Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Recipe: Auntie Shin's remarkable trifle

Our New York eating is by no means over but as C. is tied up with work, I am interrupting the series with a recent recipe.

Let's get one thing straight, I don't like trifle. I don't like how they are messy, how they are hard to scoop out, their texture, the overdose of cream, I don't like how when served, they invierably look like something passed through the digestive tract of your dog, I don't like how they look very Nigella-ish, like you should be making them with pasty white arms and a stuck-on cardigan. Somehow, somewhere, I was biased to think that trifles are cooked desserts that you throw together and then cover up the deficiency by spreading cream all over it.

But a few years ago, I taste a trifle full of lightness and air and fruit, something so fresh and so heady that I immediately start mentally shopping for a trifle bowl. Oh, sung the heavens of angels. And raspberries and brandy and mango.

This trifle was made by a friend's mother, for her granddaughter's birthday and she was kind enough to share the recipe. I let this recipe sit around for oh, a good two years. You know how sometimes you don't understand why you procrastinate on odd things, that are neither really difficult nor tedious nor irrelevant and yet you hesistate to get them done, as if something was just waiting for you, when you did? This was one of those odd things. Time went by and finally, I was in a homewares shop and I saw a suitable sized trifle bowl (the small but high kind that feeds 6-8 people, not the low and large round 8-12 sort where you have heaps of leftovers). Never mind that this homewares shop happened to be in Melbourne and I wasn't planning on checking in luggage- when destinty calls, you got to do what you got to do.

And finally it was my birthday. A nice quiet afternoon, to put together my trifle. That's all I wanted and I already had cream sitting in the fridge. So I finally pulled out this recipe and made all the constituent parts. I bought the lady's finger biscuits. I bought the fruits and especially the berries and mango (you can also use blackberries, cut up strawberries are the best value, kiwis or mint leaves). I made the custard, which was fresh and just beautifully smooth and delicious. I made the sponge. If you get tired before this point, you can buy sponge or pound cake, or use the frozen sort. I bought two large chocolate meringues from Da Paolo, becuase by then I was a bit too tired to make my own. You really should make your own though, becuase egg whites are cheap, compared to spending good money for meringue from a deli. I hacked these into smaller pieces and they worked really because their chocolate meringues are only faintly chocolatey and they did not add any alcohol or taste flavourings.

One thing that you should keep in mind about trifles, is that what makes a good trifle is really Texture. Lots of contrasting textures. And second, soaking the sponge really makes a trifle. This is so for tiramisu (which is really a trifle) and it is also the case for banoffee (a trifle made with a digestive crust, contrasted against dulce de leche sliced bananas and rum-soaked sponge). In fact, trifle, in small, cold doses and diluted with fresh fruit, is really really delicious. I would definitely recommend you try this recipe but because it is impossible to make a little bit of trifle, this is most definitely party food and best made when you have a quorum. Lastly, this is a lovely thing to entertain with becuase you can make it up to a day ahead of time, in fact, you must make it ahead of time, so that it can be served cold. This frees you up closer to the actual party.


3 eggs separated
75g  (3 oz) caster sugar
25 g (1 oz) cornflour
20 g (3/4 oz) plain flour
425 ml (3/4 pint) milk

150 ml (1/4 pint) double cream, lightly whipped

Sponge cake:
2 eggs
50 g (2 oz) caster sugar
50 g (2 oz) plain flour

pinch salt

Fruits - red or black berries, cubed mango, sliced kiwis
Fruit jam (I used rhubarb jam but any fruit, non-citrus jam will do)
Lady's fingers biscuits
50 grams flaked almonds

Soaking solution:
1/2 cup of white wine
3 Tbsp brandy
Leftover fruit juice from the fruits or a few tablespoons orange juice (optional)


1) Make the custard by seperating the 3 eggs and whisking the egg yolks with 40 g of the sugar. Add the cornflour and the flour, mix well and stir in 150 ml of the milk. Heat the remaining milk in a saucepan to boiling point and pour into the egg mixture, stirring well. Return the mixture to the pot and cook for 10 mins, stirring every 30 secs until thickened and cooked. Beat well, then cover with wet greaseproof paper (so no `skin’ will form on top) and leave until cold.

2) Make up the whisked sponge mixture. (This is a light sponge cake that relies on the whisking of air into the eggs as the raising agent.) First line a small cake tin with lightly greased paper. Then whisk the eggs and sugar together until trebled in volume and really thick and creamy. Sift the flour and salt and sprinkle over the mixture, carefully folding in with a metal spoon and turning the mixture over from the base of the bowl to ensure all the flour is mixed in. Pour into the prepared container and microwave for 4 ½-5 mins. Leave for 5-10 mins before placing on a cooling rack. When cold, cut into squares of about 1”. You can also use store-bought sponge cake. 

3) Clean berries, cut mangos into cubes and slice kiwis. Keep any fruit juices for soaking the cake. You can also use orange juice. Heat the jam and water together in the microwave for 30-45 secs, stir well and heat for another 30 secs till dissolved together. 

4) Sprinkle the cooled cake and sponge fingers with the white wine, brandy and fruit juices.

5) Whisk the egg whites until stiff, add the remaining 40 g (1 ½ oz) of caster sugar and whisk again until stiff and glossy. Beat into the cold custard and then fold in the whipped cream.

6)  To assemble, layer the trifle, place the sponge cake into the bottom of a deep glass bowl and drizzle with the jam sauce. Sprinkle with half the almonds and place the macaroons on top. Arrange the rataflias (sponge fingers/lady's fingers biscuits) around the edge of the bowl.

7) Arrange some of the sliced fruit around the edge of the bowl, in between the rataflia so the bowl looks attractive. Place the rest of the cut fruit on top of this, sprinkle with the rest of the almonds, and any leftover jam sauce and more brandy if desired. 

8) Carefully pour the custard over the fruit and smooth the top. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours until well chilled. Decorate with swirls of whipped cream, berries and sliced fruit and chocolate and flaked almonds. I gave up at this last stage (and also my trifle bowl was full), so I just decorated the top with the berries and sliced fruit. I don't think my arrangement was that attractive- next time, I will line up the biscuits along the edge of the bowl more obviously, but it was certainly delicious.