Learn how to make authentic Bavarian cream – one of the quintessential German desserts.
Go straight to the Recipe Card or read on for useful information, step by step pictures and relevant tips (3 mins).
We encourage you to watch the brief video demonstration to become more familiar with the process of making Bavarian cream.
What is It and Why is It Called Bavarian Cream?
Bavarian cream is a custard – a mixture of milk, eggs and sugar, thickened with gelatin and lightened up with whipped cream.
It is a classic German dessert, known as crème bavaroise in French and Bayerische creme in German. Its origins are French, it was a French high-cuisine chef, Marie Antoine Carême, who first recorded its recipe in the early nineteenth century. It is believed that the dessert had been a favorite at the French royal court for much longer, since the fifteenth century when Isabeau of Bavaria was Queen of France by marriage to Charles VI.
Its name is thought to have been a nod to Isabeu and her House of Wittelsbach, rulers of Bavaria. The dessert became immensely popular in Bavaria and all of Germany.
Bavarian cream is either served chilled as a stand alone dessert or used in various pastries, cakes and other baked goods (spread or as a filling piped from a pastry bag).
As a stand alone dessert Bavarian cream can be:
- presented in an appropriate individual dish or glass (see picture above).
- poured into a mold and then served unmolded, on a dessert plate (below).
Eggs. While there are some versions of Bavarian cream where whole eggs are used in combination with yolks only, most commonly just egg yolks are called for and this recipe makes no exception.
Sugar. Use white cane sugar for best results.
Gelatin. Gelatin allows the custard to assume and retain the shape of a mold once it sets. It also contributes to the silky, smooth texture of the dessert. You can use sheets, powder or granules. Dissolve it in cold water first (aka bloom the gelatin). Gelatin conversion (from type to type) is a finicky business at best. Different brands have different qualities, I’ve organized conversion information in the Notes section of the Recipe Card.
Milk. Use whole milk.
Vanilla. Use an actual vanilla bean if you can find some – simply cut one open lengthwise, scrape inside with tip of knife and add it to the milk instead of vanilla extract.
Heavy/whipping cream. To whip and fold into the base custard. It gives nice substance and richness to the cream, while it also lightens up the texture.
Fruit. Optional – berries and peaches are most commonly used as a topping, sometimes they are cooked down with sugar in a pan and then both the fruit and syrup it releases are used.
Finishing sweetening agent. Optional – powdered sugar, honey, fruit syrup/sauce or chocolate sauce.
Garnishes. Optional – fresh herbs such as mint, basil, thyme are complementary to fruit toppings.
How to Make Bavarian Cream (Step by Step)
There are a few stages in the process – none of which complicated. As an overview – you will make an egg custard with warm milk to which you will add bloomed gelatin so it can melt nicely.
Finally, once the mixture has cooled down you will fold in whipped cream and transfer to molds or serving glasses.
Step 1. Beat eggs yolks with sugar until foamy.
Step 2. Sprinkle gelatin in cold water and let bloom (or place gelatin sheets in cold water and let soak).
Step 3. Add vanilla to milk and bring to a gentle boil. Then combine the whisked eggs and sugar with the milk.
The traditional high-cuisine method involves a double boiler, but a simpler way is to temper the beaten egg yolks and then whisk them into the milk.
Temper by adding a ladelful of the heated milk to the egg mixture, whisk to combine the two (see image sequence above) and then slowly add the tempered eggs to the milk (see below).
Step 4. Add the bloomed gelatin into the custard while it is still warm. This will ensure that it melts into it and when it eventually begins to set there will not be any clumps, just a silky smooth texture.
Step 5. Whip cream while the gelatin custard is cooling down. Fold in the whipped cream into room temperature custard, then transfer to molds (see “stickiness” tips below), cover with plastic and refrigerate.
Let the Bavarian cream set for at least 6-8 hours. For best results let it set overnight or even a bit longer. Note that a smaller mold or dish will set faster than a larger one. If you poured the cream into a pie crust, definitely let it set overnight or longer.
How to Unmold Bavarian Cream
Releasing Bavarian cream from its mold is particularly easy if you use silicone molds.
But if you (like me) simply make use of ramekins or a different ceramic or metal mold you might face a few “stickiness” challenges.
There are two ways to address them.
- You can spray (minimally) the ceramic molds with cooking oil before you fill them (or simply brush the entire insides with cooking oil).
- After the cream has set, you can fill a baking pan with warm water, place the molds in it and wait until the gelatin loosens and the Bavarian cream is naturally released.
Either way, before you unmold gently run a thin, sharp knife along the periphery of the mold to help things along (see pictures below or watch video).
NOTE: Do not leave the molds in the warm water for too long. If you do, more of the gelatin will liquefy and the Bavarian cream will begin to lose its set structure.
The exact time depends on how many molds you have submerged in the warm water at once, but overall 30-45 seconds per mold should be enough to release cream with firm texture. Longer times will result in softer texture and some degree of liquification, see pics below.
