Trifle, a layered dessert of sponge or pound cake, crème Anglaise, fruit, and fresh whipped cream, has been showing up at elegant Christmas dinners for centuries. This version by Carolyn Miller makes for a particularly festive dessert-table centerpiece.
Of course, you can substitute fresh summer berries when they’re in season for a delightful ending to a summer lunch or dinner.—David Leite
For the Crème Anglaise
2 cups milk
2 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup dried tart cherries
3 Bartlett pears
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cups raspberry jam
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted (see Note)
One 9-by-5-inch bakery pound cake
1 cup sherry (preferably amontillado or oloroso), Madeira, or sweet Marsala
4 cups Crème Anglaise (above)
For the whipped cream
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Make the Crème Anglaise
1. Rinse the inside of a non-aluminum saucepan with water and shake out the excess water. Pour in the milk and place over medium-low heat until small bubbles form around the edges of the pan, about 5 minutes. In a small bowl, combine the whole eggs, egg yolk, and granulated sugar and whisk just until blended. Gradually whisk in half of the hot milk, then pour the egg mixture into the pan. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly until thick enough to coat the back of spoon, leaving a clear trail when a finger is drawn through it, 6 to 8 minutes. Do not allow to boil.
2. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Stir in the vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming, and let cool. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or for up to 2 days.
Make the trifle
1. Put the dried cherries in a small bowl and add boiling water to cover. Let stand for at least 30 minutes to plump the cherries. Drain. Reserve about 2 tablespoons of the cherries for garnish.
2. Peel the pears, halve lengthwise, core, and cut the pears crosswise into thin slices. Put them in a bowl, add the lemon juice, and toss to coat. In a small bowl, combine the jam with the warm water and stir. Reserve about 2 tablespoons almonds for garnish.
3. Cut the sponge cake into slices 1/2 inch thick. In a 2 1/2-quart trifle dish or deep glass bowl, make a layer of one-third of the cake slices, cutting and fitting them together as necessary. Sprinkle the cake layer with one-third of the sherry. Dollop one-third of the jam mixture over the cake. Sprinkle the jam with one-third each of the pears, cherries, and almonds, in that order.
4. Pour 1 1/3 cups of the crème anglaise over the top. Repeat to make 2 more layers.
5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the trifle for at least 2 hours or for up to overnight.
Make the whipped cream
1. About 30 minutes before serving, make the whipped cream: In a deep bowl, using a balloon whisk, beat the cream, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla until soft peaks form. Spoon the cream over the top of the trifle. Garnish with the reserved cherries and almonds.
2. Let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes. To serve, scoop out large spoonfuls, going down to the bottom layer.
Note: To toast the slivered almonds, in a small, dry frying pan over medium-low heat, stir the almonds frequently until they are fragrant and begin to turn golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Immediately transfer to a bowl and let cool.
Recipe © 2003 Weldon Owen Inc. and Williams-Sonoma. All rights reserved.