One of the best aspects of living in new countries is discovering and adopting the local cuisine. This is my version of a trifle, which, to me, is a quintessential English dessert – or as the English would say, a pudding. I was first served trifle by a new friend who invited us to a dinner party when we lived in London. It was beautifully presented in a large glass bowl showing off a stunning swirl of berries and cream. I also remember the appropriate ooh’s and aah’s that accompanied the presentation, punctuated by complete silence as everyone spooned into their luscious dessert.
Distantly related to a fool (a concoction of cream and fruit), the trifle has a history that extends as far back as the late 16th century. Variations exist, but suffice to say it is a sumptuous parfait of fruit and cream, rippled with layers of custard or curd, and laced with spirits or syrup. Best of all, trifle is a crowd pleaser, forgiving in its portions and ingredients, a do-ahead dessert that elegantly displays the season’s ripe fruit.
Mixed Berry Trifle
A combination of seasonal berries may be used. This trifle uses fresh raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. Begin preparing the trifle one day ahead.
For the lemon sponge cake:
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
5 large eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the lemon curd:
4 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
For the syrup:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
For the fruit and topping:
1/2 lb. fresh raspberries
1/2 lb. fresh blackberries
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Cointreau or Framboise (optional)
1 lb. strawberries, hulled and halved
2 cups whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
Whole strawberries, raspberries or blackberries as garnish
Prepare the lemon sponge cake:
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Line a buttered jelly-roll pan with parchment paper; butter the parchment paper and dust the pan with flour, knocking out the excess. In a small bowl sift together the flour, salt and baking powder; set aside. In bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the egg yolks, sugar and lemon zest until the mixture is very thick and pale. Beat in the lemon juice and vanilla extract. Continue to beat the mixture for 3 to 5 minutes, until it forms a ribbon when the beater is lifted.
Add the flour mixture and mix until combined. In a clean bowl beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form stiff peaks. Whisk one third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it.
Fold in the remaining whites gently but thoroughly. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake in the middle of the oven for 10 – 15 minutes, or until the cake is golden and a tester comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Invert onto a rack and discard parchment paper. Let stand uncovered, overnight to dry out. Cut the cake with a serrated knife into 2 cm. cubes.
Prepare the lemon curd:
This lemon curd uses the egg whites in addition to the yolks, resulting in a milder, less intense curd that does not overpower the trifle.
Whisk eggs, sugar and lemon juice in a heavy medium saucepan to blend. Add butter and stir over medium heat until curd thickens to custard consistency, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and stir in lemon zest. Press plastic wrap onto surface of curd and chill until cold, at least 4 hours. (Can be prepared 3 days in advance. Refrigerate until use.)
Prepare the syrup:
The syrup is a child-friendly variation of the spirits normally added to trifle. Substitute 1/3 cup Cointreau or Framboise for a more potent dessert.
Combine sugar, lemon juice and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat and simmer 1 minute. Cool to room temperature.
Prepare the fruit:
Combine raspberries, blackberries, sugar and optional liqueur in bowl.
Mash with fork.
Let stand 30 minutes to macerate.
To assemble trifle, line bottom of a large glass bowl or 8-10 individual glass goblets (depending on size) with sponge cake pieces. Brush with syrup or spirits.
Spread 1/3 raspberry mixture over sponge cake; fill in gaps and line sides with strawberries. Top with 1/3 lemon curd. Repeat layering twice using 1/3 cake, syrup, 1/3 raspberry mixture and strawberries, and 1/3 curd. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours and up to 6.
Before serving, whip cream to soft peaks. Beat in 2 tablespoons sugar, taking care not to overbeat. Spread cream evenly over trifle. Arrange whole berries on top as garnish.