Rhubarb Fool

A fruit fool is a very quick and easy dessert to put in front of people. When rhubarb is in season, cooking it for just a few minutes, cooling and folding it into cream might just be the easiest dessert ever!

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Four parfait glasses with rhubarb fool, four colorful napkins and four spoons on a table.

What is a Rhubarb Fool?

A fruit fool is a classic British dessert made of stewed fruit folded into a custard. More modernly, the custard has been replaced with whipped cream, making it extraordinarily easy to make. You might think that it’s so easy to make that “a fool could make it”, but that’s not where the dessert name actually comes from. In fact, the name “fool” comes from the French fouler, which means to trample or crush. That’s what happens to the fruit before it is folded into the cream. The best fruit to use for a fool is something with a sweet-tart flavor. You need that tart or tangy flavor component to cut through the rich whipped cream. Enter rhubarb! A rhubarb fool is one of the best fools to have at your table!

A knife cutting rhubarb stalks into chunks on a wooden cutting board.

How to Buy Rhubarb

When you’re buying rhubarb, you’ll find stalks that range in color from deep red to green. Some say that the redder the rhubarb the better, but regardless of color, rhubarb has a very tart flavor. Thinking the red stalks are sweeter might just be in our heads, so grab what you can despite the color. The leaves of rhubarb are actually toxic, which is why you usually see that they have been cut off the stalks. If there are any left on, remove them before using the rhubarb. Do look for unblemished stalks that are crisp and shiny, not limp. When you trim the ends off, really fresh rhubarb will release a little juice. If you can’t use the rhubarb right away, think about washing, cutting and freezing the rhubarb. It freezes very well and in an airtight bag it can stay in your freezer for up to 3 months. 

Ingredients for rhubarb fool on a cutting board, with sugar and rhubarb in a stainless steel saucepan, orange zest with a knife and zester and a halved orange with a reamer.

What you Need for Rhubarb Fool

Once you have your rhubarb, you just need a saucepan, some sugar, a little orange zest and orange juice. It takes no time at all for the rhubarb to break down and for the sugar to dissolve, and in 10 to 15 minutes you’ll have stewed rhubarb. 

Looking down on stewed rhubarb in a strainer in a bowl.

Stewing and Draining the Rhubarb

Once the pieces of rhubarb have broken down and you have a lumpy compote, strain the stewed fruit in a colander over a bowl. You definitely want to keep the delicious juice from this mixture. Not only will you layer that into the parfait glasses when you make your fool and drizzle some more on top, it’s delicious to use in a cocktail or over vanilla ice cream. You do need to let the rhubarb cool completely before folding it into the cream, so let this sit for a while – even overnight in the refrigerator.

Whipped cream in a stainless steel bowl with an orange and zester near by.

Whipping the Cream for a Fool

I like whipping cream by hand. It’s a good challenge, helps make me ambidextrous AND it’s almost impossible to over whip the cream when you’re doing it by hand. That is the key – do not over whip the cream. Start with a cold bowl, a cold whisk and cold heavy cream and use a good balloon whisk to incorporate as much air as you can. Stop and check the cream every once in a while to make sure it is still smooth and showing no signs of over whipping. Then add in a little crème fraïche, sour cream or yogurt. The tang from any one of these three ingredients is a welcome break from the rich cream AND it helps to fortify the cream, making it a little more stable and less likely to weep.

Hands folding stewed rhubarb into whipped cream.

How to Fold in the Rhubarb

Then, fold the cool rhubarb mixture into the cold cream using a flat spatula. You are not going for a uniform mixture, but want streaks of rhubarb left in the cream. I fold using a “J” motion with my spatula, starting at twelve o’clock and dragging my spatula down to six o’clock and then turning the cream up over on itself by twisting the spatula up to 9 o’clock. Turn the bowl a quarter of a turn and do it again. Then, layer the fool into parfait glasses, spooning a little of the strained juice between layers. Chill the glasses in the fridge for an hour or so before serving.

Hands using a channel knife to remove a long piece of orange zest from an orange.

Garnishing Rhubarb Fool

You could garnish the rhubarb fool simply with another drizzle of the delicious rhubarb syrup, or make a twisted peel garnish with a channel knife (found on many zesters). Twist the long peel into curls, tying it in knots and pop that on top. That’s a nice clue to your guests that there’s orange in the recipe. Or, leave it off and let them feel like a fool. 😉

Three parfait glasses with rhubarb fool in them.

Rhubarb Fool

  • Cook Time: 15 m
  • Chilling Time: 2 h
  • Total Time: 2 h 15 m
  • Servings:


  • 1 pound fresh or frozen rhubarb about 3 cups
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped orange zest plus more for garnish
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup crème fraiche or sour cream or yogurt


  1. Slice the rhubarb into 1-inch pieces and place in a medium saucepan with the sugar, orange juice and orange zest. Bring this mixture to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally until the rhubarb has broken down and is soft – about 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the rhubarb to a strainer over a bowl to cool and drain off some of the liquid (but don’t throw it away!). Chill in the refrigerator.
  2. Use a cold bowl and cold whisk to beat the heavy cream to soft peaks. Whip in the crème fraiche, sour cream or yogurt. Try not to over-whip.
  3. When the rhubarb is cool, fold it into the whipped cream. You can fold it in completely or partially so that you see streaks of rhubarb. Then transfer the mixture to four dishes or parfait glasses with a little of the strained liquid in between layers of cream, and chill for an hour or so, but not overnight. When serving, drizzle a little more of the reserved rhubarb juice on top and garnish with some curled orange zest.
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