Despite the above advice my favorite way to enjoy Bavarian cream is when it has a soft to very soft texture, but this is in part due my aversion to wobbly foods, regardless of flavor (huge NO to aspic and dessert jellies). Chris on the other hand is definitely a fan of the firmer texture, so I usually unmold both firmer and softer versions.
You can easily manipulate the degree of firmness and make every one you serve Bavarian cream to happy. Just leave the molds in the warm water for a shorter or longer time as needed.
If you want a really firm and stable cream – consider increasing the quantity of gelatin by about a third, from the get go, as noted in the Notes section of the Recipe Card.
What Color is Bavarian Cream Supposed to Be?
Bavarian cream can range in color from barely off-white to intense ivory.
The color depends on the yolks used – some have very intense orange color pigments while others are distinctly yellow. The color of the yolks depends on the diet of the hen that laid the eggs. For example birds fed mashes with wheat and barley tend to lay eggs with lighter color.
When fruit syrup or other colored flavoring agents are added to Bavarian cream it obviously takes on the color of their respective pigments – brown from chocolate, rich pink from raspberry syrup etc.
Flavored Bavarian Cream
Flavored versions of Bavarian cream are very popular in Germany. The most popular flavor infusions are chocolate and berries. Various syrups, reductions, and fruit purees are added to the milk during the stage when it is combined with the gelatin.
Certain fruits do not belong in it as they contain enzymes that will prevent the gelatin from setting. To that end avoid pineapple and papaya.
Bavarian Cream Donuts & Other Uses
The popular Bavarian cream donuts sold in America are actually filled with a pastry cream (crème pâtissière) and not Bavarian cream (crème bavaroise). Pastry cream uses cornstarch, a thickening agent, and does not have a firm structure like Bavarian cream, it is also more forgiving to higher temperatures.
That being said, no one is stopping you from piping nicely set, chilled Bavarian cream into donuts. Just make sure that you keep them chilled once you fill them. Or you can spoon some into the middles of actual Bavarian donuts.
You can also pipe it in cream puffs, eclairs, use it to make cakes, cream pies, create layered desserts – it is up to your imagination really. Simply transfer Bavarian cream to a piping bag with an appropriate tip and get to work.
NOTE: If you are going to make Bavarian cream exclusively for the purpose of using it in a cake etc. recipe, add about a third more gelatin than called for.
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- 4 egg yolks
- 1 cup white cane sugar
- 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin (plus 1/2 cup cold water to bloom it)
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 tsp vanilla extract (or 1-2 vanilla beans)
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- fresh fruit and herbs, as needed to top dessert (optional)
- powdered sugar, honey, agave syrup, fruit syrup or reduction, as needed, to drizzle over dessert (optional)
- Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until foamy. Set aside.
- Sprinkle the gelatin over cold water and set it aside to bloom.*
- Add vanilla to milk. Over medium heat in a deep sauce pan bring milk to gentle boil.
- Turn the heat to low and add a ladelful of milk to the yolks mixture, stirring to blend. This is called tempering. The milk dilutes the egg yolks and prevents their proteins from forming bonds and the yolks cooking.
- Add the tempered egg yolks mixture to the milk, while heat is still on low. Whisk as you do it. Continue whisking gently for a couple of more minutes and remove from the heat.
- Add the bloomed gelatin to the warm custard and whisk to help it melt nicely. Transfer the resulting mixture to a mixing bowl and set it aside to cool down.
- While it is cooling down, prepare molds or dessert glasses etc. and whip the cream.
- Fold in the whipped cream into the cooled down custard. Transfer to molds, cover and refrigerate to set. Let set for a minimum of 6-8 hour, for best results leave it overnight or even a bit longer. Smaller servings will set faster.
- Serve unmolded** or directly from the dessert cup in which the Bavarian cream set and top with fruit, fruity syrup, Chocolate sauce honey, fresh herbs etc.
*If your singular goal is to pipe Bavarian cream into a pastry like cream puffs or donuts, consider increasing the noted gelatin amount by about a third. The cream will have a much firmer texture and lend itself easily to being piped out of a pastry bag. Keep desserts to which it is added chilled for best results.
1 packet of granulated gelatin = 1 tbsp powdered gelatin = 3 to 5 sheets of gelatin
Water quantities (for this recipe):
If using granulated/powder gelatin sprinkle over 1/2 cup cold water.
If using sheets, place in plenty of cold water and squeeze out the water from the bloomed sheets before adding them to the warm custard.
**Refer to the tips in the post body about How to Unmold Bavarian Cream.
If you want to freeze Bavarian cream do it in an appropriate mold (silicone works well) and before it has set. Thaw in the fridge first (overnight) and then at room temperature before you unmold/serve.
Do not microwave Bavarian cream (or any dessert that contains gelatin). Certain amino acids in gelatin may change into toxic substances when microwaved (read study).
Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 298 Total Fat: 21g Saturated Fat: 13g Trans Fat: 1g Unsaturated Fat: 7g Cholesterol: 132mg Sodium: 40mg Carbohydrates: 24g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 0g Sugar: 24g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 5g