For April Fools Day... a variety of Fools

While most of the Fool recipes were for Gooseberry, other cooked and mashed fruits included Strawberry, Raspberry, Apple, Orange, Cherry or Rhubarb.

Two Fools which had a cooked custard poured over slices of bread were Hannah Woolley’s 1675 Norfolk Fool and a Westminster Fool from Hannah Glasse (1774) with the slices sprinkled with sack.

Gooseberry Fools were made with cooked and strained berries, which were then mixed with a cooked egg custard or just cream without eggs. Charles Carter wrote in his 1749 receipt – “If you make it with cream, you need not put any eggs in…” Some authors with gooseberry fool recipes were: Smith, Robert. Court Cookery: or, The Compleat English Cook. London: 1725. Carter, Charles. The London and Country Cook. (two recipes) London: 1749. Glasse, Hannah. The Art of Cookery. London: 1774. Randolph, Mary. Virginia Housewife. Baltimore: 1838. Leslie, Eliza. Directions for Cookery. Philadelphia: 1840. Beeton, Isabella. The Book of Household Management. London: 1861. Gillette, F.L. White House Cook Book. Chicago: 1887.

Later dishes were made by just mixing the fruit puree with whipped heavy cream as seen in the last recipes for Strawberry Fool (photo below), frozen Strawberry Fool and Eton Mess.

A Norfolk-Fool. 1675
Take a quart of thick sweet Cream, and set it a-boiling in a clear scoured Skillet, with some large Mace and whole Cinamon; having boiled a little while, take the yolks of five or six Eggs beaten well and put to it; being off the fire, take out the Cinamon and Mace; the Cream being pretty thick, slice a fine Manchet [bread] into thin slices as many as will cover the bottom of the Dish, and then pour on the Cream; trim the Dish with carved Sippets; and stick it with sliced Dates and scrap Sugar all over it. [Woolley, Hannah. The Gentlewoman's Companion. 1675]

To make a Westminster fool. 1774
TAKE a penny loaf, cut it into thin slices, wet them with sack, by them in the bottom of a dish: take a quart of cream, beat up fix eggs, two spoonsfuls of rose-water, a blade of mace, and some grated nutmeg. Sweeten to your taste. Put all this into a sauce pan, and keep stirring all the time over a slow fire, for fear of curdling. When it begins to be thick, pour it into the dish over the bread. Let it stand till it is cold, and serve it up. [Glasse, Hannah. The Art of Cookery. London: 1774]

To make a gooseberry fool 1749
Take two quarts of gooseberries, set them on the fire in about a quart of water. When they begin to simmer, and turn yellow, and begin to plump, throw them into a cullender to drain the water out; then with the back of a spoon carefully squeeze the pulp, throw the sieve into a dish, make them pretty sweet, and let them stand till they are cold. In the mean time take two quarts of new milk, and the yolks of four eggs, beat up with a little grated nutmeg; stir it softly over a slow fire, when it begins to simmer take it off, and by degrees stir it into the gooseberries. Let it stand till it is cold, and serve it up. If you make it with cream, you need not put any eggs in: and if it is not thick enough, it is only boiling more gooseberries. But that you must do as you think proper. [Carter, Charles. The London and Country Cook. London: 1749]

Gooseberry-Fool. 1857
Put the fruit into a stone jar, with some good Lisbon sugar; set the jar on a stove, or in a sauce-pan of water over the fire; if the former, a large spoonful of water should be added to the fruit. When it is done enough to pulp, press it through a cullender; have ready a tea-cupful of new milk and the same quantity of raw cream boiled together, and left to be cold; then sweeten pretty well with fine Lisbon sugar, and mix the pulp by degrees with it. [Hale, Sarah. Mrs. Hale's New Cook Book: A Practical System for Private Families. Phila: 1857]

To make an orange fool. 1774
TAKE the juice of six oranges and six eggs well beaten, a pint of cream, a quarter of a pound of sugar, a little cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix all together, and keep stirring over a slow fire till it is thick, then put in a little piece of butter, and keep stirring till cold, and dish it up. [Glasse, Hannah. The Art of Cookery. London: 1774]

Rhubarb Fool 1861
Scald a quart of rhubarb, carefully peeled, and cut into pieces an inch long; pulp it through a sieve, sweeten, and let it stand to cool. Put a pint of cream or new milk into a stewpan, with a stick of cinnamon, a small piece of lemon peel, a few cloves, coriander-seed, and sugar to taste; boil for ten minutes. Beat up the yolks of four eggs, add a little flour, stir up the cream, set the whole over the fire till it boils, stirring in the meantime. Remove and let it stand till cold. Mix the fruit and cream together, add a little nutmeg, and serve. [Philip, Robert Kemp. The Dictionary of Daily Wants. London: 1861]

