This is one of my all-time favorite desserts. A trifle is a typically English layered dessert that includes fruit, cookies or cake and some kind of creamy inbetween (and no, it’s not pronounced ‘triffel’ in Dutch). It’s really quite easy to make and it’s impressive because of the many differently colored layers. I usually make it in a big cylindrical glass bowl, which has a big wow-factor. The downside of that is that once you start dividing portions, the effect is ruined and it’s also not easy to give everyone a balanced portion (fruits-cake-mascarpone-custard-wise). The red fruit layer has blended in a bit with the cake layer in my trifle in the picture, because I was pressed for time and didn’t let the red fruit thaw properly, so that its juice thawed into the cake (sounds delicious though, doesn’t it?) If you’re more patient or using fresh fruit, making a pretty cake layer will be easier. It’s also an easy dessert to make in small portions: use glasses (regular glasses or wine glasses) or another kind of bowl, but make sure that you have something transparent so that the visual effect pays off. If you have small bowls, you can easily decorate the top with a sprig of mint or a strawberry with a bit of whipped cream. The original recipe puts whipped cream on the custard, but usually I find this a bit over the top (can a dessert ever be over the top though?). Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients, it’s really not that hard or time-consuming to make.
Ingredients for at least 12 people
For the cake layer (I just use a regular 4/4 cake recipe but you’re welcome to use your own favorite recipe):
250 grams of sugar
250 grams of butter
250 grams of self-rising flour (or regular flour with a big teaspoon of baking powder)
For the red fruit layer
a sweetish fruity liquor like Grand Marnier, Cointreau, Kirsch… (not Passoa or Pisang!)
a cup or jar of red fruit jam (strawberry, raspberry or red berry mixture)
about 700 grams of red fruit (I usually use frozen in winter, let it thaw a bit before use)
For the white creamy layer
500 grams of Mascarpone
sugar (I never measure this, sorry)
For the yellow custard layer
1 liter of full-fat milk
1 vanilla bean
8 egg yolks (you’ll probably have a lot of egg white leftovers, I try not to waste these – you can freeze them or make chocolate mousse with them, just melt at least 300 grams of chocolate au bain marie and add to the beaten egg whites)
200 grams of sugar
65 grams of corn starch/maïzena (the original recipe uses flour but I find it very hard to make the custard without clots then)
For the lazy ones among us: you can use pudding mix from a package but of course it won’t taste the same as the homemade stuff).
Sprinkle the cake layer with some liquor, to prevent it from drying out and give it a more refined taste. Spoon the jam over the cake layer (if the jam is too rigid you can heat it up a bit first), then add the red fruit.
Make the custard layer before the mascarpone, because it needs to cool down. Start by putting the milk in a saucepan with the vanilla bean, after you have cut through in the length and scraped the black seeds out – add these to the milk. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat. In the meantime, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until it becomes whiter and fluid. Add the corn starch to the egg mixture. When the milk has boiled, add the hot milk to the egg mixture and beat with a wire whip. Put the mixture back on the fire and keep whipping and scraping the bottom so it doesn’t burn. Continue until the mixture is bubbling, let it boil for a bit (don’t stop whipping!), take it from the fire and pour it into a clean, cold bowl. Let it cool down and stir now and then to prevent it from forming a ‘sheet’ on top. Remove the vanilla bean before use.
Make the mascarpone layer by emptying the mascarpone in a big bowl and adding a few sips of milk, then crush with a fork and mix until it is a creamy mixture with the consistency of toothpaste. Add sugar to taste – if you want, start with 50 grams and then add until it’s sweet enough.
Put the mascarpone layer on top of the red fruit and smooth out the top. Add the custard layer once it’s cooled down and make it smooth as well. Done! Just at tip: if you make it at least a few hours beforehand and then put it in a cold spot, the flavors can work into each other really well (it’s also a great day-after-the-party leftover-munch). Enjoy!