Are you looking for a Valentine dessert that breaks away from the expected chocolate course but still suggests romance? Leave it to the French to create something that is beautiful, delicious, and easy to make, and speaks the language of love.
Coeur à la Crème is a heart-shaped pillow of sweetened cheese and cream. It is usually displayed against a background of deep red contributed by a coulis of raspberries or strawberries, although your imagination is the only limit here. Its name means “heart of cream.”
This stunning dessert is simple to prepare but it requires a special heart-shaped mold that has tiny holes in the bottom to allow liquids to drain. After an overnight stay in the fridge it is firm and ready to be unmolded and garnished.
The origins of Coeur à la Crème are somewhat vague.
It’s described as a “traditional” dessert but it doesn’t appear in many cookbooks–not even Julia’s. My guess is that it originated around the city of Angers in the Loire Valley.
There is a celebrated local dessert called Crémet d’Anjou, which bears a strong resemblance. The Crémet is made with fromage blanc–which is similar to farmer’s cheese–cream, egg whites for volume, and a bit of sugar.
Crémet d’Anjou is shaped like a tower, not unlike the massive towers that form the exterior of the 9th century Chateau d’Angers. As the dessert made its way over the pond to America the egg whites slipped off the recipe and the heart shape was embraced.
Select your recipe
I wish I could say there is a standard recipe for Coeur à la Crème, but no two recipes are the same.
For the dessert pictured here I took elements from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa website and Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook, Around my French Table, which is one of the dozen or so French cookbooks on my shelf. Both women are expert recipe writers (a much-underappreciated skill) so I felt confident following their lead with only a day to go before dinner guests were to arrive.
The photo at the top is the result. It was light and billowy and just sweet enough to make us happy.
I used raspberries because I wanted a vivid red, but any berries can be used. Try a ribbon of chocolate sauce or add some Cointreau to your berry mixture. (Cointreau was created in 1875 at the Cointreau distillery in Angers.)
Once you master traditional Coeur à la Crème you’ll want to meet its more sinful cousin, Chocolate Coeur à la Crème. Will the pleasure never end?
Coeur à la Crème with Raspberries
Ingredients and equipment
- 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/4 C. confectioners’ sugar
- 1 C. cold heavy cream
- 1/4 C. sour cream
- 1 t. pure vanilla extract
- 1 t. rum or brandy
- One 12 oz. package frozen raspberries
- Fresh raspberries for garnish
- One 7” heart-shaped mold with holes for drainage or two 4” molds
- Cheesecloth for lining the mold
- Platter or plates for unmolding
Prep the mold
- Cut a double layer of cheesecloth 2 ½ times the width of each mold. Lightly dampen the cheesecloth and line the bottom of the mold, making sure the cloth is tucked into edges. Let the excess drape over the sides.
Make the filling
- Place the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on high speed for 2 minutes. Add vanilla and brandy and continue mixing until blended. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the cheese mixture into another bowl.
- Change the beater for the whisk attachment. Pour cream into the original bowl—no need to clean it first—and whip until it is like a very thick whipped cream.
- Use a spatula to fold about a quarter of the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture until it is soft. Add the rest of the whipped cream and fold until completely blended.
- Scoop the cream mixture into the mold, pressing lightly around the edges to fill the shape of the mold. Fold the extra cheesecloth over the top, place on a tray to catch any liquids, and refrigerate overnight.
- Defrost the raspberries by submerging sealed package in a bowl of cold water for 30 to 40 minutes, or overnight in the refrigerator.
- Remove the mold and tray from the refrigerator. Discard the liquid, then peel back the cheesecloth covering the top. Gently unmold the cream onto a platter or plate (turn it upside down over the top of the mold, then flip both so the mold is upside down on top of the platter). Remove the cheesecloth to expose heart-shaped cream.
- Puree raspberries, then strain to remove seeds. Add sugar or a liqueur like Grand Marnier to taste.
- Drizzle raspberry sauce around the base. Serve with raspberries and extra sauce.
The 7-inch mold serves 6
Find the equipment you need here
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