With summer days come wishes for something cold and creamy. Make ahead melbas, mousse and marlows are just the answer.

Originally made of peaches, ice cream and spun sugar, held by an ice sculpture swan, melba was formulated as a tribute in honor of the Australian soprano, Nellie Melba. Later home versions included peach halves, sponge cake and ice cream. Today’s version is similar, the fresh or cooked fruit and ice cream being held up on a layer of cake.

Marlows date back to the 1800s and later brought back into popularity in the 1930s and 40s.

If today’s crowd thinks the only way to eat marshmallows is s’mores, surprise them with this frozen treat that incorporates melted marshmallows, whipped cream and your choice of chocolate, fruits or even crushed English toffee.

Mousse is a light frozen dessert, sweetened whipped cream being stabilized with gelatin and chilled or frozen in a mold. They are the easiest frozen treat of the three if you’re making them from scratch, but if your idea of dessert includes cake or marshmallows, then by all means, try the melbas and marlows. A modern version of melba is to use store-bought components which will greatly reduce stress and provide that something cold and creamy in no time at all.

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Chocolate Mousse

  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons baking cocoa
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon real vanilla (not imitation)
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream

Stir gelatin in a cup with the cold water to soften. In a medium saucepan, place milk, cocoa, sugar. Over medium heat, bring the milk mixture to a low boil. Stir often. When it boils, stir in gelatin, mixing well. Immediately remove from heat. Cool. Blend in vanilla. Chill the mixture in refrigerator until it just about to set.

To whip cream, chill bowl and beaters ahead. Using the chilled utensils, beat cream until stiff. Fold into the chilled milk/gelatin mixture. Use a light hand to as not to deflate the whipped cream. Pour into a mold or round dish or individual serving bowls and freeze until serving time.

To unmold the mousse, place rimmed serving plate on top of mold. Turn the whole thing right side up and see if the dessert has dropped onto the plate. If it has not, older cookbooks give the following options. Wipe a hot towel over outside of mold, thus melting the mixture closest to the mold. Pick up the plate and gently tap it onto the counter. Another option is to hold the mold by the rim and gently immerse it up to the rim in a large bowl of hot water. Hold it for a minute, then place the mold on a dry towel, wiping off any clinging water. Then proceed to turn it upside down with a rimmed serving plate.

Recipe adapted from 1946 Joy of Cooking, Irma Rombauer.


Peach Mousse

  • 1 1/2 cups mashed fresh peaches, stoned, peeled
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk, well chilled
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

This recipe does not call for the stabilizing gelatin. Lemon juice helps. Stir sugar into peach pulp, until it dissolves, which takes some time. Keep stirring as this will make for creamy mixture. In a very cold bowl with chilled beaters, beat the chilled milk until very stiff. Add lemon juice, salt and peach pulp. Fold in gently. Pour into bowl, mold or individual cups. Freeze.

Recipe source=1948 Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedia Cookbook.


Chocolate Marlow

  • 2 squares (1 oz. each) chocolate, melted
  • 20 large marshmallows, cut in quarters
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped

Melt chocolate over boiling water (double boiler) or in large saucepan placed in a pan of simmering water. Add marshmallows, milk and salt. Stir and fold until marshmallows are melted with a few pieces left. Remove from heat. Keep stirring and folding until mixture is smooth and rather spongy. Stir in vanilla. Cool. When it is cool, whip the whipping cream stiff. Fold into chocolate mixture. Pour into bowl, individual serving dishes or a flat Pyrex dish so it can be cut into squares. Freeze. Stir once about half way frozen, smoothing top to freeze completely.

Recipe adapted from 1948 Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedia Cookbook.


Easy Fruit Melba

  • Favorite fruit, fresh, prepared
  • Favorite cake layers, round or square
  • Favorite ice cream
  • Whipped cream or topping

Wash, stem, peel and seed favorite fruit such as strawberries, blackberries, peaches. Either prepare cake layers from scratch or buy frozen pound cake. Either way, the cake needs to be frozen. Choose an ice cream flavor that will compliment the fruit and cake such as chocolate for strawberries or vanilla for peaches.

On serving plate which can be placed in freezer, place frozen cake layer. Scoop ice cream onto top and spread with spatula evenly, covering top of cake. Spoon on fruit or arrange in a pretty pattern. Cover lightly with plastic wrap. Place in freezer. At serving time, remove a few minutes before hand and garnish with whipped cream or whipped topping. This dessert can be made at the last minute if all three components are already in freezer. Just put it together and serve.

Note: A friend took the time to bake cupcakes, and slicing and separating them in half horizontally, she froze them, put a scoop of ice cream on the bottom, a few pieces of fruit and put the top on. Frozen, they were served in a bowl with big dollops of whipped cream on top for the “frosting”.

Another variation is to use a baked upside down cake. Freeze it, add the ice cream over the top and freeze until serving time. Pineapple upside down cake is the most well-known and goes well with vanilla or peach ice cream. By all means, experiment.