Sometimes, you just need something to celebrate, and this is especially true during a snowy, cold winter. Fortunately, the gloom of winter is broken up by several holidays, and you can choose whichever one you want…Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, or just Take A Break From Shoveling Out The Parking Space Day. Trifle offers at least as much comfort as pajamas and a warm blanket, but it makes any dreary day seem like a celebration instead of a reason to hibernate.
One of the best parts about Trifle is that it’s a project easily shared across a group – and to that end, I’d like to introduce you to the two newest in our ever-growing cast of characters on Sundays with Sparky: Flake and Fluffles. Did you know (despite the bent towards boys in this blog) girls, as natural scientists, love to experiment – and this makes them excellent cooking partners.
An English Trifle is made with “proper custard,” cubes of pound cake, berries and whipped cream. In the Quips household, we prefer angel food cake, as it is extremely fluffy and absorbs the custard and berry juices deliciously. A storebought cake works just fine if you don’t feel like making your own. Proper custard, however, should be made from scratch, and Sparky and I prepared some ahead of time and cooled it before we were ready to go – we made a “pouring custard,” or a “stirred custard” similar to creme anglaise (if you’re really stretched for time, creme anglaise or melted ice cream will work fine, but will be a little richer and sweeter than ours.)
Sparky poured the milk and vanilla extract into a saucepan and heated it over low heat until it reached about 120 degrees. He then whisked the sugar into the egg yolks and poured in about half of the hot milk, whisking vigorously. He then poured the eggs back into the pot of milk, making sure all the sugar went with them, and kept heating the custard over low heat, stirring with a spatula to make sure the bottom didn’t scramble, cooking it to between 175 and 180 degrees, or until the custard thickened enough to coat the spatula – about 10 minutes of stirring. (We did have a bit of a scramble, but that was easily managed by straining our final product.) The custard was poured back into the measuring cup and stored in the fridge.
Sparky cubed up the angelfood cake by first cutting it in half, then slicing it into strips and the strips into cubes.
Next, Flake and Fluffles picked over our berries (we used a combination of raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries – and a few sliced kumquats for that orangey flavor) Fluffles put the “good” berries in a strainer and rinsed them well, shaking them to let them dry.
Flake helped build our trifle layers, starting with a layer of cake cubes drowned in half the custard. We topped that with half of the berries, and then a layer of whipped cream. After that, another layer of cake and custard, and another of berries and cream – and some fancy swirls on top for decoration.
As you can see, the trifle was devoured in a…trice! Stay warm and enjoy!