After two different, soggy trifles over Christmas, I decided to dig deeper into this trifle making. Yes, the Brits tend to make soggy trifles, whether they use stale sponge or not, but those who swear by the superiority of pound cake are equally misguided. I don’t believe you can force smooth texture out of a two-egg sponge, not even from a stale one, and much less from a dense pound cake no matter what spirits the dousing is done with. Then there is the jam, or jell-o layer. I could never understand that part. Now after you spoon out a few servings of this stuff, and your trifle begins to resemble vomit, you either unload it on someone else or dump it in the trash. I kept thinking about the divinely smooth texture of Somlói Galuska, which is the Hungarian equivalent of English trifle. You douse the cake with liquid and yet it’s never soggy. That is when I realized I needed to start with a foam cake Hungarians call 'piskóta'. My choice of spirit is rum, but I tamed it with a bit of light syrup I made from water and sugar. I wanted to use Devonshire cream, which I had to make, because nobody sells it anymore. I prefer trifle with fresh fruit; raspberries or sliced strawberries. Good homemade custard and a generous topping of whipped cream are a must. The holydays are over, so I made the trifle very small. For a larger trifle, with some variations of course, I would double most of the ingredients. I would cut the cake into two layers with Devonshire cream in between and on the top. But I would finish the rest pretty much the same way. If you like a boozy trifle, go ahead and increase the rum and reduce the water in the rum syrup. But I like mine this way; to cover up the delicate flavour of real vanilla custard with the taste of liquor would be a shame. At the end of the recipe I included my ingredient list for the large trifle.
2 egg yolks
3 Tbsp sugar
2 egg whites
2 Tbsp cake flour
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup rum
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 cup of fresh fruit
Or 1 canned fruit, drained
1-1/2 cups whole milk
1/8 cup + 1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 vanilla pod, scraped
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp cold butter
1-1/2 cup whipping cream
1 Tbsp sugar
• Make a foam cake from two eggs first.
• Beat the egg yolks and sugar until thick and lemon coloured.
• Stir the flour mixture into the yolk mix.
• In a separate bowl, with clean beaters, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
• Gradually and gently incorporate the beaten egg whites into the yolk mixture.
• Select a cake pan with the shape of the trifle bowl in mind.
• Line the cake pan with parchment paper.
• Lightly spray the paper with cooking spray.
• Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.
• Gently smooth out the top.
• Bake at 350F until the middle springs back.
• While the cake bakes make the rum syrup.
• If you can’t use alcohol just flavour the syrup with rum extract.
• Put 3 Tbsp of rum syrup in the trifle dish and lay the chiffon cake on top.
• Sprinkle top of the cake with 3-5 Tbsp of rum syrup.
• Next make the Devonshire cream.
• In a medium bowl, cream together cream cheese, sugar and salt.
• Beat in cream until stiff peaks form.
• Spread the Devonshire cream over the cake layer.
• Wrap the trifle bowl and place it in the fridge for overnight.
• Next day take the trifle bowl out of the fridge and spread a layer of fresh or canned fruit on the top.
• Place the fruit around the edge first and then scatter the rest all over the top.
• Wrap the trifle bowl and put it back in the fridge.
• Your best friend is a good whisk for making the custard next.
• Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a saucepan.
• Place the eggs in a small bowl and whisk well.
• Heat the milk in the microwave to the boiling point.
• You don’t want the eggs to curdle, so temper them.
• To temper eggs: Bit by bit stir 3/4 cup of hot milk into the beaten eggs.
• Add the remaining hot milk to the pot with the cornstarch mixture.
• Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean segment into the pot and add the pod too.
• Gradually whisk in the tempered egg mixture and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly.
• Simmer, whisking constantly, until custard is sufficiently thickened.
• Test: Custard should thickly coat a wooden spoon.
• Remove pot from heat.
• Remove the vanilla pod and stir in the cold butter.
• Place pudding in a medium bowl.
• Place the bowl inside a large pot and surround it with ice cubes.
• Cover the pot and cool the custard to room temperature.
• Take the trifle bowl out of the fridge and add the cooled custard, smoothing out the top.
• In a deep bowl beat the whipping cream until stiff peaks form.
• Beat to add 1 Tbsp sugar.
• Cover the custard with the sweetened whipped cream and the trifle is ready.
For the large trifle:
Cake: 4 egg yolks, 6 Tbsp sugar, 4 egg whites, 4 Tbsp cake flour
Rum Syrup: 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup rum, 1/2 cup sugar
Devonshire Cream: 1/2 cup cream cheese, 1 Tbsp sugar, 1 pinch salt, 1 cup whipping cream
Fruit: 2 cup of fresh fruit Or 1 canned fruit, drained
Custard: 3 cups whole milk, 4 eggs, 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp cornstarch, 1 vanilla pod, scraped, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 Tbsp cold butter
Whipped Cream: 2 cups whipping cream, 2 Tbsp sugar