Summer fruit trifle recipe

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This is our Southern interpretation of the classic English dessert. We use the seasonal fruits available to us in the summer and layer them with old-fashioned sweet tea cakes that are as delicate as ladyfingers, velvety vanilla custard, and whipped cream.

  • Yield: 6 Servings


For the Sweet Cakes
  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder, preferably aluminum-free
  • 1½ teaspoons fine sea salt
  • ½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
For the Custard
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2½ tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes, at room temperature
For the Fruit
  • 4 cups mixed fresh berries, such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries
  • ½ cup sugar
  • One 12-ounce jar raspberry jam
  • ¼ cup Chambord, sweet sherry, Grand Marnier, or kirsch (optional)
  • 1 recipe Fresh Whipped Cream
  • Six 1-pint Mason jars, special equipment
How to Make It
  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
  2. To make the Sweet Cakes
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a measuring cup or a small bowl, combine the buttermilk and vanilla.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl, using a handheld mixer), cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Gradually add the buttermilk and vanilla mixture. Add the flour mixture in thirds, mixing after each addition until just incorporated.
  5. Using a small ice cream scoop, scoop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the cakes 2 inches apart. You should have 24 cakes. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly golden around the edges. Remove the cakes from the oven and cool them on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes. The cakes will keep for up to 5 days in an airtight container at room temperature.
  6. To make the Custard
  7. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a heatproof bowl until thick and pale in color. Set aside.
  8. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat to just under a boil. Whisking constantly, add about 1 cup of the hot milk to the egg yolk mixture to temper the eggs, so they won’t curdle. Continuing to whisk, add the remainder of the milk in a steady stream.
  9. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water) and cook, whisking constantly, until the custard has thickened, 5 to 7 minutes.
  10. Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the vanilla until combined. Let the custard sit for about 2 minutes to cool slightly, then whisk in the butter until it is melted and the custard is smooth and silky.
  11. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the custard so that a skin does not form and let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or overnight. (If you are in a hurry, you can set the bowl of custard in a larger bowl filled with ice and whisk occasionally for about 15 minutes, until chilled.)
  12. Meanwhile, macerate the fruit: In a large bowl, toss the fruit together with the sugar until well combined. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
  13. To Assemble the Trifle
  14. Slice each sweet cake in half, spread with the jam, and reassemble to make 24 sandwiches.
  15. Place 1 sweet cake sandwich in the bottom of each of the Mason jars and follow with a layer of fruit and a layer of custard; repeat one more time. If using the liqueur, pour 2 teaspoons over each trifle. Top with Fresh Whipped Cream. Covered with plastic wrap, the trifle will keep, refrigerated, for up to 1 day.

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