Recipe shared by Rachael, Ancesister @ Ancestreats.
Our family recently received a dinner party invitation by friends while my mother happened to be staying with us for a visit. The hostess included her, and requested that we bring a dessert that would please lots of people: including a dozen or so kids under 4 years-old. Cue the reminiscing with mom about days gone by, and what she would have made for such a party. In the 1970s, my parents and their friends figured out that dinner parties that included one’s children were more economical than hiring baby sitters and more fun for everyone, including the kids. The host families provided the meal and designated dessert as a potluck. This new occasion called for one of my mother’s solid hits: a crowd pleasing fruit trifle.
The definition of a “trifle” is something of little substance or relevance. But a dessert trifle is quite the opposite! Essentially, it is a layered mish mash of cake, fruit, thickened custard or pudding, jam or jello and generously heaped whipped cream. This dish has its origins in England, and traditionally features liquor on the cake layers or in the whipped cream, as in a syllabub. As long as some sweet liquid (such as orange juice or the runoff from thawed frozen fruits) lightly moistens the cake, your recipe will be fine. A fresh trifle provides an elegant presentation that is as visually pleasing on a dessert buffet as it is to eat.
Where you can’t make a substitution is with the use of a high-sided, transparent bowl, preferably a glass trifle dish with a pedestal bottom. The upright mold elevates the dessert and the clear glass allows the layers, placed artfully, to be ogled with delightful anticipation.
Trifles are limited only by your own imagination and can be made ahead or at the last minute. They can be satisfyingly casual or uppity elegant; always serve them cold. While I offer the recipe of the way I prepared it, you could easily substitute vanilla sponge cake or chocolate pound cake or left-over birthday cake for the angel food cake. Also, depending on your season, frozen fruits may be switched out for fresh. We made this in the summer, so abundant fresh berries could be featured.
COOKS TIP: Measure out the liquid volume of your serving bowl to insure there is sufficient amounts of filling layers. There is no harm in having more than your dish allows for: just have an additional glass bowl handy to layer in your leftovers and make a bonus treat for the day after. My trifle dish holds 16 cups, and makes about 20 servings.
Strawberry Banana Trifle
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 3 T of sugar-free strawberry flavored gelatin (raspberry or cherry make good substitutes)
- 1 cup cold water
- 2 lbs of washed, sliced, fresh strawberries (or raspberries, blueberries, pitted cherries, etc)
- 1 ¾ cups cold milk
- 1 package of instant vanilla pudding (3.4 oz)
- 3-4 large, firm ripe bananas, sliced
- 2 T lemon juice
- 2, 11 oz angel food cakes (got mine at the supermarket, shaped like loaves), cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 cup fruit juice (or apricot brandy, cassis, triple sec or another fruity liquor)
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1 T vanilla
- 1 T superfine sugar
In a large bowl, use an electric mixture on slow for 2 minutes, combine milk with the pudding mixture, and then set aside.
In another bowl, combine the banana slices with the lemon juice. Toss so all pieces are evenly covered then set aside.
In a clean saucepan, combine 1 cup of sugar with the gelatin and cornstarch. Stir in the water until it is smooth and all powders are dissolved. Bring to a boil, cook and stir for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, gently stir in the strawberries, and set aside to cool.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, pour in the cold whipping cream and beat on high for 30 seconds then add the vanilla and slowly add in the remaining sugar; beat until soft peaks form but don’t overbeat it! Set in the fridge until you are ready to assemble.
Take out your transparent glass dish form. Consider that all the fillings pressed against the outside face of the dish should be deliberately placed with care. Start by making a single layer of cake cubes on the bottom of the dish. If the cake cubes have one oven-browned face, put that inside facing, leaving a pristine appearance against the glass. Make sure to spread out evenly the fillings in each successive layer.
Pour off any lemon juice reserve from the bananas into the reserved cake liquid. Onto your placed cake layer, evenly sprinkle one half-cup of the liquid. Then make a layer using half of the pudding, then half of the bananas, then half strawberries with sauce, then whipped cream. As you go, press down with a clean spatula the fillings so there are no air pockets. Repeat the layers. If you have extra room on top, add sliced fresh fruit atop the whipped cream. If you get to the top rim of the glass dish without getting whipped cream on as another layer, set aside the whipped cream that can be dolloped on top as garnish with any left over fruit slices. If you still have left over fillings, make a dessert bonus bowl for home enjoyment for later.
Place the dish in the fridge, uncovered, to chill until serving time. Add the whipped cream dollops on the top, right before serving. Use a large, long handled spoon for serving.