Late Spring, Early Summer: The Perfect Time for an English Trifle

“A dessert typically consisting of plain or sponge cake often soaked with wine or spirits (as brandy or rum) and topped with layers of preserves, custard, and cream.” – Merriam-Webster dictionary

English trifle recipeI can still remember the first English Trifle I tasted years ago. Its soft airy whipped cream, comforting creamy pudding, fresh sweet berries and crumbly texture made for one memorable, heavenly dessert.

Having scoured my cookbooks (this was pre-internet) for an English Trifle recipe, but failing to find one that reflected the culinary vision I had in my baker’s mind, I set out to create my own.

I had just read Frances Mayes’ 1996 memoir Under the Tuscan Sun, in which she shared a Lemon Cake recipe that I had made, served with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. Deliciously moist and fresh, I decided to make my first trifle with her lemon cake in place of the more typical ladyfingers and sponge cake that one finds in traditional English Trifle recipes.

After all, there truly is nothing better than using homemade vanilla pudding or even tapioca, fresh whipped cream and a trio of berries – strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.

Refreshing and light, the English Trifle makes the perfect summer dessert for cookouts, barbecues and family get-togethers. It’s also a fun patriotic dessert for the Fourth of July with the layering of the red berries, the white whipped cream/pudding/cake, and the blueberries.

We hope you enjoy!

English Trifle Recipe

Lemon Cake (taken from Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes, 1996)

Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temp.
2 cups sugar
3 eggs, room temp.
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
3 tbsp. lemon juice
Grated zest of 1 lemon

Instructions:
Cream together 1 cup of sweet butter and 2 cups of sugar. Beat in 3 eggs, one at a time. The mixture should be light. Mix together 3 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and incorporate this with the butter mixture alternately with 1 cup buttermilk, (In Italy, I use one cup of cream since buttermilk is not available.) Begin and end with the flour mixture. Add 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and the grated zest of the lemon. Bake in a nonstick tube pan at 200 degree for 50 minutes. The cake can be glazed with 1/4 cup of soft butter into which 1 & 1/2 cups of powdered sugar and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice have been beaten. Decorate with tiny curls of lemon rind.

Vanilla Pudding (taken from The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, 1931)

Hint: Be patient with the pudding, it takes a lot of time and constant stirring to keep it smooth and creamy and to keep it from burning.

Ingredients:
2/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp. cornstarch
1/8 tsp. salt
3 cups whole milk
3-4 large egg yolks
2-3 tbsp. butter
1 & 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Instructions:
In medium heavy saucepan mix together thoroughly the sugar, cornstarch, and salt and gradually stir in, making sure to dissolve the cornstarch, 3 cups of whole milk and then whisk in the egg yolks, and then the butter. It is important to stir constantly to keep lumps from forming and to keep from burning the pudding. Cook, on medium heat stirring constantly until the mixture just comes to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low; stirring briskly, bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Let cool for several minutes and then place plastic wrap on top to keep the top from forming a film. Let the pudding cool thoroughly before using.

Easy English Trifle recipe

To assemble the trifle:

Ingredients:
The cake and pudding
1-2 cups sliced strawberries*1 cup raspberries
1 cup blueberries
Several cups of fresh whipped cream
Raspberry jam
Round trifle dish

Instructions for the trifle:
To begin, cut cake into 2-3 inch squares and spread raspberry jam on one side. Arrange neatly on the bottom of the trifle dish and then begin the layering first with pudding, then berries and then the whipped cream. Continue layering to the top finishing with the whipped cream. Decorate the whipped cream with either cake crumbs or berries. Refrigerate for at least 6-24 hours (I found that it tasted best after refrigerating overnight.)

*You can combine all of the berries together in a bowl for the layering or you can layer the berries separately for a more orderly and patriotic looking finish.

Happy Sweet Spring Desserts

“Nothing is so beautiful as Spring…[w]hat is all this juice and all this joy? A strain of the earth’s SWEET being in the beginning…” – Gerard Manley Hopkins from the poem “Spring”

Spring dessert recipesNothing is more perfect than a slightly sweet, light, ethereal dessert after dining on a plateful of pasta at an old-world Italian restaurant on an early spring evening.

You could say that the Italian dessert “Panna Cotta” is like tasting a bit of spring itself in all of its lightness, sweetness and silky, creamy freshness. A simple pudding-like dessert, Panna Cotta (which literally means “cooked cream”) originated in Northern Italy, where “the earliest recipes mention simmering the cream with fish bones (the collagen would set the cream).”

