In France, parfait refers to a frozen dessert made from a base of sugar syrup, egg, and cream. A parfait contains enough fat, sugar, alcohol, and/or, to a lesser extent, air to allow it to be made by stirring infrequently while freezing, making it possible to create in a home kitchen without specialist equipment. The fat, sugar, alcohol or air interferes with the formation of water crystals, which would otherwise give the ice cream an uncomfortable texture in the mouth. The formation of ice crystals is managed in the making of regular ice cream by agitating the ice cream constantly while it freezes or chemically by adding glycerol. Neither should be necessary when making a high-quality parfait.
In the United States, parfait refers to either the traditional French-style dessert or to a popular variant, the American parfait, made by layering parfait cream, ice cream, and/or flavored gelatins in a tall, clear glass, and topping the creation with whipped cream, fresh or canned fruit, and/or liqueurs.