Start to Finish: 90 minutes
Trifle is a classic English dessert that can assume a number of forms. At its most basic, however, the sweet treat is layers of vanilla custard, spongecake and fruit, soaked in sherry and topped with whipped cream. The dessert can be made with fresh, dried or frozen fruits. This recipe is adapted from ones by BBC Good Food and The Guardian. The spongecake recipe is inspired by Joy of Baking, the custard recipe is adapted from Canadian Living and the whipped cream recipe is adapted from the kitchn.
- 16 egg yolks
- 2 liters whole milk
- 1 1/2 cups white sugar
- 1 1/4 cups cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon rose water
- 1/2 cup slivered, blanched almonds
- 2 cups whipping cream, well chilled
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup icing sugar
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
- 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/2 cup cake flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon rose water
- 1 cup dried apricots, chopped
- 1 cup dried figs, chopped
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup brandy
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 cinnamon stick, 1 inch long
- 2 cups frozen peaches, thawed and chopped
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin powder
- 1/2 cup sweet sherry
Whisk the egg yolks, half of the milk, the cornstarch and the sugar together. In a large pot, heat the remaining milk, vanilla extract and rose water on medium-high heat until it is steaming and starting to bubble at the edges.
Pour half of the heated milk into the egg yolk mix, whisking continuously. As soon as the hot milk is incorporated, pour the yolk mix into the pot with the remaining milk, whisking the whole time.
Cook the custard on low heat, whisking the whole time, until it has thickened significantly. The custard will be slightly thicker than a pourable custard -- its consistency will be between that of a custard and a pudding.
Refrigerate the custard until it is cold, around 4 hours.
Prepare the Topping
Over a burner set to medium, heat a nonstick frying pan and add the slivered almonds. Toast until they start browning and are fragrant, around 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the stove and set them aside to cool.
Beat the whipping cream and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl on high speed. Beat for around 6 minutes, until the cream starts forming soft peaks, where a drizzle of the cream stays visible as it falls back into the bowl.
Keep the whipping cream very cold until just before beating to create whipped cream that stays fresh for longer.
Gradually add the icing sugar and beat until firm peaks form, roughly 1 to 2 minutes more. Cover the whipped cream with plastic wrap and store in the fridge.
Bake the Cake
Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and place a rack in the center of the oven. Grease one 9-by-9-inch baking pan with 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil.
Separate the eggs, placing the yolks and the whites in 2 separate large mixing bowls. Beat the egg whites until they foam, then add the cream of tartar. Slowly add a 1/4 cup of white sugar, beating until the egg whites form stiff peaks and have a shiny appearance, around 6 to 8 minutes.
Add the remaining 1/4 cup of white sugar to the egg yolks in the second large mixing bowl, and beat on high speed until the mix is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and rose water, beating for 1 minute more to fully incorporate.
Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium-size mixing bowl, stirring with a fork to mix the ingredients. Gradually stir in the flour mix with the egg yolk mix, using a rubber spatula. Stop stirring as soon as the flour is just incorporated.
Carefully fold in the egg white mixture into the flour batter. Stir with the spatula until the egg whites are just mixed in.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top and bake in the oven on the center rack for 30 minutes. Test the cake for doneness with a toothpick. A toothpick pushed into the center of a fully cooked cake will be clean when withdrawn. If there is some dough clinging to the toothpick, bake for 5 minutes more before testing again.
Over-mixing when the flour or egg whites are added can lead to a leaden, tough, flat spongecake. Over-mixing the flour can cause too much gluten to develop, leading to a tough cake, while over-mixing the egg whites can cause the whites to deflate.
Do not open the oven door before 15 minutes of cooking time have passed, as the rush of cold air could cause the cake to deflate.
Heat the dried fruit, along with the brandy, water, juices and cinnamon stick, in a medium-size pot on medium heat. Cook until the fruit has softened, around 5 to 7 minutes.
Add the peaches, ginger powder, sugar and orange zest, and cook for another 5 minutes, until the peaches are warmed through and the sugar has dissolved. Remove the cinnamon stick.
Stir in the envelope of gelatin powder, and reduce the heat to low. Continue stirring until the fruit mix has fully thickened enough so that it coats the back of a spoon. If needed, add a second envelope of gelatin.
Remove the pot from the stove and store in the fridge for 15 to 20 minutes, while the cake finishes baking.
Assembling the Trifle
Cut the spongecake into 2-inch squares, and arrange them on the bottom of a wide glass bowl. Spoon half the chilled custard onto the cake, then drizzle with the reserved sweet sherry.
Spoon the chilled fruit mix on top of the custard, drizzling any juice that may have formed during cooling over the custard, cake and fruit.
Top the fruit layer with the remaining custard and smooth it over so an even surface is formed. Spoon the whipped cream over the second custard layer.
Apply the whipped cream in dollops, so soft peaks form, but cover all exposed cake, custard and fruit surfaces. Store the trifle in the fridge until it is ready to eat. Sprinkle the whipped cream with toasted almond slivers just before serving.
This version uses homemade spongecake and custard to give the dessert a more authentic taste, although packaged cake and instant pudding can be used for a faster version.
Use already made cookies or cake in place of the spongecake for a faster trifle. Cakes to use include madeleines, pound cake or Madeira loaf cake.
Replace the fruits with what you have available -- fresh, frozen or dried -- to your taste. In general, around 4 cups of fruit are needed.
Fruit filling variations include:
- A berry-only trifle, made with blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and blueberries
- A peach and pear trifle
- A pineapple, mango and ginger grouping for a tropical trifle