Note: This recipe is part of our Harry Potter-themed dessert menu.
Trifle is the Helen Mirren of desserts.
One minute, it’s The Queen, prim and proper and steeped in fussy tradition. The next, it’s a saucy dame romping around in a red bikini, working it like the rent check’s due.
Trifle, a British favorite for hundreds of years, is made with layers of cake, fruit, custard and whipped cream. It’s strikingly beautiful in that deep glass trifle bowl, but it always seemed a little heavy and boring to me. There’s no hot-and-cold contrast. Nothing crunchy. But last weekend, I decided to give Tartine’s Summer Fruit Trifle a try, and now I finally understand the trifle love.
Trifle isn’t about how perfect you can make any one component. It’s about what happens when all of these components spend many hours together and their flavors mingle, like a season of the “Real World,” but with more whipped cream. So, your cake layers soak in the boozy fruit purée, drinking in all of that sweet strawberry, peach and Grand Marnier goodness until the cake turns rosy and starts to fall apart.
The cake layers are topped not only with the fruit purée but sliced peaches and strawberries, whipped cream and a lemon cream (instead of the usual custard) that will knock you naked. I made the mistake of tasting the lemon cream as soon as I’d finished making it, and I really could have stopped the whole process there and been beaming with joy. It’s a lemon cream that’s rich and buttery, sweet but still full of that citrus kick.
A spoon and some alone time are really all you need with that lemon cream, but add it to the Summer Fruit Trifle, and you get these pockets of sunshine between the whipped cream and the fruit that taste like a June afternoon.
Trifle, you’ve won me over.
The jury’s still out on you, Spotted Dick.
Summer Fruit Trifle
Adapted from Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson’s “Tartine”
If you’d rather not deal with the intricate layering, slice the cake into rough cubes, and place them in the bottom of your trifle dish. Then, layer on the fruit purée, fruit, lemon cream and whipped cream.
Makes 8 to 10 servings
- Perfect Party Cake (recipe below) or any type of chiffon cake
- 2 1/2 cups Lemon Cream (recipe below), cold
- 2 2/3 cups (13.5ounces/380 grams) berries or sliced fruit
- 1/2 cup (3.5 ounces/100 grams) sugar
- Chambord, Grand Marnier, sweet sherry, white wine or kirsch (optional)
- 4 cups (20 ounces/570 grams) really ripe berries or sliced fruit
- 1 2/3 cups (13.5 ounces/400 ml) heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- Split the cake horizontally into 3 layers, each 1/4-inch to 1/3-inch thick. (You might need to use a thin piece of cardboard or a thin rimless baking sheet to move the layers.) Set aside.
- To Make the Fruit Purée: Place the fruit and sugar in a food processor or blender, and mix until smooth. Pour the mixture into a bowl, stir in the spirit to taste (if using). Set aside.
- To Make the Whipped Cream: Using a whisk or a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the cream until thickened. Add the sugar, and whip until the cream holds soft peaks. Set aside.
- To Assemble the Trifle: Cut one of the cake layers to fit the bottom of the trifle bowl. Fill in any gaps with trimmings.
- Pour 2/3 cup of the fruit purée over the cake layer in the bowl.
- Top the purée with one-third of the fruit. (Place some of the slices with their cut sides facing outward against the sides of the bowl, so the slices are visible.)
- Spoon half of the Lemon Cream over the fruit.
- Spoon half of the whipped cream on top, filling in any gaps in the Lemon Cream.
- Top with the second cake layer, trimming as needed. Pour on 1 cup of the fruit purée, top with half of the remaining fruit, all of the remaining pastry cream and all the remaining whipped cream.
- Place your last cake layer on top, and gently press down on it. Finish with the rest of the fruit purée, and top with the last of the fruit.
- Chill the trifle well before serving. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.
Perfect Party Cake
From Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking: From My Home to Yours”
- 1 1/8 cups cake flour
- 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup whole milk or buttermilk
- 2 large egg whites
- 3/4 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon pure lemon extract
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-x-2-inch round cake pan, and line the bottom with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pan on a baking sheet.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
- Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl, and rub them together with your fingers.
- Add the butter and, working with the paddle or whisk attachment, beat at medium speed for 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light. Beat in the extract, then add one-third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.
- Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
- Finally, give the batter a good 2-minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated. Pour the batter into the cake pan, and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cake is well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the center should come out clean. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack, and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the cake, unmold it, and peel off the paper liner. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up. (The cooled cake can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.)
Adapted from Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson’s “Tartine”
Makes about 2 1/2 cups
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (5 ounces/155 ml) lemon juice
- 3 eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- 3/4 cup (6 ounces/170 grams) sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cool
- Pour water to a depth of about 2 inches into a saucepan. Place over medium heat, and bring to a simmer.
- Whisk together the lemon juice, eggs, egg yolk, sugar and salt in a stainless-steel bowl that will rest in the rim of the saucepan over, not touching, the water. (Don’t let the egg yolks and sugar sit together for more than a moment without stirring; the sugar will “cook” the yolks and make them grainy.)
- Place the bowl over the saucepan, and keep whisking until the mixture becomes very thick and registers 180 degrees F on a thermometer. (This will take 10 to 12 minutes.)
- Remove the bowl from the water, and let it cool to 140 degrees F, stirring from time to time to release the heat.
- Meanwhile, cut the butter into 1-tablespoon pieces. When the cream is ready, leave it in the bowl (if using an immersion blender) or pour it into a countertop blender. With the blender running, add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time, blending after each addition until incorporated before adding the next piece.
- Use the cream immediately, or store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. To use after refrigeration, gently heat in a stainless-steel bowl set over simmering water until it has softened.