Papaya Fool

Pawpaw Fool

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes

    3 to 4


Appears in

The Ghana Cookbook

By Fran Osseo-Asare and Barbara Baëta

Published 2015

  • About

Ghana is not particularly big on desserts. However, a classic fruit-based one in Ghana and other parts of English-speaking countries of Africa is the “fool,” which in North America nowadays usually means a mixture of whipped cream and crushed fruit. In Ghana, it means a custard mixed with crushed, and usually cooked, fresh fruit like mango, papaya, or soursop.

I was taught to make this fool using “Bird’s custard powder,” invented in 1837 by the English chemist Alfred Bird, and containing corn flour, salt, vanilla, and annatto (for color). At Flair we used evaporated milk, as in this recipe. It can also be made including eggs, and/or substituting coconut milk for cow’s milk. This recipe is adapted from a papaya fool we made in Barbara’s kitchen.


  • 2 cups fresh (peeled and seeded), frozen (defrosted), or canned (drained) papaya chunks
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (or to taste)
  • ½ cup evaporated milk
  • tablespoons Bird’s custard powder



Prepare papaya

  1. Blend the papaya chunks with ½ cup water in a food processor or blender for a few seconds until pureed.
  2. Pour the pureed fruit into a saucepan and stir in the sugar. Heat the papaya mixture and cook for a few minutes, stirring with a whisk. Briefly remove from the heat while preparing the custard.

Prepare custard

  1. Pour ¼ cup of the evaporated milk into a bowl and mix with ¼ cup water and the custard powder.
  2. In a microwave, slightly heat the remaining ¼ cup of evaporated milk, about 1½ minutes. (If no microwave is available, heat it slightly in another saucepan on the stove.)
  3. Gradually pour the heated milk into the custard mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk to prevent the custard from forming lumps.

Assemble fool

  1. Return the heated papaya puree to the stove on medium heat. Use the whisk to gradually mix the custard into the pureed fruit, stirring vigorously to prevent lumps. Remove a small amount, cool, and taste. Stir in additional sugar for a sweeter flavor, if desired. Bring just to a boil, stirring constantly with a whisk. For a thinner custard, stir in additional water or milk a little at a time—remember the custard will thicken more as it cools. Remove from heat.
  2. If there are lumps in the custard, or a smoother custard is desired, pour the mixture through a strainer into individual serving dishes or a serving bowl. When straining, use a spoon to force the pudding through the strainer, and scrape the bottom of the strainer repeatedly. If no straining is desired, spoon the custard directly into the bowl or bowls.

To serve

Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled. Garnish as desired, e.g., fresh mango and/or papaya (pawpaw) slices, mint leaves, nuts, whipped cream, chopped peanuts or cashews, a little cinnamon, some mandarin orange slices, mango or cherry slices. Voila! Dessert is ready in just a few minutes. Barbara likes to soft freeze her fools sometimes. It is best made the same day it is served.


If Bird’s Custard Powder is not available, substitute 4 tablespoons of any vanilla cooked custard mix. Don’t add any sugar until tasting near the end since American-style custard mixes have added sugar. The fruit could also simply be mixed in with whipped cream for another North American version.