Make a Japanese Style Parfait

Sweet parfait
Kenji Mori Photographer in Japan / Getty Images

Parfaits are an iconic dessert in Japanese cuisine. Not only is the dessert a treat to our taste buds, but it's often a wonder to the eyes. Beautiful colors are layered between creamy ice cream and garnished with nicely cut slices of fruit and or delicious cookies. The parfait originated in France as a frozen dessert and was adopted by Japanese culture. It is now a fixture at Japanese cafes and family-style restaurants.

How to Assemble a Parfait:

  1. At the bottom of the parfait glass add cornflakes. Alternatively, add fruit jelly or whip cream.
  2. Next, layer ice cream or yogurt, followed by chocolate sauce or more fruit jam, depending on the theme of your parfait (fruit, chocolate, vanilla, coffee, etc.)
  3. Incorporate layers of fresh fruit or fruit gelatin.
  4. Layer with whip cream and more ice cream.
  5. Add more layers of chocolate sauce or fruit jam.
  6. Top the parfait with whip cream
  7. Add festive garnishes: cookies, sprinkles, fresh fruit or gelatin cubes.

What to Add to a Parfait:

1. Ice Cream 

The layered parfait is often filled with soft-serve ice cream, but it can be made at home using traditional ice cream or even frozen yogurt. If you prefer, ice cream can be substituted with Greek yogurt or plain or flavored yogurt.

2. Whip Cream

Have plenty of freshly made whole whipped cream, dessert cream such as Cool Whip, or a simple can of dairy or non-dairy whipped cream.

3. Chocolate Syrup or Hot Fudge

Pre-packaged chocolate syrup and/or hot fudge are perfect for making chocolate parfaits.

4. Fruit Sauces or Jams

Fruit parfaits are often layered with fruit sauces or jams. Choose from among the many flavors available at the supermarket. Some of the most popular flavors are strawberry and peach.

5. Fresh Fruit

Incorporate fresh fruit slices along with fruit sauces and jams.

6. Fruit Gelatin

Make fruit gelatin ahead of time by incorporating gelatin with canned fruit. Make the gelatin slightly firm so that it's easier to cut and keep its shape. Cut the gelatin into cubes to add to the parfait.

7. Coffee Gelatin

Coffee gelatin is quite popular in Japan. It is sweetened coffee mixed with gelatin to create a gelatin that is popular among adults. Coffee parfaits are also quite popular in Japan.

8. Sweet Red beans (Tsubuan)

Sweet red beans (tsubuan and koshian, or anko) are a staple in traditional Japanese desserts known as wagashi, but sweet red beans are often incorporated into desserts such as ice cream, shaved ice, cookies or even cakes to add a Japanese twist to otherwise Western desserts.

9. Cookies

Cookies are a popular garnish that is often found on top of parfaits. The most popular are those that are stick-shaped such as Poky Sticks (a Japanese brand of cookie) in various flavors (chocolate, strawberry, matcha, etc.) and wafer cookies which also come in various flavors. Other popular cookies that garnish parfaits are pirouline or Pirouette-brand rolled wafer cookies.

10. Cornflakes

One of my favorite additions to parfaits is plain cornflakes. Cornflakes are often layered towards the bottom of the parfait glass to add a surprise crunch that compliments ice cream quite well. 

11. Sprinkles

Colorful sprinkles or chocolate sprinkles are a popular garnish and make any parfait quite festive, especially for young children.

12. Nuts

Depending on the style of parfait, thinly sliced almonds or chopped almonds and peanuts are also a popular garnish.

13. Maraschino Cherry

Top the parfait with an optional maraschino cherry.