Desserts are a typical way to end a Filipino meal, especially at parties and handaans. Some are content eating fresh fruit slices, while others need sweeter, more indulgent treats. A usual suspect is the classic crema de fruta, or “fruit cream” in Spanish.
This traditional Pinoy dessert is a celebratory masterpiece containing layers of spongy cake, vanilla custard, fruit cocktail, and gelatin. It becomes extra popular during the holiday season, but it’s also a reliable confection year-round. You’ll find it sold at your all-time favorite cake shop or by specialty stores and home bakers who add fun twists to the treat. But for a personalized touch, why not try the homemade approach?
The good news is you don't need to be an experienced baker to whip this up. You can execute a crema de fruta recipe flawlessly (and cost-efficiently!), especially when you choose the no-bake route. Start by learning its essential components and some possible innovations to recreate this classic at home.
Crema de Fruta Base Options
Most crema de fruta recipes use a sponge or chiffon cake for its base. However, baking from scratch can be time-consuming. Instead of exerting much effort to perfect this layer, why not opt for fuss-free and budget-friendly alternatives? Some readily available options include:
- Graham – inexpensive and versatile crackers typically used for making s'mores, cheesecakes, and mango floats.
- Ladyfingers – thin biscuits that turn spongy upon absorbing liquids, like in tiramisu.
- Taisan – a Pinoy version of buttery chiffon cake; commonly enjoyed for merienda with a hot beverage.
Now that you know what to use in place of the sponge cake, it's time to move to the next layer: the custard.
How to Make Crema de Fruta Custard
Custard is relatively straightforward to prepare. It only requires a few pantry staples and finishes in one pan on the stove. Follow this basic recipe:
- ⅓ cup white sugar
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 3 pcs egg yolks
- 2 cups milk, warmed
- 1-2 tsps vanilla extract
- Combine sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan. Add yolks, beating until the mixture turns smooth and pale. Gradually pour in the warm milk.
- Stir mixture constantly until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 10-12 minutes. Add vanilla extract and stir to combine thoroughly.
- Remove from heat and let cool before assembling the cake.
When preparing the filling for crema de fruta, keep these top tips in mind:
Tip #1: Keep it low and slow.
The secret ingredient to making amazing custard is patience. Cooking the mixture over low heat while continuously stirring produces that distinct smooth and silky texture.
Tip #2: Trust the process.
Overcooking the custard is a common mistake home cooks make. It’s tempting to keep the mixture on the stove to achieve a thicker consistency. But remember that the custard will still thicken once it cools. The bottom line: trust the process.
Tip #3: Scald the milk separately.
Old custard recipes suggest scalding or warming the milk before combining it with the other ingredients. Heating the milk in the microwave for at least a minute will reduce your overall custard cooking time.
Tip #4: Watch the temperature.
Many people are guilty of raising the custard’s temperate to speed up its cooking process. But doing this causes the batter to curdle and become lumpy. You can salvage most curdled custards by running them through a sieve until it’s smooth.
Tip #5: Try a no-cook custard substitute.
Preparing custard for crema de fruta from scratch can take time. Instead, why not try simpler alternatives? Take your pick:
- No-cook graham float cream – Follow your trusted graham float recipe to prepare the no-cook cream layer. You’ll only need to combine all-purpose cream and condensed milk. Chill this mixture to thicken, then spread it onto the base.
- Ice cream – Selecta Super Thick Vanilla Ice Cream is a fantastic frozen treat to take the place of custards in any dessert recipe. Pro tip: soften the ice cream to room temperature for easier cake assembly.
Choosing Fruit Toppings
You can’t make crema de fruta without the fruta! Canned fruit cocktail has always been the top choice for this dessert as they offer flavor and help in the aesthetics department. But canned fruits aren’t your only choice. Some fresh ingredients you can add to the cake are:
- ripe mangoes
When adding fruit, the only limit is your imagination. Go ahead and experiment with your favorites – even local varieties. As a rule, drain preserved or watery fruits first before cake assembly. This way, the extra liquids won’t dilute the custard.
How to Assemble a Frozen Crema de Fruta
Now that you have the basics covered, it’s time to put everything together. Gather your chosen base, creamy filling, and fruits. For the ultimate no-bake panghimagas, swap the custard for ice cream. Since this is a frozen dessert, you can skip the gelatin topping altogether.
Step 1: Prepare a 6x8-inch or 7x7-inch pan or glass container. Arrange a layer of graham crackers or ladyfingers at the bottom.
Step 2: Pour enough softened ice cream to cover the base evenly.
Step 3: Spread fruits on top of the custard.
Step 4: Repeat the layering process with your remaining ingredients, ending with fruits on top. Cover with cling film or aluminum foil.
Step 5: Freeze the crema de fruta for at least two hours or overnight for best results. Serve cold and enjoy!
Who can say no to the heart warming appeal of homemade desserts? Thankfully, you can rely on no-bake treats if you’re working with a limited time and budget. Take this frozen crema de fruta cake, for example. Next time you want to impress loved ones, reach for a few pantry staples and start layering. You won't regret it!