Cooking

The Trifle Tower

Steal the show with this stunning large-format dessert
How to Make a Cherry Trifle
Photos: Rachel Vanni/Tasting Table

Big desserts are in. From the three-pound cinnamon roll at Lulu's Bakery & Cafe in San Antonio, Texas, to the monster coconut cream pie sliced straight from a sheet pan at Maple & Ash in Chicago, the single-serving dessert is a thing of the past. So we're embracing this sharing-is-caring mentality with our sweets this summer, too, and have found the perfect plus-sized confection to make for our summer blowouts. (It'll definitely make an appearance on July 4, for one.)

Enter the trifle, the OG large-format dessert for feeding a crowd, in which cake gets layered with cream and fruit in a giant glass dish for a picture-perfect dessert. In our version, we pile grapefruit pastry cream, pistachios and stewed cherries on top of moist pieces of blueberry pound cake for a treat that tastes like peak summer (see the recipe).

They might be beautiful, but trifles are deceptively easy to make. So we're breaking down the steps for building the perfect one. Use our guideline all summer long with whatever fruit you have on hand.

Pound It Out

The base of any trifle is cake. We make a super-easy pound cake laced with yogurt and ripe summer blueberries, because pound cake is dense enough to maintain the trifle's structure while lightly soaking in the flavors of the surrounding cream and fruit.

This is step one and only the beginning of how you can have fun with this recipe. We use blueberries for color and a pop of berry flavor, but you can use any fruit you have on hand. Later in the summer, stone fruit like peaches and plums would also work great, or you can even get creative with pineapple or guava.

Curd Is the Word

If you've never made a curd before, it's time to venture into this area of citrus nirvana. Eggs, citrus juice, sugar and butter cook together into a thick vibrant sauce that's just as tart and sweet as your favorite lemon bar. A quick swap of grapefruit adds a floral brightness in this recipe, though just as with the pound cake, you can swap in different fruits. Try lime, lemon or orange for an equally delicious curd.

Now, the secret for this trifle is turning your curd into a pastry cream, which simply involves lightening the curd with whipped cream. Pastry cream is a little looser than straight-up whipped cream, which means it fills in every nook and cranny for total coverage. Though it will spread a little, it will also set in the fridge, which makes it easier to serve.

Fruit of the Month Club

For a classic trifle, you'd just throw handfuls of berries into a bowl. But that just doesn't cut it for us. In addition to fresh blueberries, we spoon on stewed cherries, cooked down with cardamom and kirsch for extra fruit flavor. You can swap out cherries with anything from strawberries to apricots or figs; just be sure the fruit has some body to it, so it doesn't break down in the heat (raspberries and blackberries aren't ideal, for example).

By cooking down your fruit with sugar and aromatics, you start to pull out the juices, which you'll then thicken with cornstarch. Once everything has cooled, you're left with fruit surrounded by a rich syrup that bleeds throughout the trifle for a touch of fruity flavor in every bite. It looks pretty, too.

Now that you've got the tools to make 2017's ultimate summer dessert, try this recipe out with various flavors combinations. Turns out layering isn't just for the cold months.

  • Once you've made all of your ingredients, layer one-third of the pound cake cubes into a trifle dish.

  • Add blueberries on top of the cake.

  • Dollop one-third of the pastry cream on top of the cake.

  • Add one-third of the stewed cherries.

  • Sprinkle on the pistachios.

  • Repeat with more cake . . .

  • . . . and add more pastry cream.

  • Add more blueberries.

  • Spoon on more cherries.

  • Sprinkle on more pistachios.

  • Add a final layer of cake.

  • Layer on more curd-infused cream.

  • Top that with a final layer of cherries.

  • Marvel at your masterpiece.

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