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Boodle's Orange Fool

An Orange Fool - the dessert popularized by Boodle's
(from Good to

Christmas is the time of year that I like to forget about eating sensibly and make wonderful desserts. Homemade fruitcake and cookies, and peppermint ice cream slathered with chocolate sauce are on my naughty list. And while these treats might not have been popular during the Regency, those folks had their own go-to desserts.  

Another type of orange fool!
(Keying Up - the Court Jester by William Merritt Chase,
courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

One such treat is an Orange Fool, associated with Boodle's, a private members club in London that was popular during the Regency period and is still active today. A book at the original club reveals that Edward Boodle, a head waiter at Almack's Assembly Rooms, took over the establishment not long after it opened and gave it his name. 

Caricature of a member entering Boodle's in 1820, from
The City of London website

Founded in 1762, Boodle's was located at 49-51 Pall Mall when it opened but moved to 28 St. James Street, where it still is, twenty years later. It has the distinction of being the world’s second-oldest club – only White’s, another London club, is older. 

Boodle's, as it appears now on St. James St. in London
(Wikimedia Commons)

Its aristocratic founder was William Petty, the 2nd Earl of Shelburne, who later became the 1st Marquess of Lansdowne. Born in Ireland, Petty was a Whig statesman who rose to the position of Prime Minister in 1782-83, during the tail end of the American Revolution.

William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne and founder of Boodle's,
painted in 1791 by Jean-Laurent Mosnier (Wikimedia Commons)

Boodle's started as a political club, but soon became known as a very proper, scandal-free establishment, quite refined and somewhat stodgy. Members were expected to dress properly for dinner, servants wore black knee breeches, and coins were reportedly boiled before being handed to members.

Noteworthy members include Beau Brummel, 18th century Whig politician Charles Fox, and William Cavendish, the 5th Duke of Devonshire (also husband to the glamorous Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire)

Keira Knightley in The Duchess, a 2008 movie about
Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire
 (found on 

In more modern times, Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond spy novels, was a member. Boodle's is mentioned in the Bond novels Moonraker and You Only Live Twice.

 1st edition cover of  You Only Live Twice,
from the official  Ian Fleming website

But let’s back to dessert! Here's a recipe for Boodle's Orange Fool if you want to give it a try. A “fool” is an old-fashioned term for a pudding made of stewed or crushed fruit and cream and sugar. I've put in parentheses items commonly found in U.S. grocery stores to use if necessary in place of the British ingredients.

Boodle's Orange Fool
Serves 4

 * 4 trifle sponge cakes, cubed (or use packaged ladyfingers)
 * 300 ml (1/2 pint) double cream (whipping cream)
 * 30 – 60 ml (2 - 4 tbsp.) caster sugar (see note)
 * grated rind and juice of two oranges
 * grated rind and juice of one lemon
 * orange and lemon rind and slices to decorate

Line the base and halfway up the sides of a large glass serving bowl or china dish with the cubed trifle sponge cakes. Whip the cream (be careful not to overwhip it—beat the mixture just till it holds soft peaks) with the sugar till it starts to thicken, then gradually whip in the fruit juices, adding the fruit rind towards the end. Carefully pour the creamed mixture into the bowl or dish, taking care not to dislodge the sponge. Cover and chill for 3-4 hours. Serve decorated with orange and lemon slices and rind.

Note: “Caster” or “castor” (American spelling) sugar is, by one account, a British name for confectioner’s sugar. But I have read that granulated sugar is the best substitute for it. Another source recommends milling granulated sugar, or crushing it with a rolling pin, before substituting it for castor sugar. 


  1. Sounds heavenly, Maureen! Thanks for another fun and interesting blog post. I love learning from you--it's always painless and fun! xo Jennifer

  2. Thank you, Jennifer, for your comment. I'm glad you like the post - I think the Regency era is fun to write about. Thanks for reading!


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