Don’t trifle with my affections! ~ That’s a trifle stingy ol’ chap ~ He is not to be trifled with!
And then there’s my favourite meaning of the word- dessert! Trifle is a word that fell out of fashion ages ago but the dessert lives on, occasionally gets a look-in, and in my opinion is ripe for a come-back. Occasionally my parents will make a trifle as the grand finale to a family dinner or instead of a birthday cake. To be honest, I rarely make this dessert. I just don’t think about trifles that often and definitely never see them around, apart from the standard trifle dish being sold in a kitchen shop.
But when I do think about it, what is better than cake soaked in sweet wine and topped with the best fruit and cream? There’s a reason why the English get so excited in June when it’s time for “strawberries and cream”…to be accompanied by Pims and Wimbledon no less. When it comes to traditional foods, it’s the simple things like trifle that have genuine staying power. And yet this simple dessert has so much potential to be played with. It originated in England in the 1500’s and as the years went on, alcohol was added to soak the bread then jelly was added to fruit in the 1800’s. So we might as well continue the tradition.
The flavour combinations are endless- try making it with passion fruit and papaya, substitute rum for sherry, add toasted coconut shavings to the top and whip coconut milk for the cream. Or turn it into classic Italian flavours- add chocolate or peaches and amaretti biscuits. You could also go completely off-book and make it Japanese-style, with hazelnut sponge cake on the bottom and matcha mousse in the middle.
One of the brilliant things about trifle is that you can use nearly any fruit as long as the flavours work together. We’re of course keeping things local and organic, so I used handfuls of a few types of berries we harvested and froze last summer- Saskatoon berries, black raspberries, black currants, and blueberries. The black raspberries were lovingly hand-picked from the mountainsides and it’s such a treat to eat them mid-winter. Saskatoon berries and dark cherries or peach slices would be a great combination as the Saskatoon berry seeds have an almond flavour.
For this recipe, I strayed from tradition as per usual, and took elements from three different desserts; chocolate, vanilla and cream cheese from tuxedo cake; the layers and cream from trifle, and a mixture of summer berries from the equally delicious English ‘summer pudding’ dessert.
Depending on the size of your Valentine’s dinner, and of course on your plans post-dinner, (wink! “why didn’t I whip extra cream??”), I recommend two people sharing one glass of trifle- it is wonderful when eaten ‘ice cream-sundae style’ with two spoons. Trifle is even better when allowed to sit for a few hours before serving, so it’s best made in advance (no more than a ½ day however) and to keep it refrigerated before eating.
Takes 20 minutes to assemble
140ml whipping cream
1 tsp sugar (organic cane sugar if possible)
½ tsp vanilla extract
4 Tbsps cream cheese
½ tsp sugar
1 ¼ cups of frozen local fruit or 2-3 mixed fruits (or even ¼ cup each of different fruits- for example
blackberries, raspberries or strawberries, black currants, Saskatoon berries)
1 small to regular size chocolate cupcake or muffin
1 small to regular size vanilla cupcake, muffin, or equivalent amount in sponge cake
6-7 teaspoons of port, dessert wine, brandy, kirsch or sherry (brandy or port are best)
- Using an electric mixer, whip the cream with the vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon sugar until soft peaks form.
- Refrigerate a half cup of the whipped cream and keep for topping at the end.
- To the remaining whipped cream, beat in the cream cheese and ½ tsp sugar until smooth, and refrigerate until needed.
- In a small pan, heat the berries over medium heat for 3 minutes, or if using larger fruit (cherries, peaches etc) then heat over medium-low until defrosted. Remove from heat.
To put together the Tuxedo Trifle:
- In the base of each glass, place ¼ to ½ of the chocolate cake depending on the size of the cupcake.
- Soak the cake with 2-3 teaspoons of port or other liqueur, per glass.
- Top each with 2 Tbsps cooked fruit, followed by 2-3 Tbsps of the cream cheese mixture and spread the cream to the edges of the glass.
- Add ¼ to ½ of the vanilla cupcake or muffin to each glass followed by another 2 Tbsps of fruit and 1-2 tsps of port or liqueur.
To finish, top each trifle with half of the reserved whipped cream.
For a Valentine’s decoration:
- Chocolate shavings or curls are great (use a block of chocolate and a vegetable peeler to make the curls)
- Cut out a heart-shape from a circle of parchment paper the size of the top of the glass, and lay this over top of the whipped cream. Dust with cocoa paper or chocolate shavings then carefully remove the paper and you will be left with a heart shape.