Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tinapay: My Crema de Fruta

This is part of an ongoing series, "Tinapay," about local breads and cookies found in street corner bakeries across the Philippines.
I would like to venture a guess that no Filipino, whether here or abroad, is unaware of crema de fruta. Endless variations exist, though all retain the basic combinations of a crust, a cream mixture, fruits (fresh or in cocktail syrup) melded by gelatin. It is made any season, but it is distinctly a Christmas thing - it is our Pinoy version of all those fruit cakes around the world.

I have written about crema de fruta previously as a coveted gift and my choice Christmas give-away one Christmas. I have noted that that post sustain search engine hits year-round, but that starting about a month ago the increase in hits from around the world has been very significant.

I am including it in the Tinapay series even though it cannot be found in any streetside bakery, but because almost any Filipino household can make its own version. Of course the more popularly known middle class bakeshop chain that most balikbayans remember carries crema de fruta year-round.

But I never buy, because I can make my own crema de fruta, at less than half the cost of a store-bought one. And so I would like to share a recipe for crema de fruta that my family had been using for a long time now. We made it once a year, and only during Christmas - it is almost sacrilege to make it outside of the holiday season. It is very easy to make, involving no cooking, using ingredients available anytime anywhere around the globe. I have tweaked the recipe to suit my tastes, and I believe the recipe below is the best one I have made.

Crema de Fruta

butter cake/loaf
2 packs all-purpose cream
1 small can condensed milk
3 envelopes clear, unflavored gelatin powder
1 medium can fruit cocktail

  1. Dissolve and cook 2 envelopes gelatin according to packet instructions but reducing amount of water by about a third.
  2. Mix cream, half of the condensed milk and the dissolved gelatin thoroughly, and put in refrigerator.
  3. Line the bottom of a deep dish with butter cake slices about an inch thick, taking care to plug in any spaces between slices.
  4. Dissolve and cook remaining envelope of gelatin and let cool. Drain fruit cocktail well.
  5. When the cream mixture has thickened pour onto butter cake crust. Flatten top, and arrange fruit cocktail over cream.
  6. Pour gelatin to submerge fruits. Refrigerate at least 4 hours.
Good for an 8x8x4 dish, for about 6-8 people.
Can last up to two weeks inside the ref, although an 8x8 is good for only one sitting in my family.

The crema de fruta that my mom used to make had graham crackers as base, the thickener for the cream was dissolved cornstarch, and no condensed milk. After many years of making the original I ventured into using cakes as base, to make it more festive. I love the butter cake base - its density holds up slices real well, and it adds decadence to the dessert.

I also like the cream-gelatin mixture because it is so much lighter than the thick, gooey cream made from using cornstarch. The resulting cake is a combination of textures, from gelatin to soft, flanney custard to rich cake base. It is a bit tricky to use, though - the cream-gelatin mixture has to have thickened enough (the reason for the brief sojourn inside the ref) so as not to be absorbed by the cake base.

Although I once made the mistake of pouring hot cream that instantly soaked the crust, and resigned myself to a disaster dessert. But good thing I had already started using butter cake that time, because it held up, and nobody noticed the difference. Imagine if I had used chiffon or sponge!

Other Variations
  • Halve the thickness of the cake, spread half of the cream mixture and half the fruits. Spread another layer of butter cake, the remaining cream mixture and fruits. Finish off with the gelatin.
  • Use chiffon or sponge cake (available in most streetside bakeries), or graham crackers (2-3 layers) or broas (lady fingers, 2-3 layers) as crust, whether for the single layer or for the multiple layered cake.
  • Use yellow colored gelatin in the cream mixture.
  • Use lychee-flavored gelatin for the fruit topping, or flavor the gelatin with the syrup of the fruit cocktail.
  • Use cornstarch as thickener instead of gelatin. Dissolve about half a cup of cornstarch and mix with the cream and condensed milk mixture. Heat over medium fire, stirring constantly until thick as paste. Pour over crust.
  • For less fat content, use milk and flour instead of the cream mixture. Bring to a simmer while stirring constantly until thick.
  • Or in dissolving the gelatin use milk in lieu of water, and use this for the cream mixture.
  • Do away with the condensed milk, especially if using cake as base, which is already sweet enough.
  • Incorporate buco slivers into the cream mixture for a more Pinoy version.
  • Use only one kind of fruit, like canned peaches, fresh mangoes (for this I would recommend a rich chocolate cake as base), fresh strawberries (how about ground Sunflower crackers for this one? The chicken or smoked bacon flavored ones are perfect for fresh strawberries in a multi-layered cake), etc. The possibilities are endless.

Related Posts
Strawberry Float
Cathedral Windows

The Tinapay Series


copperfish said...

Nice new look of your blog and compliments very with your "Crema de Fruta" pics and the fast approaching Cristmas.

Thanks for sharing your recipe on this and I'll try to make one this holidays. From experiences I'm quite a disaster when it comes to gelatin so I'm already hesitant to use it. Maybe I'll just follow the gelatins instructions carefully so as to avoid the disastrous outcome.

Kai said...

Thanks, copperfish. Maybe you should try the cornstarch variation. But here's a secret, when my gelatin does not gel, I reboil and reboil, or add more powder, until it solidifies. ;-)

Anonymous said...

OMG!... this is making me hungry for dessert.. it's one of my favorites, i havent tried making crema de fruta yet, but I will, one day! Thanks for sharing.