At Ici, the Berkeley ice cream shop that former Chez Panisse pastry chef Mary Canales opened in August, three copper molds in descending size decorate the counter. Inside a glass case, you’ll find the desserts inspired by these molds: bombes. Bombes are layers of cake and ice cream pressed into smooth shapes using molds and are often decorated with chocolate swirls, meringue, or candied fruit.
"There are a lot of molded desserts from Victorian times," says Canales, a petite blond woman with a girl-next-door face who moved to the East Bay from Colorado 17 years ago. "Frozen desserts were associated with wealth, because you had to have an icehouse to make them. I think they’re really beautiful. A bombe is one dessert, but it offers more than one flavor."
This holiday season, Ici, whose name is the French word for here and is pronounced ee-SEE, will be offering a fruit bombe with cranberry sorbet, candied tangerine ice cream, vanilla ice cream, and chiffon cake; one with pumpkin ice cream and ginger cake; and one with chocolate cake and toasted nut ice cream. Canales will also make ice cream flavored with panforte (a dense, spiced Italian fruit cake).
A large bombe costs $38.50 and serves up to 12 people. The desserts are an elegant yet easy option for harried holiday hosts already consumed by the details of mushroom puffs, mashed potatoes, and prime rib. And thanks to Canales’s freezing techniques, a small home cooler is all you’ll need to get your bombe home before it melts.
"We have a blast freezer that gets down to 30 degrees below zero," says Canales. "If we know someone is traveling a long distance, we’ll put the bombes in there."
Ici, 2948 College Ave., Berkeley, (510) 665-6054,