Bavarian cream or Crème bavaroise or simply Bavarois is a classic dessert, a Swiss invention according to the French, but one that was included in the repertory of Marie-Antoine Carême, who is sometimes credited with it. It was named in the early nineteenth century for Bavaria or, perhaps more likely in the history of haute cuisine, for a particularly distinguished visiting Bavarian, such as a Wittelsbach. Escoffier declared that Bavarois would be more properly Moscovite, owing to its preparation, in the days before mechanical refrigeration, by being made in a “hermetically-sealed” mold that was plunged into salted crushed ice to set— hence “Muscovite”. At the twenty-first century dinner table, one can scarcely imagine the impression made in the mid-nineteenth century by an unmolded and flattened Bavarian cream presented at a summertime dinner party.
Bavarian cream is similar to flour- or cornstarch-thickened crème pâtissière but thickened with gelatin instead and flavoured with liqueur. It is lightened with whipped cream when on the edge of setting up, before being molded, for a true Bavarian cream is usually filled into a fluted mold, chilled until firm, then turned out onto a serving plate. By coating a chilled mold first with a fruit gelatin, a glazed effect can be produced. Imperfections in the unmolding are disguised with strategically-placed fluted piping of crème Chantilly. In America, it is not uncommon to serve Bavarian cream directly from the bowl it has been chilled in, similar to a French mousse. In this informal presentation, Escoffier recommended the Bavarian cream be made in a “timbale or deep silver dish which is then surrounded with crushed ice”.
It may be served with a fruit sauce or a raspberry or apricot purée or used to fill elaborate charlottes.
Though it does not pipe smoothly because of its gelatin, it could substitute at a pinch for crème pâtissière as a filling for doughnuts. The American “Bavarian Cream doughnuts” are actually filled with a version of a crème pâtissière, causing local linguistic confusion.
True Bavarian creams in fact did first appear in the U.S. in Boston Cooking School cookbooks, by Mrs D.A. Lincoln, 1884, and by Fannie Merritt Farmer, 1896: Fannie Farmer already offers a “Quick Bavarian Cream”.