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Made with such fruits as gooseberries, strawberries, and raspberries, fools have been popular desserts in Britain since at least the early seventeenth century. According to food historian C. Anne Wilson, they were served as part of the second course in the eighteenth century. Renowned food historian Alan Davidson wrote that “oranges were added to the list of fruits” used in fools during that period.

This modern adaptation is based on a recipe by Hannah Glasse. It was created by culinary historian Nancy Carter Crump for the book Dining with the Washingtons.


  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, softened (optional)
  • 2 oranges, peeled and segmented


1. Beat the eggs until light. Add the orange juice, and combine well. Blend in the sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

2. Scald the cream (bring just below the boiling point) over medium to medium-low heat, stirring to prevent burning.

3. Very slowly, add 1/2 cup of the hot cream to the egg mixture, whisking steadily. When well blended, stir it into the hot cream. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not let it boil, or the eggs will curdle. Remove from the heat, add the butter (if desired), and pour into a bowl. Set aside to cool, stirring occasionally.

4. Chop about 1/2 of the orange segments, and drain in a colander. Fold into the cooled custard, and pour into a serving dish. Cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

5. When ready to serve, top the fool with the remaining orange segments.

Serves 6 to 8