Blood orange fool and Madeira cake

Annie Smithers is the owner and chef of du Fermier in Trentham, Victoria. She is a food editor of The Saturday Paper.

I have to admit that I am a fool for English desserts. Or, as they would say, puddings. Maybe it’s the names. Fool. Syllabub. Posset. Crisp. Mess. Crumble. Not only are they simple, blunt titles, but almost to a tee they are simple to make. Having spent years practising French desserts with sometimes mesmerising degrees of difficulty and names that would not be out of place in the dialogue of a romance novel, the opportunity to do “basic British” always delights me.

Blood orange season encourages me to make a fool. Fools are synonymous with the English summer, but the lush creamy texture has a comfort factor that is right at home in any season. Here, I have paired it with a Madeira cake, another plain English classic that has been bastardised by the cellophane-sealed version on the supermarket shelf. If cake is not to your measure, the fool can be used in a trifle or simply served in a glass layered with orange segments and a plate of langues de chat on the side. I can see myself now, sitting by the fire, gazing longingly into the winter mists, eating my fool and thinking of summer.

This version of a Madeira cake is from the incomparable Eliza Acton. Her Modern Cookery for Private Families was published in 1845 and advises the following: “Whisk four fresh eggs until they are as light as possible, then, continuing still to whisk them, throw in by slow degrees the following ingredients in the order in which they are written: six ounces of dry, pounded, and sifted sugar; six of flour, also dried and sifted; four ounces of butter just dissolved, but not heated; the rind of a fresh lemon; and the instant before the cake is moulded, beat well in the third of a teaspoonful of carbonate of soda: bake it an hour in a moderate oven.”

Blood orange fool   

Serves 6-8

– 6 blood oranges

– 1 lemon

– 100g castor sugar

– 300ml thickened cream

– 500ml crème fraîche

– 50ml Grand Marnier

Zest all six oranges. Juice three of them and then segment the other three, reserving them for later. Zest and juice the lemon.

Combine the orange and lemon juice and the orange and lemon zest in a large bowl. Add the sugar and stir until it dissolves.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the cream, crème fraîche and half the juice mix. Mix with the whisk attachment until it begins to thicken, then add the remaining juice mix and Grand Marnier and whisk again until the mixture forms soft peaks.

If serving as a standalone dish, spoon into glasses and layer with the reserved blood orange segments. If using to garnish the cake, spoon into a serving bowl. Refrigerate.


Madeira cake

Serves 6-8

– 4 eggs at room temperature

– 170g castor sugar

– 170g sieved plain flour

– 110g butter, just melted, not heated

– zest 1 blood orange

– ⅓ tsp bicarbonate of soda

Preheat oven to 160ºC. Grease and line a 22-centimetre cake tin.

Whisk the whole eggs until they are as light as possible. While still whisking, add the sugar, then the flour, then the butter and the rind. At the last moment add the bicarbonate of soda. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 45-60 minutes. Cool and remove from tin.

Serve cake with fool and orange segments.


Wine pairing:

2009 Le Tertre du Lys d’Or Sauternes, France (750ml, $60.50) – Peter Watt, sommelier, du Fermier.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Aug 12, 2017 as "Pud times and glad".

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Annie Smithers is the owner and chef of du Fermier in Trentham, Victoria. She is a food editor of The Saturday Paper.