It’s time to enjoy a sweet treat this National Peach Melba Day on January 13! Made (and named) in honor of the famous opera singer Nellie Melba, this day invites everyone to try out this amazingly refreshing dessert. While the original recipe is a dish made from peaches, raspberry sauce, and vanilla ice cream, multiple recipes change up the ingredients to suit various tastes and create slightly different flavor combinations.
History of National Peach Melba Day
Peach Melba has graced restaurant menus for decades and is one of the most favored desserts globally. This creamy-and-cool dish was inspired by Helen “Nellie” Porter Mitchell, an Australian who went on to become a world-famous opera singer.
While learning under German mezzo-soprano Mathilde Marchesi, Mitchell was persuaded to take on a stage name — she chose ‘Nellie Melba’, with Melba derived from her hometown of Melbourne.
It was in London that she became acquainted with the famous French chef Auguste Escoffier. He was, in turn, known for his imaginative dishes and luxurious meals. Many of his dishes were named after the star patrons at his restaurants.
Melba often ate at Escoffier’s restaurants when she performed at Covent Garden. In 1892 (or 1893, depending on the source), Melba was to perform in Wagner’s opera “Lohengrin” at Covent Garden. She reportedly sent Escoffier tickets to this performance, which featured a boat in the shape of a swan. The next evening, Escoffier presented a dessert of fresh peaches served on a bed of vanilla ice cream and raspberry sauce and displayed it on an ice sculpture of a swan. Another version of events indicates this creation appeared at the Duke of Orléan’s dinner party, which he planned to celebrate Melba’s triumphant performance. Either way, this dish was the birth of our famous dessert.
Around eight years later, Escoffier revisited this dessert at the opening of the Ritz Carlton Hotel in London, where he was head chef. He created a new version of the peach melba, omitting the ice sculpture and topping the peaches with raspberry purée. He also renamed the dish Pêche Melba or Peach Melba.
At present, we might know everything about this dessert, but we are still researching the origins of the day itself.
National Peach Melba Day timeline
Auguste Escoffier partners with César Ritz (of Ritz Carlton fame), making a name for himself as the head chef of restaurants located inside the Ritz hotels.
Escoffier creates the very first Peach Melba — called ‘Pecheau Cygne’ or ‘Peach Swan’ — in honor of opera singer Nellie Melba.
Escoffier presents Peach Melba again, this time topping the peaches with raspberry purée instead of spun sugar.
‘Pijima’ was invented in a restaurant in Barcelona and Peach Melba is supposedly descended from this Catalan dish.
Escoffier publishes his autobiography, 'Souvenirs inédits (Memories of My Life),' and it contains the original recipe for Peach Melba, broken down into simple steps.
National Peach Melba Day FAQs
When was Peach Melba popular?
The mix of cool and warm, cream and fresh fruit, and the flavor of peaches made the dish very delicious. The addition of the name — attached to a major celebrity like Melba — took the dessert to new heights when it was created during the 1800s, and the craze continued well into the 20th century.
Is Peach Melba Australian?
While the dessert was created to honor Australian opera singer Dame Nellie Melba, it is enjoyed everywhere around the world, particularly in the U.S., U.K., France, and Australia.
What is the Peach Melba flavor?
A peach melba tastes slightly like peaches and cream, with a hint of raspberry sauce.
How To Celebrate National Peach Melba Day
Try out the original recipe
Escoffier actually scoffed at some variations of the original recipe, believing that they ruined the delicate balance of its taste. Find the very first Peach Melba recipe and try your hand at making it.
Get creative with your Peach Melba
Mastered the original? You can now create variations with endless combinations to find the balance you like best. Mix ice cream flavors, add fruits, or even switch out the sauce. Go wild with the combinations!
Have yourself a Peach Melba party
Invite people for a Peach Melba-themed party at home or a restaurant that serves this dish. Put on Melba's music to set the vibe, and savor this dessert.
5 Fun Facts About National Peach Melba Day
Melba hesitated to try this dessert
She worried that the ice cream in the peach melba would injure her vocal cords; the raspberry sauce warmed the cold ingredients, however, allowing her to eat the dish without risking her voice.
Peach Melba deconstruction
As a tribute to Escoffier, a deconstructed peach melba was served as the last dish at the famous Spanish restaurant, El Bulli, right before it closed in 2012.
More dishes for Melba
Escoffier also created a special dish — a thin, low-calorie toast — for Melba to help her reduce weight.
Peach Melba on T.V.
Amos Burton from “The Expanse” nicknames another character 'Peaches' as a play on that person’s alias, Melba Koh.
Getting peach skin
Peaches need to be put in boiling water, plunged immediately into ice water, drained, and then the skin comes off and is added to the dessert.
Why We Love National Peach Melba Day
A dessert for everyone
There are so many variations to the dessert and additions you can include. This versatile treat can be personalized to suit different people's palates.
We love peaches
Every dessert featuring peaches is a giant win in our book. Plus, this dessert has the peach flavor shining through in various ways.
We're re-introduced to Dame Nellie Melba
We love hearing about this feted Australian opera singer who took the Victorian world (and the early 20th century) by storm. Celebrating is a great way to remember her.
National Peach Melba Day dates