Syllabub is an English dessert traditionally made from a mix of white wine, cream and sugar, along with some sort of acidic juice. Syllabub is normally served cold, and it comes in varying consistencies depending on how much wine is used, what kind of cream is mixed in and the method of preparation. In some cases, syllabub has a consistency that requires people to eat it with a spoon like ice cream, but it can also be more of a drink. The flavor varies a great deal depending on the exact recipe and what kinds of additional spices or flavorings are used. Some syllabub is very sweet and sugary, while other recipes can have a milder level of sweetness.
Most people today make the dessert with whipped cream, but in historical times, chefs would milk cows directly into a container that already held a portion of an acidic substance, such as citrus juice. The chef would remove any curdled particles and then mix in some cream, sugar and wine. After combining everything, chefs whipped the concoction to thicken it, then served it immediately. It is generally made these days by using chilled whipped cream along with chilled wine and citrus juice. The ingredients are mixed together in a way that is very similar to the traditional approach, but once everything is mixed up, it is usually allowed to chill in the refrigerator for an hour or so.
Beyond wine and cream, the ingredients used for the dessert can vary. Lemon and orange juice are both very common, and chefs frequently add additional spices like ginger or nutmeg. Various kinds of nuts are often added on top, including grated pistachios and walnuts. Vanilla flavoring is a common ingredient, and stronger alcohols like brandy can be mixed with the wine, which is often some kind of sherry in modern recipes.
In the early days, people didn’t serve their syllabub cold and may have even preferred it lukewarm, but as refrigeration technology was developed, chilled syllabub eventually became traditional. The fact that syllabub was never a hot dish had side benefits. Glassware in those days was very fragile, and it would often crack with hot foods, which meant that chefs would generally use ceramics instead. Syllabub, on the other hand, could be served in the finest glassware without any fear of damaging expensive keepsakes. The tradition of serving it in glass still remains.