It’s a perfect Christmas here at our house. It’s our tradition to spend the day together, just the two of us (plus dog and cat.) We enjoy a leisurely breakfast – today I made apple fritters and, for me, a couple of my homemade breakfast sausages. We lingered around the tree with our coffee and tea, opening gifts and making and receiving holiday phone calls.
The afternoon has been spent watching movies on TV, noshing on whatever we could find in the fridge. That included last night’s leftover Parisian-style gnocchi with butternut squash and shitake mushrooms.
But this post isn’t about breakfast, or about dinner. It’s about dessert.
At the last minute, I invited a friend to have Christmas Eve dinner with the two of us. Now, if dinner had just been the two of us, I wouldn’t have made any dessert. Dennis is perfectly happy without sweet temptations and I’m so happy to have them, I’ll eat too much. But with another dessert eater coming over, I was ready to give in to temptation.
Just two days ago, in a lovely Christmas moment, a friend sent us an astonishingly delicious butter rum cake from Sugar & Spike. It was so good, and with a nudge from that same friend, thought suddenly about Trifle.
A traditional holiday sweet, trifle is made up of jam-smeared cake slices, doused in booze, then layered with creme anglaise/vanilla cream and fruit. Several of these layers are then topped with sweetened whipped cream.
I could already tell this butter rum cake would layer beautifully in a trifle. I peered into the depths of the refrigerator and saw about 3 oz of apricot glaze leftover from tart-making, three egg yolks leftover from some meringue art (post forthcoming,) – those would make a beautiful vanilla sauce, just add cream and milk and vanilla bean. I had some raspberries and blueberries. And there were all the wonderful liqueurs from the summer fermenting. In a glorious moment of inspiration, I remembered David Lebovitz’ candied cherries (from A Perfect Scoop.) Suddenly, a trifle was born. I put it together in the early afternoon. By the dessert hour, it was heavenly. While making the trifle, I thought “this is how trifle came to be.” finding bits and pieces all around the kitchen that come together in delicious beauty.
Leftover pound cake, stollen or pannetone, about six slices
Jam – raspberry or apricot seems best
Brandy or Apricot or Peach liqueur
Vanilla custard (3 egg yolks, 1/4 c sugar, 1/2 c milk, 1/2 c cream, 1 tsp vanilla)
1 pt Raspberries, blueberries
1/2 c whipping cream, whipped to soft peaks
A beautiful glass bowl, about 1 qt size
Make the vanilla custard. Heat the cream and milk (I use the microwave and heat for about a minute.)
In a small saucepan, whisk together the sugar and egg yolks. Stream in the cream/milk mixture slowly, whisking all the time. Keeping the heat at medium, stirring constantly, the custard should thicken in about 5 minutes. Stir in the vanilla. Continue to heat until slightly thickened – stir with a wooden spoon, then drag your finger through the custard on the back of the spoon. When the line remains, the custard is done.)
Strain through a sieve into a bowl set in an ice bath, to cool the custard quickly.
Now make the trifle.
Start by spreading jam on one side of the cake slices.
Begin the layers with two or three slices of the cake pressed into the bottom of the bowl.
Sprinkle a healthy slosh of liqueur over the cake.
Add a few raspberries.
Add 1/3 of the custard.
Start again with the jammy cake slices – and repeat the whole process two more times.
Cover with plastic and pop in the ‘fridge for at least two hours.
No more than two hours before you are going to serve the trifle, cover the top with whipped cream.
If you have raspberries left over, place them on the top of the trifle.
**I made the candied cherries using some sour cherry jam I made last summer than never quite jelled. I just cooked them down forever until all the liquid was gone, then carefully plucked them apart onto parchment paper to dry a bit. The recipe/idea from A Perfect Scoop – an indispensible ice cream cookbook by David Lebovitz. It’s such a treasure, I suggest you put it on your wish list right away!)
Chill the trifle well and serve cold.
Merry Christmas from my kitchen to yours.