If you are sick of heavy chocolate desserts, consider making a trifle for your next dinner party. A cold dish that is best when made in advance, a trifle consists of layers of cake, custard, fruits, whipped cream, and syrup. While the variations are endless, most trifles are served in a large, clear glass dish. I've found two recipes for you to experiment with — one uses help from the grocery store and the other is one hundred percent homemade — give both a try or combine elements from each recipe to make your own special trifle. To get started,
1/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 packages frozen raspberries (12 ounces each), thawed
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 store-bought pound cake (12 ounces), cut into 3/4-inch-thick slices
1/3 cup sliced almonds, coarsely chopped
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Spread coconut on a baking sheet; toast until browned, about 6 minutes.
- Set aside. In a bowl, combine sherry, berries, and lemon zest; set aside.
- In another bowl, with a whisk or an electric mixer, beat cream and sugar until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
- Line the bottom of a 4-quart glass serving bowl with a layer of cake slices, packing them tightly. Spreading evenly, top with half the raspberry mixture, then half the cream.
- Add a second layer of cake slices, raspberry mixture, and cream; sprinkle with coconut and almonds. Serve immediately, or for best texture, refrigerate, covered, overnight.
1/2 cup all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsalted shelled pistachios
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
4 large egg whites
For assembling trifle
Sherry syrup, recipe below
Vanilla custard, recipe below
Rhubarb purée, recipe below
1 cup chilled heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon light Fino Sherry
2 tablespoons unsalted shelled pistachios, chopped
Special equipment: a 15- by 10- by 1-inch baking pan; parchment paper; a 3- to 3 1/2-qt glass trifle or soufflé dish
- Make cake: put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter baking pan, then line bottom with parchment paper and butter paper. Dust pan with flour, knocking out excess.
- Pulse together 1/2 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, pistachios, and salt in a food processor until pistachios are very finely ground (mixture will resemble a slightly grainy flour). Transfer mixture to a large bowl and whisk in yolks, milk, and extracts.
- Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt using an electric mixer at medium-high speed until they hold soft peaks.
- Reduce speed to low, then add remaining 1/2 cup sugar, a little at a time. Increase speed to high and beat until whites hold stiff, glossy peaks.
- Fold one third of whites into batter to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.
- Pour batter into baking pan, spreading evenly, and rap pan against counter to release any air bubbles.
- Bake cake until golden and springy to the touch, 20 to 25 minutes.
- Cool cake in pan on a rack 20 minutes.
- Remove pan (with cake) from rack and cover rack with a sheet of parchment, then invert rack over cake and flip cake onto rack. Carefully peel off parchment from bottom of cake and cool completely.
- Assemble trifle: slide cake (on parchment) onto a work surface and arrange with a long side nearest you. Trim cake with a serrated knife to make a 12- by 9-inch rectangle, reserving trimmings, then brush cake and trimmings with Sherry syrup.
- Halve cake crosswise, then cut each half into thirds first lengthwise and then crosswise to total 18 (3- by 2-inch) pieces. Halve each piece diagonally to form triangles.
- Spoon 1/2 cup custard into bottom of trifle dish. Arrange half of triangles over custard in 2 layers, pressing short ends of triangles against side of dish (there should be small spaces in between slices for custard to run through).
- Arrange half of trimmings in the center, cutting them as needed to fit. Spread 1 1/2 cups custard over cake, then spread 1 cup rhubarb purée over custard.
- Cover with remaining cake and trimmings in same manner, then spread remaining custard over. Spread remaining rhubarb purée over custard, leaving a 1-inch border around edge. Chill, covered tightly with plastic wrap, at least 8 hours.
- Make topping just before serving: beat cream with sugar and Sherry using cleaned beaters until it just holds soft peaks.
- Spoon cream over top of trifle, then sprinkle with pistachios.
Make ahead: trifle can be chilled up to 2 days.
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
6 tablespoons light Fino Sherry
- Bring water, sugar, and Sherry to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then boil until reduced to about 3/4 cup, about 5 minutes.
- Cool syrup completely before using, about 1 hour.
Makes about 3/4 cup.
Make ahead: syrup can be made 1 week ahead and chilled in an airtight container
3 cups whole milk
8 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
- Heat milk in a 2 1/2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat until hot but not boiling.
- While milk heats, whisk together yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a heatproof bowl until smooth.
- Add 1 cup hot milk to yolk mixture in a stream, whisking, then add remaining milk, whisking constantly. Transfer mixture to saucepan and cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and registers 170°F on thermometer, 6 to 10 minutes (do not boil).
- Immediately force custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl and stir in butter and vanilla.
- Chill custard, its surface covered with wax paper, until cold and thickened, at least 3 hours. Custard can be cooled quickly by setting bowl in a larger bowl of ice and cold water and stirring occasionally.
Makes about 4 cups.
Make ahead: custard can be chilled, its surface covered with wax paper and bowl covered tightly with plastic wrap, up to 2 days. Special equipment: an instant-read thermometer
Vegetable oil for greasing pan
2 lb rhubarb stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces
2/3 cup confectioners sugar
- Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a large shallow baking pan with vegetable oil.
- Arrange rhubarb in 1 layer in pan and sift confectioners sugar evenly over top. Bake, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb is very tender, 25 to 30 minutes.
- Transfer rhubarb to a food processor and purée until smooth. Force through a medium-mesh sieve into a bowl, discarding solids, and cool completely. Rhubarb purée can be cooled quickly by setting bowl in a larger bowl of ice and cold water and stirring occasionally.
Makes about 2 cups.
Make ahead: rhubarb purée can be made 3 days ahead and chilled in an airtight container.