It’s a given that we all need a repertoire of easy-to-make cakes and desserts that look and taste like we really know our way around the kitchen—even if the dessert in question is ten times easier than pie, and took just a few minutes to make.
But we also need a few holiday showstoppers up our sleeves—even if they involve several parts and a little know-how in putting them all together. One of my favorites is Cranberry Christmas Bombe—a riff on the French Charlotte Royale. It’s glamorous and gorgeous and definitely centerpiece-worthy.
The bombe looks seriously complicated—and I love that about it—but is easier to make than it looks. The recipe's many parts can be staged over time, so that you only need a few minutes to unmold and glaze the bombe on the day you serve it. You can swap the cranberry-raspberry spread for 2/3 cup of any fruit preserves that you think would taste good with the mousse inside, or you can use lemon curd or sweetened chestnut puree. You can swap your favorite dark or milk chocolate mousse or even lemon mousse or Bavarian cream—the original Charlotte Royale was filled with Bavarian cream, after all—for the white chocolate mousse filling.
A loose visual guide to the steps:
You want to use hot milk sponge cake for this, and bake it in a sheet pan.
Once you've got the hang of lining the mold with snuggly fitting jelly roll slices, filling the lined mold with mousse, and using the remaining jelly rolls for the bottom, you can mix and match most of the elements to create your own bombe. This one is adapted from my first book (and 1990 James Beard Cookbook of the Year award winner), Cocolat: Extraordinary Chocolate Desserts. Bombes away!
For the Hot Milk Sponge Sheet
- 1 cup (100 grams) sifted (before measuring) unbleached cake flour (I use King Arthur)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
- 1/4 cup (60 grams) whole milk
- 2 tablespoons (30 grams) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Cranberry-Raspberry Spread and White Chocolate Mousse Filling
- 6 ounces cranberries, rinsed
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup raspberry preserves
- 9 ounces white chocolate (see note), finely chopped
- 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
- 3 tablespoons water
- 3 tablespoons kirsch (or water)
- 1/2 cup strained apricot preserves
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped pistachios