The French were first to seize on the recipe. Baron Bresse, writing the food column of Liberte in the mid 19th century, revealed that it was a Chinese invention. He tells how, on a visit to the Chinese Mission in Paris, in 1862, 'The French chef . . . has learnt from his Chinese colleague a method of baking vanilla and ginger ices in the oven.'
1 sponge cake, 20cm/8in across
3/4 litre/1 1/2 pints vanilla ice cream
4 egg whites
100g/3oz caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon tartaric acid
1/2 glass brandy or Calvados
You need to use a grill which leaves a clearance of several inches so you can place the dish underneath. Get the grill really hot, at full heat for 10 minutes at least. (You can, alternatively, use a very hot oven; put it on at least 20 minutes beforehand.)
Lay the sponge in a dish 25cm/10in wide to leave a gap all round. Sprinkle with brandy or Calvados. On a base of kitchen foil, shape the ice-cream into a high mound 18cm/7in across, so that it doesn't reach the sides of the sponge. Re-freeze the ice-cream.
Whisk the egg whites to a froth, beat in the tartaric acid and half the sugar, then whisk into stiff peaks. Fold in the rest of the sugar.
Transfer the ice-cream on to the base quickly, and using a spatula or the back of a spoon, spread the egg white mixture over the top as evenly as you can, providing, in effect, insulation for the ice-cream.
Place under the grill for three or four minutes until the meringue topping turns a pale brown. Alternatively, pop it into the oven, standing the dish in a larger dish part-filled with cold water.Reuse content