluxe version of a frozen dessert classic

Old-fashioned frozen desserts: The bombe (1921)

By Florence Margaret Lee – New-York Tribune (New York, NY) June 05, 1921

Frozen bombes

To make a bombe, that frozen work of art that the amateur approaches with awe, first bury the mold in ice and salt until well chilled, then remove and line with the frozen sherbet or ice cream to the width of about one inch.

Then fill the center with either whipped cream sweetened and flavored or with a different frozen mixture. Leave space enough on top to cover with the lining mixture. Fill to overflowing and follow directions for packing and freezing of a mousse.

To be most successful, choose contrasting colors as well as flavors that combine well in making a bombe. A strawberry, raspberry or grape juice sherbet lining will give rich, beautiful color contrasts with the white whipped cream center, as well as a dessert to be dreamed over!

Chocolate ice cream as the lining, with whipped cream and chopped candied cherries in a cylindrical mold, is one of the best combinations.

Unmold by first carefully wiping the salt water from the mold, then dipping for a moment in warm (not hot) water before sliding the bombe into position on the serving dish. If the water is too hot or the mold remains in too long, the edges of the frozen shape will be lost.

While the glass preserving jar will be found convenient for freezing the small quantity made just for the invalid, on account of the small top this cannot be unmolded whole.

ANOTHER OLD CLASSIC: 3 ways to make an old-fashioned Nesselrode pudding dessert with chestnuts

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