Panna Cotta is referred to as the “purest of the Italian spoons desserts” and when achieving the proper consistency and texture, should be silky smooth and just firm enough to hold its shape when plated (quotes taken from here).

Below are three variations of Panna Cotta to experiment with, along with two other spring dessert recipes, one for Banana Cake and one for a Lemon Cake. Enjoy!

Panna Cotta (taken from Russ Parsons, Los Angeles Times Food Editor)

Ingredients:
2 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. powdered gelatin
Oil
2 & 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 & 1/2 cups whole milk
5 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions:
Place water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Stir to distribute, and set aside to soften, 2-3 minutes.

Wipe the insides of 8 (one-half-cup) ramekins with a light coating of neutral oil and set aside. Half-fill a large bowl with ice and add enough water to make an ice bath and set aside.

In small saucepan, combine the cream, milk, sugar and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Remove from heat and whisk in the softened gelatin and the vanilla.

Set the saucepan in the ice bath (making sure the top of the saucepan is well above the surface of the water) and whisk until the mixture is lukewarm. Rub your fingers together – there should be no grit from undissolved sugar or gelatin.

Ladle mixture into the oiled ramekins and chill at least 4 hours or overnight.

About 10 minutes before serving run a thin-bladed knife around the inside of the ramekin. Dip the ramekin briefly in a bowl of hot tap water, and then carefully invert onto a serving plate.

Panna cotta recipes

Panna Cotta (adapted from blog.italian-connection.com)

Ingredients:
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk
2 heaping tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/7 ounce of unflavored gelatin

Instructions:
Dissolve gelatin in 2 tablespoons water for 2-3 minutes. In medium saucepan heat cream, milk, and sugar and heat gently. Remove from heat and stir in the gelatin and the vanilla extract and stir until thoroughly combined and begins to thicken. Pour into custard cups or ramekins and chill for 3-6 hours.

Panna Cotta (taken from Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything)

Ingredients:
3 cups cream
1 package (1/4 ounce) unflavored gelatin
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar

Instructions:
Put 1 cup cream in a medium saucepan and sprinkle gelatin over it; let sit for 5 minutes. Turn heat to low and cook, stirring, until gelatin dissolves completely.

Add remaining cream and sugar to gelatin mixture and heat gently, just until sugar dissolves; add vanilla and then pour mixture into 4-6 small custard cups. Chill until set, about 4 hours.

Sunny Lemon Cake (adapted from Ann Romney, The Romney Family Table)

Ingredients for the Cake:
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 & 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. lemon juice
Finely grated zest of 1 – 2 lemons
4 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
1 cup buttermilk

Instructions:
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.  In a separate bowl, beat the butter on medium-high for 1 – 2 minutes, or until smooth.  Gradually add the sugar, beating until light and fluffy, about 3 – 5 minutes.  Add the vanilla and lemon oil or zest and continue to beat.  Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, beating well after eat addition and scraping the bowl frequently.  Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture alternating with the buttermilk in 3 additions, beginning and ending with the flour.  Mix until the batter is smooth and well blended.

Spread batter into prepared pan and bake 45 to 50 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove from pan.  Drizzle warm cake with Lemon Glaze.

Ingredients for the Lemon Glaze:
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp. rum (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon

Instructions:
In a small bowl, combine the sugar, water, rum or vanilla extract, and lemon stirring until the sugar dissolves. Drizzle the warm cake with the glaze. Let cake cool completely before serving.

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (taken from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook)

Ingredients for the Cake:
1 stick of butter, room temp.
1 & 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs room temp. to be separated
1 cup mashed banana (about 3 med-size banana)
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts

easy banana cake recipe

Instructions for the Cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 9×13 baking dish or two 9-inch round cake pans. Cream the butter and then add sugar and beat until smooth. Separate eggs placing egg whites in bowl to be beat.  Add egg yolks, mashed bananas and buttermilk to butter/sugar mixture and combine thoroughly. Beat egg white in separate bowl until stiff but moist and fold into mixture. Sprinkle chopped nuts on top of batter and gently fold in. Spread evenly in prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool.

Ingredients for the Frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temp.
4 tbsp. butter, room temp.
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted if lumpy
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions for the Frosting:
Combine cream cheese and butter. Add 1 cup confectioners’ sugar at a time mixing thoroughly, and then stir in the vanilla. Spread on flat 9×13 cake or use to make a layer cake with the 9-inch pans.

See also more light, airy and sweet Spring recipes.