There’s nothing quite like it in the world. Amarula is a cream liqueur made from sugar, cream and the fruit borne from the African marula tree. Containing 17% alcohol by volume, it packs quite a boozy punch. The fruits of this tipsy-making tree have long been enjoyed by elephants in the African veld, and the alcoholic cream beverage has since inception been enjoyed the world over, especially in Brazil. Amarula Cream, officially marketed by Distell in 1989, won a gold medal at the 2006 San Francisco World Spirits Competition and is today a staple in every South African bar around the globe. If you’ve recently received a bottle of Amarula as a gift, or you’re thinking about making an Amarula dessert to take to a dinner party as a taste of your home country, South Africa, we’ve got all the sweet inspiration you need, right here, plus the story behind the liqueur, which should make for a great dinner table anecdote.
The marula tree: Africa’s fruit
Marula trees have sustained human and animal life for thousands of years, with archaeological evidence proving it a source of nutrition as far back as 10,000 B.C. Marula, Scelerocarya birrea, is a uniquely African botanical bounty – both the fruit and its nut is rich in minerals and vitamins. A tree with many benefits, every part of it can be used, from the bark to the leaves, fruit, nuts and kernels.
Known in Africa as “The Elephant Tree” because elephants travel for miles to feast on the sun-fermented fruit, the marula tree also features in tribal fertility rituals and is said to have powerful aphrodisiac properties, thus earning its title as “The Marriage Tree”. As the fruit ripens in summer, many parts of Southern Africa get ready to celebrate. In Swaziland the annual marula festival takes place at the king’s royal residence, in keeping with the African tradition that it is the fruit of kings and queens.
How do elephants fit into the picture?
Best known for its fruit that drives elephants mad, the ripe golden globes drop to the ground and ferment lightly in the sun. Much like humans, when elephants consume fermented marula fruit, they too become tipsy. Because of the association between the marula tree, and the enjoyment elephants derive from consuming its boozy fruit, the distiller of Amarula Cream brought the elephant into the branding imagery, and is a staunch supporter and advocate for elephant conservation efforts, co-funding the Amarula Elephant Research Programme at the University of Natal, Durban, and in 2019, Amarula removed the elephant from bottle branding to highlight the need for conservation efforts before extinction becomes our reality.
The making of Amarula Cream
Sun-ripened and hand-gathered, the marula fruit is de-stoned, the flesh is pulped for fermentation, which results in the production of a wine-like substance. This is then distilled and aged in French oak barrels for no less than two years, during which the liquid absorbs the wood spice notes of vanilla and crisp toast. Once aged, rich dairy cream is infused to give Amarula its velvety smooth texture and finish.
A truly African phenomenon, the marula trees cannot be cultivated. Resisting all human attempts to do so, these trees grow only where they choose. It happens only once a year that the female trees bear their much-anticipated fruit and the elephants travel incredible distances, trunks in search of the sweet scent of ripe marula fruit. When the elephants arrive, is when the harvest begins and local communities carefully hand gather the fruit, once the elephants have had their fill.
Bonus: What does Amarula Cream taste like? Read this review of eight shots of Amarula and prepare to giggle.
What desserts can be made with Amarula Cream?
The only limit here is your imagination, but if you’re looking for Amarula cream recipes, we’ve curated them for you right here. Amarula Cream has a slightly caramel, fruity flavour and pairs exceptionally well with dark chocolate and dark berries. In addition to Amarula desserts, if you’re feeling adventurous, there are many ways to use this fruity liqueur in creating exceptional main course dishes, appetizers and creamy cocktails.
Here are our favourite Amarula recipes, for your enjoyment:
- Amarula Malva Pudding with rooibos custard recipe – The perfect blend between the three favourites: Malva, Amarula and Rooibos!
- Amarula fudge recipe – The sweet creaminess that Amarula offers combined with the sweetness of fudge… yum!
- Don Pedro – Classic South African dessert served with a classic South African beverage. Just classic.
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