There are certain puddings that just sound fancy. Soufflé, zabaglione, pavlova. They breathe sophistication in their very names and, therefore, I can’t help thinking, are complicated to make. I’ve always put syllabub in that category, and assumed, in my absolute ignorance, that it would be a tricky recipe. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Syllabub is a cream-based pudding, which you stir alcohol into. The booze acts as a setting agent on the gently whipped cream, while also, of course, flavouring it. And really, that’s it: cream and your alcohol of choice, a little sugar, all whisked together. It takes less time to put together than it does to read the recipe.
The first written record of syllabub is John Heywood’s charming line, ‘You and I… Muste walke to him and eate a solybubbe’ in 1537, but it began life as a drink, and the recipe Hannah Glasse gives is not a terribly appetising one: in her 1774 Art of Cookery, she instructs the cook to whisk together cream, orange or lemon juice and ‘sack’ (wine), before pouring into glasses and allowing the cream to separate from the liquid. Thankfully, that’s not really how we eat it anymore: our proportions are different, and we’re a bit gentler with the mixture, so instead of a curdled drink, we get soft, airy waves of sweet, boozy cream.
There are lots of different ways to flavour syllabub: any type of citrus works well, ginger is popular, and I’ve also seen rhubarb, strawberry, and cherry. Nigella goes fragrant, using rose and orange water, for her delightful turkish delight syllabub. I’ve gone for the classic lemon here, and to accentuate the lemony notes, have used limoncello as my alcohol, but if you don’t have limoncello, you can replace with the same quantity of sherry, white wine or even brandy.
Makes: Serves 4
Takes: 5 minutes
Bakes: No time at all
600ml double cream
3 lemons, zested
2 lemons, juiced
200g caster sugar
1. Whisk together the sugar and double cream until they form soft peaks. The cream should hold its own weight, and when you lift out the whisk, peaks will form but they will bend over at the end.
2. Grate the zest into the mix, and add the lemon juice and limoncello, whisking it gently into the mix. Spoon into glasses or bowls, and leave to set for a couple of hours in the fridge.