Bavarian Cream

The idea for this particular retro dessert post came to me a few months ago, but I got side-tracked…even now, the timing is a bit later than I would like, but hey! Better late than never. So here is my chocolate dessert post for Valentine’s Day. (Click here to jump to the recipe.)

What even is Bavarian Cream?

Great question! I won’t delve into the history of crème bavaroise, cuz while that kind of stuff can be interesting, anyone with a passion for food history knows that old recipes can get really convoluted really fast. My focus will be on recent (read, past century or so) iterations of the dessert in the US and Japan.

First up, some background on gelatin desserts – while terminology isn’t always consistent, you can usually predict the methods and ingredients used from the name of the dessert. Many cooks can tell you that a ‘custard’, for example, will likely have egg yolks in it, and will be cooked a specific way. The same goes for other common types of gelatin desserts. For example, a ‘whip’ is usually just that – whipped flavored gelatin. A ‘sponge’, however, is a whip PLUS a meringue (aka whipped egg whites).

WHIP - A jelly Dessert which, as it begins to thicken, is beaten until light and frothy.
SPONGE - A jelly Dessert beaten until light and the beaten whites of eggs incorporated.
BAVARIAN CREAM - Jellied Desserts with whipped cream incorporated.

The glossary above from my 1930’s Knox Gelatine recipe booklet defines a Bavarian Cream as a ‘jelly dessert with whipped cream’ incorporated – question answered, yes?

Bavarian Cream No. 1 - recipe contains milk and heavy cream

Bavarian Cream No. 2 - recipe tells you straight up to make a custard, and also says you can stick a meringue in there.


There doesn’t seem to be a singular agreed upon definition of Bavarian Creams, but looking through both American and Japanese recipes, I was able to narrow it down to three types.

  1. ‘Easy’ type – Gelatin and flavorings are dissolved in hot milk, and then whipped cream is incorporated.
  2. ‘Custard’ type – egg yolks and sugar are beaten to ribbon stage and incorporated into the hot milk to make a custard base. Then, you add whipped cream.
  3. ‘Meringue’ type – all of the above, oh plus you add a meringue (whipped egg whites).

The first two types, from my cursory research, appear fairly consistently throughout American and Japanese recipe collections. The third, for obvious reasons, is by far the least common (although it does make an appearance in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking). Wait, what are the obvious reasons, you ask?

The Trouble with Meringues

Let’s get the big one out of the way – making a meringue is a pain in the ass. I whip heavy cream by hand on a regular basis with little to no issue. But a meringue? I have a process. A process that involves a special expensive mixing bowl. And if anything goes wrong? Your meringue will not set up. So if you can get away with not making a meringue, why make one?

However, there’s another reason that gelatin desserts with uncooked meringues, like chiffon pies, have fallen out of favor here. Americans know that there’s a lot of messaging scaring people away from consuming anything with uncooked eggs.

Nestle Toll House Cookie Dough, with the warning DO NOT CONSUME RAW COOKIE DOUGH
Pillsbury cookie dough, with "SAFE TO EAT RAW - eat or bake"

Pillbury knows what’s up

They do sell pasteurized egg whites, which I found out when looking into old soda recipes courtesy of Jason R. Merrill. But without getting into the exact chemical details, they aren’t ideal for whipping up into meringues. Anyways, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

A Tale of Two Recipes

I had some excess unsweetened baking chocolate I wanted to use up, which is why I settled on a chocolate Bavarian cream, though they can be made in a variety of flavors. Knox Gelatine included two recipes, but used the Easy type for their chocolate variation. It looked fine enough, so in the mix it went.

As for the second, Bavarian creams, called ババロア babaroa in Japanese, are common staples of ‘(Showa) retro cafes’. For this test, I found a recipe from Ghana, a popular brand of chocolate sold by food giant Lotte.

This one is Custard type, and includes a chocolate sauce. Funnily enough, I actually ended up making it with Ghana’s competitor, Meiji, due to a grocery mix-up.

And the Winner Is…?

Unsurprisingly, I preferred the Custard type. The Easy type isn’t bad, it’s just a little too simple to eat by itself, as it’s basically just molded whipped cream. I think it would pair well layered over cake, for instance. I also would say that, since you have to dirty a saucepan to scald the milk anyways, the additional step to get an egg yolk or two into the ribbon stage isn’t too bad. (Just remember to temper your eggs!) Both these recipes use powdered gelatin, so you’ll want to strain it regardless to avoid any lumps. My version based on the Ghana recipe is below.

Custard type Recipe

*When making custards, I recommend using the fullest fat dairy possible for best results. For milk, I use whole milk (not lactose-free!), and for heavy cream, I try to avoid ‘ultra-pasteurized’. It’s possible to use lower-fat options, but in my experience it will affect your results negatively.

  1. Sprinkle gelatin over water and let sit for a few minutes.
  2. Combine eggs and sugar in a small bowl and whip until pale yellow (i.e. the ribbon stage).
  3. Bring milk just to a boil in saucepan, and turn off the heat. Temper egg mixture by slowly adding a small amount of hot milk, then return mixture to saucepan.
  4. Using a rubber spatula to scrape the bottom of the pan, bring to a simmer and cook until custard coats the back of a spoon.
  5. Turn off heat and whisk in gelatin and chocolate until fully dissolved.
  6. While custard cools, whip cream in separate bowl to stiff peaks. Then strain custard mixture through a fine-meshed sieve and fold into whipped cream until thoroughly incorporated.
  7. Pour mixture into desired mold and chill until set (several hours prolly).
  8. Unmold and garnish as desired.

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