Dinner with Kirsten

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A Party with a Trifle

May 21st, 2008 · 63 Comments

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Trifle is a traditional English dessert first created in the 18th century to use up leftover cake and cream—the word “trifle” means whimsical or of little importance. The traditional English version involves sherry- or fruit juice-soaked sponge cake, spread with jam, covered in custard and topped with whipped cream. American trifles commonly add fruit to the equation.

I made my first trifle for 4th of July when I was about 7 or 8, with the help of Grandma Lois and one of her magazine-clipped recipes. I was working toward a career as a watercolor painter at the time, and to my young artistic eye the tall cut-glass bowl filled with patriotic layers of blue and red Jell-O and fluffy Cool Whip was the most perfectly marvelous dessert I had ever seen.

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Now, I make trifle any chance I get—Christmas, New Year’s, Thanksgiving, 4th of July, and any party or celebration in-between. An entertainer’s dream, trifle needs to be prepared 4 to 24 hours before serving to allow the flavors to settle and meld. And, most of all, they never fail to “wow” a crowd. You don’t have to be an aspiring 8 year-old artist to appreciate beautiful food.

side view of trifle

I made this raspberry white chocolate trifle for my sister’s graduation party. The creamy white chocolate layer was a decadent foil for the juicy unsweetened raspberries, and a touch of almond extract added a warmness that rounded out the flavors. I decided to bake my own cake (I love an excuse to break out my copy of Baking with Julia), but a frozen Sarah Lee pound cake or store-bought ladyfingers would work just as well.

Raspberry, White Chocolate and Almond Trifle
Adapted from Bon Appétit

3 1/2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream, divided
12 ounces high-quality white chocolate (I used Green & Black’s Organic brand, but Lindt or Perugia would also be good)
1 1/4 teaspoons almond extract, divided

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 pound cake, cut into 3/4 inch cubes (The recipe follows, but you could also use store-bought cake or ladyfingers to save time. Or, the original trifle recipe uses Champagne biscuits)

1 cup raspberry jam, melted, divided (Make sure to get a good quality jam, with only a few

ingredients listed and no corn syrup.)
1 1/2 12-ounce packages frozen unsweetened raspberries, partially thawed
2 6-ounce containers fresh raspberries
handful of sliced almonds, toasted

Bring 1 cup cream to simmer in medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add white chocolate; whisk until smooth. Cool to barely lukewarm, about 10 minutes. Beat 2 1/2 cups cream and 1/2 teaspoon extract in large bowl to soft peaks. Fold in white chocolate mixture.

Stir sugar and 1/2 cup water in small saucepan over medium heat until sugar melts. Mix in 3/4 teaspoon extract; remove syrup from heat.

Now it’s time to assemble the trifle! Cover the bottom of a 14-cup trifle dish with cubes of pound cake. Sprinkle a tablespoon or two of the almond extract syrup over the cake, then spread 1/3 of melted jam over cake in dish. Top with 1/3 of partially thawed berries with juices. Spread 1/3 of whipped chocolate cream over. Repeat layering with pound cake, almond extract sprinkle, melted jam, partially thawed berries, and whipped chocolate cream 2 more times. Mound fresh berries in center of trifle. Sprinkle almonds around edge. Cover and chill at least 5 hours and up to 24 hours.

Vanilla Pound Cake
Adapted from Baking with Julia

pound cake

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature, whisked to blend
1 cup milk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Position a rack to the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 10-inch tube pan or 12-cup pan with a center tube.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together into a bowl or onto a sheet of waxed paper. Set the mixed ingredients aside.

Put the butter into the bowl of a mixer (or you can also use a hand-held mixer) and beat at medium speed until smooth. With the mixer running, add the sugar in a steady stream. Stop the mixer and scrape down the paddle and the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Continue to beat at medium speed until the mixture is very light and fluffy, about 4 to 5 minutes.

With the mixer still at medium speed, begin to add the eggs in small additions, about a tablespoon at a time. If the mixture becomes watery or shiny, stop adding the eggs and beat at an increased speed just until it smooths out. When the batter has come together again, decrease the speed to medium and continue adding the eggs, scraping down the paddle and sides of the bowl from time to time; it will take 3 to 4 minutes to incorporate the eggs. The mixture is properly combined when it appears white, fluffy and increased in volume.

Reduce the mixter speed to low and add the flour mixture and the milk alternately—4 additions of flour, 3 of milk—scraping the paddle and bowl frequently and mixing until the batter is smooth after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix just to blend.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Invert the cake onto a rack, remove the pan, and cool to room temperature. The cake is best served in very thin slices.

The cake will keep covered at room temperature for about 3 days. It can also be wrapped airtight and frozen for a month.

Tags: baking · dessert · recipes

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