Rhubarb fool is the most refreshing idea to hit the dessert world ~ a sweet tart rhubarb compote swirled into thick whipped cream ~ and it’s been around since the 16th century!?
Rhubarb fool is one of those recipes that’s just plain fun. I’m a huge fan of cooked fruit ~ the flavors actually bloom, and no fruit gets a bigger boost than rhubarb. It goes from bitter and crunchy to aromatic and silky after just the briefest cooking. I describe the flavor as a tart combination of peach and raspberry ~ you can’t hate that.
Easy? Basically you fold cooked rhubarb into whipped cream and you’ve done it! It’s light and refreshing, but obviously rich at the same time. All in all, rhubarb fool is a fabulous spring dessert that takes hardly any effort at all.
the original fool
The original fool dessert is a traditional British dessert that dates back to the 16th century. It is typically made with stewed fruit, usually gooseberries, raspberries, or rhubarb, which is mixed with sweetened whipped cream or custard. The mixture is chilled and served cold. It’s a soft spoken dessert that makes a big impression.
The name “fool” probably comes from the French word “fouler,” which means “to crush” or “to press,” as the fruit is crushed or pureed before being mixed with the cream.
the ingredient list for rhubarb fool is short!
- fresh or frozen rhubarb will work. If you absolutely can’t find rhubarb, the closest approximation would be to use raspberries. Sour cherries or cranberries are other good choices.
- you need to sweeten rhubarb, but you can use honey or an alternative sugar if you want. The key here is to balance the tartness of the rhubarb, but not obliterate that signature flavor.
- a vanilla bean would be transcendent, but who can afford that? Use good quality extract.
- heavy cream
- sour cream
- or cream cheese, or mascarpone cheese, or Greek yogurt…something to stabilize the whipped cream. Sour cream and yogurt can be used cold from the fridge. Cream cheese or mascarpone will have to sit on the counter for a while to soften up.
first up, make a rhubarb compote
Compote is a fancy French name for cooked fruit, in this case rhubarb. It’s got a chunky sauce consistency and it’s been sweetened with a little sugar and flavored with vanilla so it’s delicious all on its own. I know what some of you are thinking: “Why don’t I just use jam, that would be so much easier.” It would be easier, but much too sweet. Just make the compote, it’s not hard, promise.
- Put sliced rhubarb, sugar, and a splash of water in a non-reactive pot. Why non-reactive? Aluminum, copper, and cast iron are materials that react with acidic foods like tomatoes, citrus fruit (and rhubarb!) The reaction causes the metal to leach into the food, leaving a metallic taste and sometimes even discoloring the food. So use glass, steel, or enameled pans.
- Bring the mixture to a boil and boil gently for about 5 minutes until the rhubarb has softened and partially broken down.
- Let cool, then chill. You can do this up to 2 days ahead.
now for the cream
The second component in rhubarb fool is the whipped cream. I’m going to whip cream to soft peaks because the texture of this dessert is meant to be soft and dreamy, not stiff.
Tip: add either sour cream, cream cheese, Greek yogurt or mascarpone to stabilize it. This helps keep the cream from melting into the rhubarb juices and vice versa. Plus it adds some extra heft and flavor.
There are different schools of thought here: some like to layer compote and cream into individual serving glasses and then swirl. Others do the swirling first, then spoon out the servings. Either way gets the job done.
Tip: if your compote is very juicy you can drain a little of the excess juice off before adding the rhubarb to the whipped cream. Some like to add the strained juices back on top of the dessert just before serving.
ready to serve!
I like to combine shortly before serving, but you can assemble these ahead of time if you need to.
Tip: serve this dessert in small bowls or glasses because it’s refreshing and light, but rich, and a little goes a long way. Petite cocktail glasses are ideal.
can you make rhubarb fool ahead of time?
Yes, I find it keeps well for several hours in the fridge, and this is partly thanks to the sour cream that stabilizes the whipped cream. So you can make it in the morning of the day you want to serve (I would not leave it overnight.) You can swirl the rhubarb into the cream, cover the bowl and refrigerate until ready to eat. You can also spoon the mixture into dessert bowls or glasses first and refrigerate those.
can you freeze fool?
The assembled fool won’t freeze well, but the compote will freeze beautifully, so you can have it on hand for future fools.
why you should make a rhubarb fool this spring
- Delicious flavor: Rhubarb has a unique tangy flavor that pairs perfectly with the creaminess of a fool. The combination of sweet and tart makes for a refreshing and satisfying dessert.
- Easy to make: Making a rhubarb fool is relatively simple and requires just a few ingredients. You can whip up a batch in under an hour.
- Versatile: A rhubarb fool can be made with different fruits, such as strawberries or raspberries, for a variety of flavors. You can also adjust the sweetness and tartness to your liking.
- Perfect for spring: Rhubarb is a seasonal ingredient that’s often harvested in the spring, making it a great dessert to celebrate the season.
- Impressive presentation: It’s easy to make, but a rhubarb fool looks impressive when served in a clear glass or bowl.
- A great way to use up rhubarb: If you have a surplus of rhubarb in your garden, making a fool is a great way to use it up. You can also freeze cooked rhubarb to use in future fools.
Guys, hear me on this, you can not go wrong with this dessert! I highly recommend giving it a try.
variations on rhubarb fool
- So many fruits can be used this way. Think berries and stone fruit in summer, figs or pears in fall, cranberries in winter.
- Combine the rhubarb with raspberries, strawberries or blueberries.
- Add some orange zest and fresh ginger to the compote.
- Go dairy free with whipped coconut cream.
- Use yogurt instead of whipped cream for breakfast, or make whipped yogurt.
- Serve with ginger cookies on the side.
- Garnish with edible flowers.
- Use the rhubarb compote as a dessert sauce for pound cake or vanilla ice cream.
more rhubarb recipes
- Rhubarb Bread
- Old Fashioned Rhubarb Crunch
- Rhubarb Crumble Tart
- Easy Rhubarb Cake
- Easy Rhubarb Cake
- Rhubarb Vanilla Bean Jelly
- Perfect Rhubarb Muffins
- Norwegian Rhubarb and Almond Cake
- Homemade Rhubarb Ice Cream
- 1 lb rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1 inch slices.
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup cold heavy cream
- 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- Put the rhubarb, sugar, and water in a non-reactive pot and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Once the mixture is boiling, turn down the heat a bit and continue to boil gently until the rhubarb has softened. Some of it will be broken down and some will remain chunky. This will take about 5 or so minutes, after the mixture has come to a full boil.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Let the mixture cool completely, then chill. This can be done up to 2 days in advance.
- In a chilled bowl add the cream and confectioner's sugar. Whip to soft peaks. Add the sour cream and continue to whip briefly until combined and smooth.
- Gently fold the rhubarb compote into the whipped cream with just a few turns of a flexible spatula or silicone spoon.
- Spoon the fool into small glasses and either serve immediately, or chill until needed.
Questions and Reviews
For years, I heard how delicious rhubarb was from my mother. But I had never tasted it. This recipe is lovely. The cream is like a cloud, and the rhubarb is a wonderful combination of flavors, and it’s so special and easy to make. Thank you very much. You scored another wonderful recipe!