Crème de la crème: The Origins of Sweet Chantilly

Crème de la crème: The Origins of Sweet Chantilly

Liberally slathered on fresh berries, swirled on Café liégeois or piped on crêpes, crème Chantilly has hit the sweet spot since Catherine de’ Medici introduced it to the French court in the 16th century. Or was it Vatel in the 17th? The Prince of Condé in the 18th? Chantilly’s origins remain one of the greatest mysteries in culinary history – which only adds to the appeal.

For years, its invention was attributed to François Vatel, who reportedly whipped up an early version of France’s fêted crème fouettée for Louis XIV at Vaux-le-Vicomte’s ill-fated inaugural banquet in 1661 – which saw the Sun King sentence its owner, Nicolas Fouquet, to life imprisonment (officially for embezzlement, but really because he couldn’t stand to be upstaged by his Minister of Finance’s snazzy new digs). Amid the scandal, Vatel’s sugar-dusted cream was all but forgotten by gossip-mongering courtiers. The story goes that he later served up a more elaborate version of the cream at the Château de Chantilly, having previously whisked it with a boxwood branch.

waffles with Chantilly cream

This creation story has since been debunked in favour of two far more likely theories. The first one, though, is a tad harder to digest for the French as it exposes the country’s favourite topping as an Italian export, courtesy of Catherine de’ Medici, who purportedly initiated her kitchen staff to the cream-whipping technique already in vogue in her native land.

The preferred version, of course, is that France’s guiltiest pleasure was dreamt up by the Prince de Condé in, you guessed it, the town of Chantilly. One thing is certain: not all whipped cream can lay claim to the Chantilly name. In order to be bona fide crème Chantilly, the calorie-laden swirls must be made using cream containing at least 35 per cent fat, vanilla and confectioners’ sugar for that light and fluffy finish.


From gaufres to crêpes and even a spoonful of chocolate spread, there is nothing a dollop of Chantilly can’t elevate

Chocolate topped with Chantilly cream

We can’t think of a sweeter pleasure than wolfing down warm waffles lathered in Chantilly and sprinkled with berries. Unless, of course, you add crème de marrons to the mix.

A diabetic’s nightmare, chocolate pudding or plain old Nutella topped with Chantilly is a favourite with kiddiewinks – usually served in a small glass or, if your nan is feeling particularly generous, a bowl!

Nothing beats France’s triple threat – lemon (or orange) drizzle, sugar and a hefty dollop of Chantilly – the lot stuffed into and dusted on a stack of crêpes. Ça se mange sans faim!

From France Today magazine

crêpes with Chantilly

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  • choosie soosie
    2019-04-12 01:12:05
    choosie soosie
    But you have left out the most important facts: How, please, is creme Chantilly different from whipped cream? I've had Chantilly, and it is richer, sweeter, with a far different texture from whipped cream. Everyone at the cafe at Chantilly swore it is the same, but anyone with taste buds knows it is different. So --what gives?


  • Janeth
    2019-04-03 23:56:50
    oh mon doux seigneur! I have not had real Chantilly since I left Paris in 1976. Looking at these crepe with the orange sauce and the Chantilly has brought tears to my eyes! Nothing compares to the Chantilly! It's absolute perfection. Now I must go to the market and get the ingredients to whip up a beautiful batch and watch my glucose level aller haut ciel!!


  • stephencooksfrench
    2019-04-03 19:17:14
    Thank you for this delicious explanation of crème Chantilly - which English television cookery programmes drive my French partner and me to distraction by pronouncing as 'crème shon-tilly' (rhyming it with silly). I shall whip myself up a batch and treat myself to a café liegois in the near future - and post it on my blog: Bon appetit