Why Creme Celeste Is a Southern Classic

Is there any gelatin dessert more elegant than this one?

Spiced Coconut-Cherry Mold
Photo: Hector Sanchez

The 1970s and 1980s brought us plenty of memorable gelatin-based desserts—Orange Sherbet Salad, Christmas Snow Salad, Cherry Cola Salad, we could go on and on. There are even a few congealed sides and main dishes we remember fondly (Sea Breeze Spinach Mold, anyone?). However, most of these congealed dishes aren't recipes we regularly reach for, because they tend to steal focus from dinner's main event. That said, there's one congealed dessert that has claimed a permanent place in our recipe boxes. It's the gelatin-based dish we find ourselves making again and again, and it's called Crème Celeste.

Crème Celeste is the dessert you serve when you really want to impress. It's appropriate for any dinner party. Although it seems incredibly fancy, this dish has a secret: It couldn't be easier to make. Serve it as a centerpiece in a big, beautiful mold or in individual ramekins. While your guests are fawning over the jiggly, milky white mounds of creamy gelatin (which decades of experience have taught us they are bound to do), you'll smile to yourself because you know it took you only 15 minutes to put together.

As for the flavor? It's delicious. Crème Celeste is sweet, tart, and tantalizingly subtle, which makes it so customizable. The lush base takes macerated fruit, crushed nuts, slivered almonds, a drizzle of something sweet—really, any of your favorite dessert-appropriate additions.

If you'd like to try out this dessert for your next dinner party, look to a classic Crème Celeste recipe like this one shared by Just a Pinch Recipes. The ingredients list calls for heavy cream, sugar, gelatin, water, and sour cream, and the method requires a bit of attention on the stovetop as well as some setting in the refrigerator, but hands-on time is minimal.

For other options, there's also this recipe shared by Kraft Canada, which substitutes yogurt for the usual addition of sour cream. Another version is this recipe found on Epicurious, which garnishes the Crème Celeste with the sweet-tart flavor of balsamic-macerated strawberries.

There are few gelatin desserts more elegant than this one. Serve it up with your favorite garnish the next time you want to impress.

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Is Crème Celeste one of your go-to desserts for fancy occasions? If you've never tried it before, is your interest piqued?

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