For those of us with a penchant for dessert classics, English Trifle is an icon of British baking tradition. But could it be that one of England’s most iconic desserts was the result of a 16th-century baking disaster? After all, what is a quicker and more definitive rescue to a cake gone awry than the generous addition of fortified wine and copious amounts of custard and cream. (And, yes, that’s a rhetorical question.)
Though most traditional English trifle recipes featured pieces of sponge cake soaked in brandy or sherry and layered with custard, fruit or jam and cream, contemporary versions may often swap in fruit syrup for the alcohol and pound cake or angel food cake for the genoise. Then, as now, the dessert is served in a deep glass dish to reveal all of its colorful layers. In our springtime spin on the classic, we layer squares of angel food cake with minted strawberries and a mascarpone-enriched whipped cream. For traditionalists, a footed glass trifle bowl is the best vessel for serving, but any glass serving dish deep enough to reveal the sweet layers will do.
Strawberry Trifle with Mascarpone Whipped Cream
For the cake:
- 1 cup (5 oz./155 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups (12 oz./375 g) sugar
- 12 egg whites
- 1 tsp. cream of tartar
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
For the strawberries:
- 1 lb. (500 g) strawberries, hulled and quartered
- 1/4 cup (2 oz./60 g) sugar
- 1 Tbs. chopped fresh mint
For the mascarpone whipped cream:
- 2/3 cup (5 1/2 oz./170 g) mascarpone cheese
- 1/4 cup (2 oz./60 g) sugar
- 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) heavy cream
- 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
To make the cake, preheat an oven to 325°F (165°C).
In a bowl, sift together the flour and 1/2 cup (4 oz./125 g) of the sugar. Sift the mixture together again into a second bowl. Repeat the sifting twice more, transferring the flour and sugar mixture from bowl to bowl. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on low speed until they start to foam, about 2 minutes. Add the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla, increase the speed to medium and beat until soft peaks form, about 4 minutes. With the mixer running on medium speed, slowly add the remaining 1 cup (8 oz./250 g) sugar. Increase the speed to high and beat until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and sprinkle the flour mixture over the egg white mixture. Gently fold in with a rubber spatula, taking care not to overmix.
Spoon the batter into an angel food cake pan. Gently tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove any air pockets. Bake until the cake is golden brown and springs back lightly when touched, 35 to 45 minutes.
Invert the pan onto a wire rack and let cool, upside down, for about 30 minutes. Run a paring knife around the edges of the pan to release the cake. Let cool on the rack for about 10 minutes more. Cut the cake into 2-inch (5-cm) cubes.
Meanwhile, make the minted strawberries: In a large bowl, stir together the strawberries, sugar and mint. Let stand at room temperature until the juices have released, about 15 minutes.
To make the mascarpone whipped cream, in the clean bowl of the electric mixer fitted with the clean whisk attachment, beat together the mascarpone and sugar until combined, about 1 minute. Add the cream and vanilla and beat until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. You may need to beat again just before serving.
To assemble the trifle, arrange a single layer of the cake cubes in the bottom of a footed glass trifle bowl or a large flat-bottomed glass bowl. Spoon one-third of the macerated strawberries over the cake and then spread a third of the whipped cream over the berries. Repeat the layers twice, finishing with a layer of the whipped cream. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate up to 4 hours before serving. Serves 8 to 10.
Williams Sonoma Test Kitchen