A tale of two trifles

We don’t, really, have trifles in Italy. The nearest we come is cassata but although that can, technically, mean a layering of sponge, fruit, liqueur etc, it usually means an ice cream layered dessert. That said, the second trifle here is called Italian trifle, in our house, by my partner. I’m not sure why but it is.

So, here, I present two trifles, although neither are the classic trifle in that neither house any jelly at all. They both also contain booze so not really child-suitable (I should point out that it’s unlawful to give alcohol to a child under the age of five, unless under the direction of a doctor). Although I do have some friends whose children – over the age of five, ahem – absolutely devoured the Italian trifle off their mother’s plate and she had to wrestle the spoon back off them.

The first is a Nigel Slater recipe that he called the Ten Minute Trifle. I’m afraid I don’t have a photograph of it at present. It is glorious. I have since renamed it the Pregnancy Test Trifle since I credit it with being able to detect if you’re pregnant, even before you know you are.

Let me explain. In late 2002 we decided to try for a baby. Three days after ‘trying’ for a baby for the very first time, I made this trifle, as it was New Year’s Eve. I had made it many, many times before. I tasted it. And spat it out. “I’ve put far too much alcohol in here,” I said to my partner, with upper lip ruffled up in distaste. “I must have put double the amount of sherry into it.”

He tasted it. Declared it fine. But to me, it was inedible. It was another three weeks before I did a pregnancy test which declared that I was, indeed, pregnant. Another friend had this trifle and declared it inedible – too strong – and she then discovered she was pregnant.

Despite this. If you’re not pregnant this trifle is lovely. Not too strong at all. If it does taste too strong…well.

Nigel Slater’s Ten Minute Trifle

Note: this trifle contains raw egg and alcohol.

10-20 sponge fingers. You can play quite loose with the quantities as I use enough to fill the bottom of the bowl

255ml chilled marsala or sweet sherry

2 ripe bananas, sliced

1 tin of raspberries. I use the ones in juice

2 eggs, separated

50g caster sugar

225g mascarpone

vanilla extract

flaked almonds

Put the sponge fingers, broken up in half, thirds, whatever and put into a bowl. (Note this is fairly sloppy when you ‘cut’ into it so if such things matter to you you may want to make this in individual bowls/glasses, these glasses are particularly good for this.) Pour over the marsala, raspberries (with as much or as little of the tinned-juice as you need to soak the sponge fingers, discard the rest of the juice). Now put the bananas on top.

Cream the egg yolks with the sugar, add the mascarpone and beat until light and creamy. Add a dash of vanilla extract, about a teaspoon.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff and then fold them gently into the egg yolk/mascarpone mixture. Now tip it all over the fruit/sponge fingers and cover with toasted flaked almonds.

Leave it for a couple of hours before eating.

Italian trifle

This is very rich, very delicious and more-ish. I really like trifles (I know some people hate them) because you can make them in advance, as long as you have the fridge space. They are a great, often not madly expensive way of serving dessert to lots of people and if anything, they improve with 24hrs in the fridge. I’ve said before that I am master of organisation, but once people arrive through my front door and I’ve had a drink it’s every man for himself. I am a dreadful hostess. So a dessert, pre-made, that I can present with relish and show that I did, once, care about my guests, is useful.

100g sponge fingers. Absolutely use shop bought don’t even think about making them yourself

100g lemon curd

3 tablespoons of limongello or lemon vodka

500ml of double cream

125g caster sugar

100ml lemon juice. From our normal sized lemons this equals to the juice from one and a half lemons

Topping

250ml whipping cream

Zest of half an orange

Crystallized violets (optional but lovely here)

Shelled, chopped nuts. I use pistachio or toasted hazelnuts. But you can leave this bit out completely.

I make this in a 1litre pudding basin.

Break the sponge fingers in half and spread with the curd. Put them in individual glasses if you like, but this is an impressive dessert to serve in a big dish. And unlike the Pregnancy Test Trifle above, it holds its shape when cut.

Now sprinke the alcohol over the top.

In a medium sized sauce pan pour the 500ml of double cream and add the sugar. Bring to the boil over a medium heat then turn down and simmer for 2/3 minutes. Now remove from the heat and stir through the lemon juice. Pour this over the sponge fingers. In the bowl I use, this takes me almost to the top and I always have a moment of panic but as long as you have a centimetre or so of space, you’ll be fine for putting the cream on later. Push the sponge fingers down into the mixture as best you can.

Leave it out, to cool. When cool put it in the fridge. You can easily do this bit the day before, as I do. Be warned, this is already delicious and often I have a go at this pudding before the day. That’s okay though because you will have a carapace of whipped cream to hide your shame.

Either just before you serve this or when the mixture above has set you whip up the whipped cream. Spoon it over the trifle and scatter with the violet petals/nuts/zest. Either serve or put back in the fridge for enjoyment later.

2 thoughts on “A tale of two trifles

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