James Beard

Author and Educator

“Syllabubs are one of the oldest of all English desserts, and they have been known in this country since the first American colonies were established. The odd-sounding name itself—sometimes spelled ‘sillibub’ —comes from the early English word ‘silly,’ meaning ‘happy.’ As you will see, it is a very happy alcoholic dessert indeed.” –James Beard


  • 1/2 cup white wine or sherry
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • Juice and grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup superfine sugar to taste
  • 1 cup (1/2 pint) chilled heavy cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg


Stir together the wine or sherry, brandy, lemon juice and rind and let it sit in a bowl overnight.

The next day transfer this to a 2- to 3-quart bowl, add the sugar, and stir until it is dissolved. Add the heavy cream very slowly, stirring it continuously to blend thoroughly with the other ingredients. Add the nutmeg. Beat the mixture with a large whisk until it thickens and holds a soft peak when the whisk is lifted from the bowl. This may take 5 minutes or more, but be patient—it will thicken. The result must not be grainy or curdled. Spoon it into 2- or 3-ounce glasses, add a little lemon zest, and serve cool but not chilled. It is best when eaten soon after whisking, although it can be kept in a cool spot for a whole day.


4 servings