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Creme de papaya is a frozen dessert most popular in Brazil. Its basic recipe is quite simple, calling only for fresh papayas, vanilla ice cream, and milk, often topped with a splash of creme de cassis liqueur. Cooks typically serve the dessert in shallow bowls or glasses. Its consistency is almost always that of a frozen pudding, not a drink. Controlling the thickness is usually a matter of manipulating the papaya and ice cream proportions so that the end result is not too watery.
Papayas grow particularly well in many parts of Brazil, particularly near the coasts. Dessert aficionados in that country have long been crafting dishes with the sweet fruit, and creme de papaya is but one example. It is most commonly served in the summer, but is popular year-round.
Fresh papayas are very important to the overall flavor of the finished dessert. Frozen fruit will work in a pinch, but comes at a cost. Most frozen fruit papaya pieces do not contain the concentration of flavor, tenderness, or natural juice of their fresh counterparts. Cooks outside of the papya's main growing area must often resort to the freezer to make the dessert, but often find that they need to augment their final product with a bit more liquid.
Milk is the most common liquid used in creme de papaya, but fruit juices are common substitutions. The vanilla ice cream can also be swapped for other flavors, particularly coconut. It is important that papaya remains the focal point, however.
Creme de papaya is easy to make at home, and is a popular dessert both for families and party hosts. It is also a facet of many Brazilian restaurants, both domestic and international. Restaurants around the world that serve Brazilian, or sometimes even just South American, food often feature creme de papaya on their menus. The dessert is easy to prepare, but makes a strong impression.
Not much is involved in preparation other than a blender and ingredients at the ready. Owing to the ice cream, however, creme de papya, like most frozen desserts, does not last or store well. It must usually be served immediately after blending.
Adult diners commonly top their creme de papaya with a splash of creme de cassis, a black current liqueur that is deep purple in color. Most of the time, this liqueur is poured straight over the top of individual portions, but can also be put in the bottom of each serving dish. The contrast in colors between the vibrant orange pudding and the purple liqueur adds a great deal of interest, especially when served in clear glass. Cooks often garnish the finished product with a mint leaf.
It is sometimes possible to make creme de papaya with gelatin instead of ice cream. Such a preparation is a step away from the traditional Brazilian dessert, but captures the look and general flavor. The gelatin also adds longevity: this variation can usually be stored for at least a couple of days. It gets its stiffness from the gelatin, not the frozen ice cream. Many commercial manufacturers inside of Brazil sell prepackaged desserts made in this way, and also sell packets for quick home preparation.