This creamy dessert features classic Italian vanilla panna cotta topped with a rich homemade cherry syrup. This Cherry Panna Cotta can be made ahead and is ideal for entertaining guests during summer months!
If you're in doubt about what dessert to make for hosting guests in summer, go for Panna Cotta. Panna cotta requires minimal hands-on work, and is a perfect make ahead creamy dessert and a great way to finish your summer meal! It's cherry season and what's better than pairing simple classic vanilla panna cotta with a homemade cherry sauce? This cherry panna cotta is simple, delicious, and will leave your guests impressed!
Panna Cotta is Italian for "cooked cream". It's a very basic creamy pudding made from heavy (or fresh) cream and sometimes milk, which is thickened with gelatin and chilled until set. It has a very smooth, silky texture with a milky and slightly sweet taste. It is typically topped with fresh fruit, fruity sauces, nuts, caramel, or chocolate syrup.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- A simple, make-ahead dessert, requiring minimal effort and hands-on time.
- Requires a handful of easily-accessible ingredients.
- Can be topped with your favourite toppings or fresh seasonal fruit.
- A "sophisticated" cold dessert, that is creamy, silky, and perfect for entertaining guests in the hot summer months!
Ingredients and Variations
To make Panna Cotta from Scratch, you will need:
- Fresh Cream - or whipping cream (or heavy cream)
- Milk - You can use semi-skimmed or whole milk
- Sugar - Granulated sugar works best
- Vanilla - Use good quality vanilla extract
- Gelatin - This is super important if you want your panna cotta to set! Use unflavored gelatin powder. Remember, gelatin needs to be sprinkled over cold water and allowed to "bloom" for a few minutes before adding to the panna cotta. You can also use gelatin leaves instead of powder, but these also need to be submerged in water for a few minutes before using.
- Cold Water - to bloom the gelatin (this is later added to the cooked cream)
For the Cherry topping, you will need:
- Cherries - Use fresh or frozen cherries. You can also use other berries or mixed berries of your choice.
- Sugar - Use granulated sugar.
- Cinnamon Stick - This is optional but provides an amazing cinnamon kick
- Cornstarch - or cornflour. Thickening agent for the cherry syrup
- Cold Water - to dissolve cornstarch. Make sure the water is cold
How to Make Panna Cotta From Scratch + Tips
Before you start, it is essential that you weigh out and measure your ingredients properly. Achieving the perfect panna cotta can be tricky if you do not use a proper ingredient ratio (particularly for the cream, milk, and gelatin). It's also super important to allow enough time (4-5) hours for the panna cotta to set in a refrigerator.
The cherry sauce can be made while the vanilla panna cotta is setting in the fridge. Make sure that the sauce has cooled down completely before adding to the panna cotta. Using hot or very warm sauce may cause this layer to sink into the panna cotta.
- Bloom the gelatin: Place cold water in a bowl and sprinkle the gelatin powder over it. Allow to sit for 5-7 minutes. This is known as the "blooming" process and is an integral step to achieving a smooth panna cotta. If using gelatin leaves, submerge these into a bowl of water (you may need more water than what is in the recipe) for 5-7 minutes.
- Warm heavy cream, sugar, milk, and vanilla in a saucepan on medium heat. Stir the mixture frequently using a wooden spoon. Turn off heat as soon as the mixture just begins to simmer (you will see a few bubbles at the side of the saucepan). Do not boil the mixture.
- Whilst the panna cotta mixture is still warm, add the bloomed gelatin powder (and water) to the mixture. If using gelatin leaves, squeeze any excess water out of them and place in saucepan (you do not need to add extra water when using gelatin leaves). Whisk the mixture until smooth.
TIP: If any gelatin granules remain, turn on heat to low and whisk the gelatin until completely dissolved without letting the mixture boil (this is important!).
- Allow the mixture to cool slightly (around 5 minutes), then divide it between 3 serving glasses. Cover the tops of the glasses with plastic wrap and transfer to a refrigerator. Chill for 4-5 hours.
TIP: Use a funnel to avoid spilling panna cotta to the sides of the glass.
- The consistency of a set panna cotta should be just firm but smooth, and the center of the panna cotta should wobble or quiver gently when the glass is touched.
How to Make Panna Cotta Cherry Sauce
- Wash, drain, pit, and halve the cherries.
- Place cherries, sugar, and cinnamon stick in a small saucepan on medium heat.
- Place some cold water in a small bowl and cornstarch. Stir until dissolved. Add mixture to saucepan.
- Stir mixture until sugar has dissolved, then simmer on medium-low heat for 12-15 minutes. If mixture starts to dry out, add 2-3 tbsp. of water and lower the heat.
- Once cherries have softened and mixture has thickened, transfer to a glass bowl and allow to cool completely.
- Top set panna cotta with cooled cherry mixture (1-2 tbsp. each).
How Long Does Cherry Panna Cotta Keep For? Can It Be Made Ahead?
This cherry panna cotta can be made ahead and stored, covered, in a refrigerator for up to 3 days. Ideally, add the cherry sauce before serving.
Why Didn't My Panna Cotta Set?
- Make sure to measure and weigh your ingredients before starting. This is very important to achieve the correct ingredient ratio.
- Make sure the gelatin melts all the way in the mixture. If you still see gelatin granules, reheat the panna cotta on low heat and whisk untill all the gelatin is dissolved.
- Do not boil the panna cotta mixture at any point, especially after adding the gelatin. If you boil gelatin, it will lose its "thickening power" and your panna cotta will not set properly.
- Allow the panna cotta enough time to set (around 4-5 hours in the fridge). Only make this dessert if you have enough time for it to set 🙂
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Cherry Panna Cotta
- 250 mL heavy cream or whipping cream or fresh cream (1 cup)
- 125 mL semi-skimmed or whole milk (½ cup)
- 6 g gelatine (2 tsps. or 1 sachet) see notes
- 3 tbsp. water cold
- 4 tbsp. granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 170 g fresh cherries (¾ cup), halved and pitted
- 1 ½ tbsp. sugar
- 4 tbsp. water cold
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 ½ tsp. corn starch
- Bloom gelatine: Place 4 tbsp water in a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin powder over water and leave to sit for 5-7 minutes. (If using gelatin leaves, submerge the leaves in a bowl of cold water and allow to sit for 5-7 minutes. After 5-7 minutes, remove the leaves from the water and squeeze out any excess moisture before adding to warmed cream - do not add the extra water).
- Whilst gelatine is blooming, place heavy cream, sugar, milk, and vanilla extract in a small saucepan on medium heat, stirring frequently. Remove from heat as soon as the mixture just begins to simmer (you will see a few bubbles at the side of the saucepan).
- Add gelatin mixture (or leaves) and stir well to incorporate, making sure all gelatine dissolved.
- Allow the mixture to cool slightly, and divide between 3 serving glasses. Cover the tops of the glasses with plastic wrap and transfer to a refrigerator and chill for 4-5 hours to set. Whilst the panna cotta is setting, prepare the cherry topping.The consistency should be just firm but smooth, and the center of the panna cotta should wobble or quiver gently when the glass is touched.
- Cherry topping: Place cold water in a small bowl, add corn flour and stir until dissolved. Place sugar, cold water, and corn flour mixture in a saucepan on medium heat. Add cherries (halved and pitted) and cinnamon sticks and simmer for 12-15 minutes until thick syrup is formed and cherries have softened. Transfer cherry topping mixture to a medium bowl and allow to cool completely.
- Divide the cherry topping between the panna cotta glasses (about 1-2 tbsp. of topping for each glass). Serve chilled.