What is the difference between a Parfait and a Sundae? Parfait is a French word meaning ‘perfect’ in English. Traditionally it is a dessert made from eggs, sugar, syrup and cream . These are heated up together and whipped to create a custard-like consistency, that is then flavoured with fruit or other ingredients, and frozen. Parfait is often frozen into moulds and served as slices, cubes or in individual containers to create beautiful shapes when it is turned out onto a serving platter.
The meaning has expanded over the years to include other types of desserts that contain cream, ice cream or mousse. These are generally layered with ingredients such as jelly, cake, fruit and toppings, and served in a tall glass. This is where they can become confused with Sundaes, as the presentation can often look the same. A true parfait will contain eggs and will have been subjected to some kind of cooking process, whereas a Sundae generally has either soft serve or hard ice cream as its main ingredient, together with some syrup and topping.
Another version of the Parfait uses ricotta as its main ingredient, which is then blended with sugar, cream and water, and frozen. This recipe doesn’t require a cooking process and is a quick and simple way to create a special but very tasty treat.
As for the Sundae, there are a number of versions of how it came to get the name. Some claim it was invented by a Mr. Sonntag from Illinois in 1890 who named the dish after himself (Sonntag means “Sunday” in German). Others claim that it is a variant of the ice cream soda that was banned from sale on Sundays in the 1890’s in Illinois because it was too showy. The soda was taken out and just the ice cream and syrup was sold, along with a name change that was slightly different from the traditional Sunday sabbath name so it wouldn’t be confused. Yet another version claims that this treat was sold back in 1890 in Wisconsin but only on Sundays. The spelling apparently was changed when a glass salesman ordered canoe-shaped dishes.
What is certain is that Sundaes and Parfaits have been around a long time, and their popularity (apart from their wonderful taste) is partly due to the sheer amount of creative flavours and toppings available, which means there is something to suit everyone. Soft serve ice cream is a particularly good way to create a memorable Parfait experience for customers in a commercial setting because it can be flavoured and coloured easily, and is lighter than hard ice cream. This means it works well with layering of ingredients and makes it easier to eat.
So whether you choose a Sundae or Parfait this summer, you can be sure you are tasting a little bit of history and a experiencing a little bit of heaven at the same time.