Sunday, January 29, 2012

lemon syllabub


Looks like it sounds:


(Even though it looks quite silly. Actually, someone I know takes great delight in calling it "silly-bub.")

Syllabub, syllabub, syllabub . . . It's one of those words I could say over and over. Good thing I predict 2012 will be the year of the syllabub.

My mom whipped up a syllabub New Year's Eve, and now, I'm afraid, we're hooked. We say it and eat it as often as we can.

Oh, but you'd like to know what syllabub actually is?

Well, my dears, it is cold and creamy and lemony and tastes the way I always thought snow should taste. It is smooth and tart and packs an incredible amount of flavour into a small spoonful of cream.

The recipe itself is like child's play (well, aside from all that alcohol).

All you do is beat an improbable amount of lemon juice, sherry, brandy and vanilla into heavy cream. In just a few minutes, you have soft peaks of creamy lemon heaven. Then you drop a bit of lemon rind and shaved dark chocolate on top if you're in the mood.

The magical thing is that what you have created doesn't taste like sherry and brandy; it tastes like eating pure essence of lemon with a dollop of cream. It is that good.

My mother says she has been making this recipe for years. It has handwritten notes on it that say things like:

"Delicious, but rich!"

"Freezes well!" (My mother freezes everything.)

"People loved it. NY Dinner."

The recipe comes from a big hardcover cookbook I remember seeing since I was a child. It's called Drake's International Recipe Cookbook and has a price of 9.88 penciled in the front cover. Mom says she remembers buying it at a big bookstore in San Francisco in the 1970s. (I would guess she's talking about City Lights, but she can't confirm that.)

The thing I love about this cookbook – beside the syllabub recipe, obviously – is that it's broken into sections of different countries. Syllabub falls in the British and Irish section.

I did a bit more research and – if Wikipedia is to be trusted – syllabub dates back to the Tudor dynasty that ruled England from 1485 to 1603. You know I'm all about the heritage desserts, but I think I've really outdone myself here. Thank you, Mom and Drake's.

May I propose a toast?

To the year of the syllabub!

Last January: rosemary gruyère baked eggs

lemon syllabub
all the way from Drake's International Recipe Cookbook

serves 4 6

grated rind and juice of one lemon
1/2 c. sugar
3 tbsp. sherry
2 tbsp. brandy or cointreau
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
250 ml. (1 c.) heavy or whipping cream

Pour the lemon juice and most of the grated rind into a good-sized bowl. Stir in the sugar, sherry, brandy and vanilla. Pour the cream in and beat until the cream is thick. (It will be thick but not stiff.) Dollop into 4 – 6 wine glasses or parfait glasses. Chill in the fridge for 4 hours.

When serving, sprinkle with a bit more grated lemon rind and shaved dark chocolate. (Drake's also recommends serving with ladyfinger, macaroons or sugar cookies. I don't think they're necessary.)


  1. I love: your description of this as the way snow ought to taste, your mother's handwritten notes, the sound of that cookbook and--of course!--the word syllabub. And I am intrigued. I'll have to try this sometime!

  2. I always look at syllabub that you've posted this, I really am going to have to try it! Hm, when's the next birthday/feast day?...

  3. Friends for dinner tonight... Simple tomato sauce and syllabub on the menu! Happy Bday doc!