The Space-Themed Dessert Created For The Apollo 11 Astronauts

Go big and go home! That's what the Apollo 11 astronauts did. Hailed as heroes, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin made history in 1969 when they fulfilled President John F. Kennedy's 1961 commitment to land an astronaut on the moon within a decade (via NASA). How, on Earth, do you celebrate such a giant leap into the realm of space exploration?

A bit of background: According to The New York Times, more than 600 million people around the world were glued to the television sets — in their homes, in bars, in storefront windows — to witness the historic moment on July 20, 1969, when Armstrong stepped out of the lunar landing module onto the surface of the moon. Aldrin followed about 20 minutes later. All told, the astronauts spent 21 hours and 36 minutes on the lunar surface (via NASA) before returning to Earth.

Despite their worldwide audience and high-flying achievement, the astronauts' homecoming, after the hoopla of the landing, was relatively subdued. They went from walking on the surface of the moon to living, for almost three weeks, in a Habitrail-like quarantine complex. In fact, Armstrong, the first of only two humans ever to step foot on the moon, celebrated his 39th birthday while in quarantine when support staff surprised him with a modest cake, according to Space.

Kind of a low-key finale to one of mankind's greatest accomplishments. Or was it? When the astronauts walked out of quarantine, they strolled straight into a whirlwind celebration.

An epic dessert for an epic occasion

Three days after their August 10 (via Smithsonian Magazine) release from quarantine, Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin were winging their way, via presidential jet, to New York City for a ticker tape parade. Then they were off to Chicago for a second parade that same day (via UPI) before finally arriving in Los Angeles for a celebratory gala at Century Plaza Hotel where 1,440 guests and dignitaries, including 50 fellow astronauts, gathered to mark the occasion. President Richard Nixon personally approved the $43,000 menu — about $337,703 in 2022 dollars (via USD Inflation) — with one specific request: He asked pastry chef Ernest Mueller to come up with an out-of-this-world original ice cream dessert to mark the milestone occasion (via Neatorama).

Mueller's response? An awe-inspiring creation he called Clair de Lune (French for moonlight). According to Atlas Obscura, the spectacular dessert, presented while the band played "Fly Me to the Moon," consisted of individual servings of almond pastry topped with kirsch raisin- and marzipan-infused vanilla ice cream. The studded ice cream globes were encompassed in a layer of toasted meringue and served atop a sea of blackberry sauce and adorned with a miniature American flag; Mueller's interpretation of the moon in a night sky showed the flag the astronauts had planted just weeks earlier.

It was a stellar finale to a star-studded evening. Some might say it was the perfect celebration of mankind's giant leap into the realm of space exploration.