Old-fashioned Strawberry Bavarian Cream

Now that the weather is getting hot – and strawberries are in season – I wanted to find a recipe for a tasty and refreshing strawberry dessert.  I searched through my hundred-year-old cookbooks, and I think I found the perfect recipe. Strawberry Bavarian Cream is creamy and cool, and it made a beautiful presentation.

This recipe was in a 1905 church cookbook from Berwick, Pennsylvania published by “The Ladies of Directory No. 2 of the Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church.”  I’m very curious how the cooks who made this recipe in the early 20th century chilled this dessert. Most won’t have had a refrigerator; perhaps they refrigerated the Strawberry Bavarian Cream in an ice box chilled with a block of ice, or maybe this recipe was often made during the winter months using strawberries that had been canned the previous summer.

Regardless of how cooks in 1905 kept the Strawberry Bavarian Cream cold, this silky, delectable dessert is a winner. I know that I’ll make it again in the near future.

Here’s the original recipes:

Source: Berwick (PA) Cook Book No. 2, The Ladies of Directory No.2 of the Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church (1905)

And, here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Strawberry Bavarian Cream

  • Servings: 8 - 10
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

2 envelopes (0.25 ounce each) of unflavored gelatin

1/3 cup cold water

1 cup boiling water

1 quart fresh strawberries

1 cup sugar

1 cup whipping cream

Place the cold water in a bowl; then sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Let sit for one-half hour.

In the meantime, slice strawberries into a bowl; add sugar and stir to combine. (Reserve several berries to garnish the molded dessert.) Let sit for at least 5 minutes or until the sliced berries begin to become juicy. Then thoroughly mash the sliced berries until no large pieces remain. (I used a potato masher to mash.)

Add boiling water to the gelatin mixture; stir until the gelatin is dissolved. Stir in the mashed strawberries. Chill just until the mixture is no longer warm.

In the meantime, beat the whipping cream until it is light and stiff peaks form. Then fold it into the strawberry and gelatin mixture. Pour into a 7-8 cup mold and chill until firm (at least 4 hours). (I used a 6-cup mold and had a little of the mixture left over after the mold was filled, which I put into a small bowl.)

To serve: Quickly dip the mold in hot water, then unmold onto serving plate.

Note: This recipe may also be made using 1/2 pint frozen or canned strawberries. If frozen or canned strawberries are used as a substitute for the fresh berries, do not add the 1 cup of sugar.

34 thoughts on “Old-fashioned Strawberry Bavarian Cream

  1. Gelatin always seems more trouble than it’s worth, but I must say this looks delightful. Too bad our strawberry season is over. The store berries never seem as good after a couple of months of freshly picked berries!

    1. I almost never made anything with unflavored gelatin until I started posting recipes on this blog. But I’ve discovered that I really like some of the old recipes (like this one), and that it really isn’t that difficult to make recipes that contain gelatin. I just need to plan ahead because of the need to chill the dessert for several hours before serving.

      Due to where I live, I sometimes think that I tend to be a bit late posting seasonal recipes. . . I guess there is always next year for you to try this recipe. 🙂

      1. You are ahead of strawberry season for where I live – one of the good things of the world wide web is always reaching someone in a different time zone or season, etc.

    1. I know what you mean. There are so many delicious sounding hundred-year-old dessert recipes. I could make a dessert every week, but then I think –No, I really should make a vegetable this week. 🙂

  2. This looks like a perfectly refreshing summer treat! Saving this one to try very soon. Odd that I like strawberries in something like this much better than just plain, or mayb it’s not odd :).

  3. Kudos for reviving a recipe that calls for gelatin. This kind of dessert was considered quite classy in its day because gelatin was so difficult to work with, especially without reliable refrigeration. Jell-O caught on when it was introduced in 1897 because it made gelatin desserts much easier to create. I’m glad that local strawberry season hasn’t yet arrived in New England so I can try this!

    1. I’m glad you liked this recipe. You’re absolutely right these types of desserts were considered really special in the early part of the 20th century. I especially like old recipes like this one that call for whipped cream. It’s too bad that they haven’t been particularly popular in recent years – though I’m definitely seeing some recent dessert recipes that call for unflavored gelatin, so maybe they’re coming back.

    1. I hope that you had a wonderful Memorial Day. Too bad that I can’t share some Strawberry Bavarian Cream virtually. It would have been the perfect dessert on a hot day like today.

    1. Molded desserts like this definitely were more popular a hundred-years-ago than what they are now – which is a pity, because it’s a lovely dessert that makes a beautiful presentation.

  4. My mother loved Bavarian Cream. It was a dessert favorite at a tearoom in Harrisburg PA, the Brendix, that was in business for many years, until the mid-1960s, as I recall. I loved to lunch there with her. I’ve never made it but perhaps you’ve inspired me.

    1. You should try making it. I think that you’ll like it. Bavarian cream isn’t difficult to make. You just need to plan ahead to give it time to chill. I also am a native of Pennsylvania – and, though I was never to the Brendix, your comment brings back wonderful memories of several tearooms in small towns a little further north in the state.

  5. Sheryl, I was going to make this recipe for dessert tonight but question the size of the envelopes of gelatin. Your modern recipe calls for 2 1-ounce envelopes of unflavored gelatin. My store sells only a 4-pack (total of 1 ounce) box of gelatin with each envelope being .25 ounce. It seems 8 envelopes of .25 ounce gelatin would be too much for this recipe. Would you please double check the size of the gelatin envelopes? Thanks.

    1. Whew, you’re absolutely right. I used Knox Unflavored Gelatine and each envelop contains 0.25 ounce. I used 2 envelops for a total amount of 0.5 ounce. I corrected the recipe. Thank you! I hope that you’ll try this recipe another day.

      1. I made the dessert today and used just 2 envelopes for a total of .5 oz. and it worked just fine. I also used a food processor as my potato masher was not getting the strawberry pieces into the correct size. It was a light summer dessert and my guests seemed to enjoy it. Next time I think I will let the gelatin/fruit mixture thicken a bit in the fridge before folding in the whipped cream. I really enjoy these vintage recipes that you post in your blog, Sheryl. Thank you!

        1. I’m glad that you were able to go ahead and make this recipe, and that it turned out fine. Other readers will appreciate your notes and suggestions. Old recipes like these require so much interpretation, and readers comments about their experiences really help. Thank you for the kind words. I have so much fun doing this blog, and it’s wonderful to hear when someone enjoys it.

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