Gooseberry or Apple Fool. 1864
Stew green gooseberries or apples, peeled or cored; add to them a little moist sugar, enough to draw the juice, to two quarts of fruit a quarter of a pound of sugar. When quite tender, pulp through a coarse sieve; add what more sugar is necessary to your taste, and a quart of new milk warm from the cow; if not from the cow, warm it by the fire; a tea-cup full of cream; mix with it an egg, or two yolks, well beaten. Let it thicken in the milk; be careful it does not boil. When cold, mix the fruit, and stir all together till well united. A little grated ginger is an improvement, nutmeg and lemon rind also, and half a glass of brandy. [Sanderson, J.M. The Complete Cook. Philadelphia: 1864]

Cherry fool 1908
Cherries boiled with sugar and water crushed and sieved, syruped with wine; served on glazed bread.[Heppe, Kurt.Explanations of All Terms Used in Coockery –Cellaring.NYC: 1908]

Strawberry and Raspberry Fool. 1764
Take a pint of raspberries, squeeze and strain the juice, with a spoonful of orange water, put to the juice six ounces of fine sugar, and boil it over the fire; then take a pint of cream and boil it, mix them all well together, and heat them over the fire, but not to boil, if it do it will curdle; stir it till it be cold, put it into your bason and keep it for use. [Moxon, Elizabeth. English Housewifry: Exemplified in Above Four Hundred and Fifty Receipts ... London: 1764]

To make Strawberry Fool. 1795
TAKE a quart of cream, let it boil, take it off, stir it till pretty cold, have ready beat with a little thick cream six yolks of eggs, and put to it, sweeten it to your taste with sifted sugar; add a quart of strawberries, make it hot, and serve it up, this is a pretty corner dish. [Martin, Sarah. The New Experienced English Housekeeper. Doncaster: 1795]

Strawberry Fool. For Six Persons. 1886
1 pot of strawberry jam ; 1 ½ pint [3 C] of milk ; 1 egg. Press either fresh fruit or strawberry jam through a hair sieve with the back of a wooden spoon. Simmer some milk with the yolk of an egg beaten up in it; add the cream when cooling and stir all the ingredients into the fruit. Serve cold. [Allen, Mary. Savouries and Sweets suitable for Luncheons and Dinners. London: 1886]


Iced Strawberry Fool. 1892
There is no mystery about strawberry fool, as you seem to imagine; it is simply a glorified form of the strawberry mash of our childhood, but it must be well iced and served in a large antique china bowl or antique tea-cups with saucers. Glass custard cups are never seen now at smart tables. Pick 3 lbs. of ripe strawberries, and mash them with a wooden spoon in a basin, together with 1 lb. of castor sugar, the juice of a lemon, and a few drops of carmine. Rub this through a hair sieve, and add a pint and a half of stiffly whipped cream and a sherry glass of Maraschino. Freeze in a pewter can, buried in ice and salt, for two hours, or in an ice cave, if you possess one. [Earl, Ether. Dinners in miniature. London: 1892]


In the following recipe from Gouffe’s 1874 book, "double cream" or heavy whipping cream is whipped and mixed with the fruit puree… either gooseberry or strawberry. In a triffle recipe he suggested a way to decorate with the whipped cream. Colour some of the whipped cream pink and some chocolate, put these separately into paper cones, press the coloured cream out in patterns on the white cream and serve.

Strawberry Fool 1874
Rub some strawberries through a fine hair sieve; Mix the [uncooked strawberry] puree with some sugar and whipped cream as directed in the preceding recipe (Sweeten the puree to taste with some pounded sugar, and mix in 1/2 pint of well whipped double cream to every pint of the puree) and serve the strawberry fool in the same way. (fool in custard cups, or in a pie-dish with some baked puff paste patterns glazed with a red-hot salamander placed on the gooseberry fool) [Gouffe, Jules. The Royal Book of Pastry and Confectionery. London: 1874]

Eton Mess
Eton Mess is a dessert of whipped cream, fruit and broken meringue pieces. In 1893, “Eton Mess aux Fraises” [with strawberries] was served at the grand garden party at Marlborough House on the eve of the Duke of York's marriage with Princess May of Teck, attended by Queen Victoria and other royalty. [Beavan, Arthur. Marlborough house and its occupants: present and past. 1896]

In a recipe for a Fool made with whipped cream and fruit, Mary Allen (1886) said crumbled lady fingers were “a nice addition.”

©2006 Patricia Bixler Reber