The delicious strawberry trifle

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By The Culinary Institute Of America

The stars aligned when our forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence right in the middle of berry season. And while maybe that wasn’t part of Thomas Jefferson’s agenda, we really ought to take advantage of it.

This Summer Berry Trifle from The Culinary Institute of America is perfect for your Fourth of July barbecue. Showing off the summer’s fresh berries, layering strawberries and blueberries (or whatever you like best) with a sweet diplomat cream and tender yellow cake, it’s everything you could ever want in a summer dessert.

A trifle is a layered dessert made from cake or ladyfinger cookies, sweet custard, and some whipped cream to lighten things up. Trifles are basically the apple pie of England, where they often include sherry wine, brandy, and jam, and, like many things we love today, they were created as a way to use up leftovers.

Diplomat cream combines two of the best things in the world: pastry cream and freshly whipped cream. Pastry cream is basically just vanilla pudding, so imagine that plus whipped cream. Then imagine that layered with fruit and cake. It’s all too exciting! (Go to Pastry Cream recipe)

Because it is part of so many classic recipes, like profiteroles, fruit tarts, and eclairs, pastry cream is one of the fundamentals every CIA baking and pastry student must master before moving on with their studies. Don’t let that intimidate you, though, because with some patience and a strong whisking arm, preparing pastry cream is a walk in the park. (Go to Yellow Butter Cake recipe.)

The flavours in this trifle are simple and classic, but there are so many opportunities to experiment. You can flavour your pastry cream by steeping ingredients like coffee, cardamom, or cinnamon in the milk mixture. You can add layers of chocolate fudge, dulce de leche, or baked streusel, or brush flavoured simple syrup or liqueur onto the cake layers. Take this recipe straight through farm stand season, experimenting with ripe fruits like plums, peaches, and eventually poached apples and pears.

When planning a party, make-ahead items are key, and this dessert is one of them. All of the components for your trifle can be made a few days ahead (the cake can even be prepared weeks before and frozen), and then assembled the night before. It will only get better as the cake soaks in some of the cream and juice of the berries, so you can put it out of your mind until it’s time to serve dessert.

We’ve made the trifles in individual jars for serving, but you can use these ingredients to make one large trifle to serve family-style. Any vessel will work, but a clear glass serving dish will show off the layers, and the vibrant colours of the berries are like a centerpiece all on their own.

SUMMER BERRY TRIFLE

Servings: 12 individual trifles

Start to finish: 2 hours 50 minutes (Inactive: 2 hours)

1 cup heavy cream

1 quart strawberries, stemmed and diced

2 pints blueberries

Place the cake, bottom parchment still intact, on a clean work surface. Place a second piece of parchment over the cake. Holding both pieces of parchment taut, carefully flip the cake so that the fresh parchment is now on the bottom. Carefully peel the parchment paper from the cake, then return it to loosely cover the cake.

Use a rolling pin to gently roll the cake into an even layer. Remove the parchment and use a 2 1/2-inch circle cutter (or whichever size best fits your serving vessels) to cut 24 circles from the cake.

Meanwhile, transfer the chilled pastry cream to a clean bowl and gently beat with a rubber spatula until it is smooth. Set aside.

Whip the heavy cream in a chilled bowl until it holds a medium peak when the whisk is turned upright. Working by hand with a spatula, fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream in 2 or 3 additions, folding just until evenly blended.

Place one circle of cake at the bottom of a small jar. Top with about 2 tablespoons strawberries, followed by 2 tablespoons of the pastry cream mixture. Add another cake circle, pressing down lightly to compact the layers, followed by about 1 1/2 tablespoons of blueberries, and another 2 tablespoons of pastry cream mixture. Repeat the steps with the remaining jars, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. – AP

The delicious strawberry trifle