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What Is a Knickerbocker Glory?

By T. Alaine
Updated May 16, 2024
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A knickerbocker glory is a large and elaborate ice cream-based dessert that originated in the United Kingdom. First popularized in the 1930s, this ornate dessert traditionally is a combination of fresh fruit, fruit sauce and ice cream. These ingredients are layered in a tall ice cream glass and topped with whipped cream, nuts, a cherry and often a wafer cookie. Accounts of the original recipe vary widely, and there are many interpretations of the standard knickerbocker glory formula using different ingredients.

Although there is no single traditional recipe for a knickerbocker glory, some basic features are often attributed to versions claiming to represent the original dessert. Most of these specifications refer to the method of preparing it and the order of building its characteristic layers. The ingredients tend to vary based on individual preference, so these procedural guidelines are often what helps identify a dessert as a knickerbocker glory.

First, fresh fruit is slice and placed in the bottom of a tall ice cream serving glass. The height of the glass is important, because it needs to be quite tall to accommodate all of the layers. Different types of fruit that are commonly used include peaches, strawberries, grapes and bananas, but berries, melons and other fruits also can be used. Some recipes that are meant only for adult consumers suggest mixing some flavored liqueur with the fruit for an added punch.

The next step is the ice cream. Preferred flavors are often vanilla and strawberry, but any flavor that complements the chosen fruits and sauces will be adequate substitutions. If multiple flavors are being used, they should be layered in the glass to enhance the dramatic aesthetic appeal of the dessert. Most knickerbocker glory sundaes contain at least two scoops of ice cream.

Traditionally, a fruit sauce is then poured over the ice cream and allowed to run down into gaps and between the layers. A sauce made from peaches, called melba sauce, is a classic choice, but sauces made from other fruits, as well as jams, can also be used. Chocolate sauces are a less-common choice and most likely will not be found in a traditional knickerbocker glory.

Toppings are the last step in building this dessert. A knickerbocker glory is rarely seen without a pile of whipped cream on the top. Additionally, nuts can be added if preferred, and a thin wafer cookie can be stuck into the whipped cream. Finally, a cherry, either fresh or sugared, is nestled into the point of the whipped cream tower, and the knickerbocker glory is complete.

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Discussion Comments
By Lostnfound — On Feb 09, 2015

I'm a little surprised a version of the Knickerbocker glory didn't make it into "The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles" by Julie Edwards. She describes a soda fountain that dispenses pretty much anything the diner wants, in the way of ice cream, and while the characters get some fairly spectacular desserts, no one orders anything like a Knickerbocker glory. The closest is the Whiffle Bird Delight, which is raspberry ice cream with blackberry sauce, whipped cream and a cherry. Still not much like the spectacular glory, though.

I think the closest we do to that in the US is the fruit parfait, which is a combination of ice cream, fruit and sauce.

By Grivusangel — On Feb 08, 2015

This dessert appears in the first of the Harry Potter books. I didn't know what it was, but figured, considering it was Dudley eating it, that it had to be something along the lines of a banana split or something similar. Looks like I was right, except it's served in a glass and not in a dish.

I also remember it because the contrast was that, while Dudley and his friend were able to get these desserts, all Harry got was a cheap lemon popsicle.

I'd be interested in learning where in the world the name came from. The "glory" part I get, but what about the "knickerbocker," unless it's something akin to what we say in the South. When something is really sweet and gooey, we call it a "girdle buster." Could be the same thing, I guess.

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