Not a Mere Trifle

Back in early January I was invited to a Twelfth Night Party hosted by a friend. The invitation said desserts and libations would be provided (it was not a potluck), but the hostess said that she would never turn down a dessert from me. (Another friend of mine said my desserts were “grandfathered” at any party and trump any directives in an invite, which I found amusing).

I got to thinking….well, a twelfth night cake would be awfully literal, so I scratched that idea pretty quickly. The hostess is a writer (as would be many of the guests) so I started thinking literary and with Shakespeare and England coming to mind I immediately thought of trifle.

Trifles are fabulous party desserts. (If you are going to any group Valentine’s Day parties, this would be a great dessert to bring). They are best assembled at least a day ahead – and many of the components can be made days before that. They serve a crowd and if presented in a classic trifle dish, they make a show-stopping statement on the table. At its most traditional a trifle is comprised of sponge cake or pound cake, sherry, fruit or fruit preserve (usually a “red” fruit such as raspberry), pastry cream and whipped cream. The thing I love about trifles, from a recipe developer’s perspective, is that they are so easily varied: all you need is a cake, pastry cream, something fruity (optional), a liqueur (optional) and whipped cream. After that, adding nuts or texture is up to you, too. Sky’s the limit. And making them ahead is not only possible, it is downright recommended! The flavors and textures meld during an overnight sit in the refrigerator.

I decided to cruise the internet for some ideas and landed upon an Epicurious.com recipe called Almond Sherry Christmas Trifle (but keep reading for my version pictured above). I always trust their recipes as I know first hand that they have gone through a thorough testing.

It had the flavors I wanted but I immediately made some changes. First of all, I have my own tried and true pastry cream, so I knew I would use that and I doubled the candied almonds. Also, the recipe called for two 15 x 10-inch pans. I wanted to re-configure the original recipe to fit into standard half-sheet pans. I was ready to begin. Please note that the recipe is based on the original at Epicurious.

First order of business was to re-do the cake component. I have to warn you that it requires almond paste, and being an almond paste fan, I always have it around. This will most likely be a special purchase for you. (Use American Almond brand –and not the kind that comes in the tube from the supermarket, which is beyond dry). I increased the original amounts and it worked well. Sour cherry preserves will be a special purchase item too; luckily Smucker’s has a great one that is readily available in the supermarket. Put sliced almonds and golden sherry on your shopping list too.

The party was lively and fun and the trifle was a huge hit. Truth be told, it was a bit sweet for my taste. Next time I will use a dry sherry, but if popular opinion counts for something, make it as is. Here is my version of Sour Cherry Trifle with Candied Almonds and Sherry.