Watch our historic foodways staff cook this recipe, then try it at home
Frothy with cream, wine and citrus, syllabubs are a great palate cleanser. The acids firm the cream, and once separation is achieved, you have a nice two-part dessert blend. Just one never seems quite enough.
The syllabub is a popular 18th century dessert consisting of cream treated with an acid, usually citrus juice, and mixed with wine. The different types of syllabubs are based upon their mixing style. Once placed in serving glasses, syllabubs separate into a two-part mixture when the cream rises and the clear liquids sink. When served on glass pyramids or salvers, they became the centerpiece of the dessert table. Although no refrigeration existed in the 18th century, 21st-century people are accustomed to dairy products served cold, so once made, place them in the refrigerator for storage. The surface of the cream is easily marred, so a small garnish of mint leaves, lemon slices or candied violets can cover any imperfections. There are three syllabub recipes here. The first two are shown on the video for instruction.
To Make Very Fine Syllabubs
Take a quart and a half a pint of cream, a pint of Rhenish, half a pint of sack, three lemons, near a pound of double refined sugar; beat and sift the sugar, and put it to your cream; grate off the rind of your three lemons, and put that in; squeeze the juice of the three lemons into your wine and put that to your cream, then beat altogether with a whisk just half an hour; then take it up altogether with a spoon and fill your glasses; it will keep good nine or ten days, and is best three or four days old; these are called the everlasting Syllabubs.
—Smith, Eliza, “The Complete Housewife,” 1753.
- 3 cups of heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup white wine (Rhine Wine or a Chablis)
- ½ cup Golden Sherry
- 1 ½ lemons (juice and peel)
- 1/4-1/2 cup sugar
- In a large mixing bowl, grate the lemon peel and juice the lemons.
- Add the wine and sherry to the lemons, then add sugar and whisk until sugar is dissolved.
- Add the cream all at once and whisk until it is light and frothy or to a peaking consistency.
- Gently fill your glasses. The mixture will separate in about two to three hours at room temperature. Once separated, they can be put into the refrigerator until consumed. If they go directly into the refrigerator, they will take six to eight hours to separate.
Note: These are the syllabubs most often seen when visiting us at the Governor’s Palace Kitchen. For something different, place a tablespoon or so of red wine in your glasses before spooning on the cream mixture. Once the separation occurs, you will have a blush liquid on the bottom that will contrast with the white cream on top.
To Make Whipped Syllabubs
Take a quart of thick cream, and half a pint of sack, the juice of two Seville oranges or lemons, grate the peel of the two lemons, half a pound of double refined sugar, pour it into a broad earthen pan, and whisk it well; but first sweeten some red wine or sack, and fill your glasses as full as you choose, then as the froth rises take it off with a spoon, and lay it on sieve to drain; then lay it carefully into your glasses till they are as full as they will hold: do not make these long before you use them. Many use cyder sweetened, or any wine you please, or lemon or orange whey made thus: squeeze the juice of a lemon, or orange into a quarter of a pint of milk, when the curd is hard, pour the whey clear off, and sweeten it to your palate; you may color some with the juice of spinage, some with saffron, and some with cochineal just as you fancy.
-Glasse, Hannah. “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy,” 1796.
- 2 cups of heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup of Golden Sherry
- 1 lemon (juice and peel)
- ½ cup sugar
- Red wine, sweetened if necessary
- In a large mixing bowl, grate the peel and juice the lemon. Add sherry, sugar and cream.
- Whip this mixture with a whisk until soft to firm peaks form.
- Dollop the whipped mixture into a sieve, screen, or strainer over a bowl, and allow to set for two hours.
- Fill your glasses three fourths full with the drained wine/juice mixture or the sweetened red wine.
- Gently spoon the mounds of strained cream on the glasses to top them off.
To Make Solid Syllabubs
One pint of cream, half a pint of wine, the juice and grated peel of one lemon, sweetened to your taste; put it in a wide mouthed bottle, shake it for ten minutes, then pour it into your glasses. It must be made the evening before it is to be used.
-Rutledge, Sarah. “The Carolina Housewife,” 1847.
- 2 cups of heavy whipping cream
- 2 cups of apple juice
- The rind and juice of one lemon
- 2 tablespoons of sugar
- Grate the lemon peel, juice the lemon, measure the cream and the apple juice. Place all in a large plastic container with a screw top. Insure the top is on firmly and does not leak.
- Pick up the container and shake until the sound changes from sloshing to muffled.
- Open the container and taste for sweetness. Depending on the taste and varieties of apple juice, little or no sugar may be added.
- Fill your glasses and let them sit until separated. Serve room temperature or chilled.
Note: This non-alcoholic recipe is great for kids to help with in the kitchen.