CHERRY BERRY TRIFLE By Foodie’s Chef Laura Brennan


June 22, 2018

It’s summer.…officially. And right now, there is a burst of fresh cherries and berries in the markets, just waiting to be turned into handsome desserts!
Trifle is a handsome, classic English summer dessert: it’s cake soaked with layers of cream and berries. You have probably seen this in food magazines in a giant, footed glass ‘trifle dish’ with alternating layers of berries, cake, custard and cream. It’s a very dramatic presentation.
Here, I have made 8 individual trifles in 10-12-ounce, flared cups. Mason jars would make a modern presentation. Whatever you use, be sure they are deep enough to show off the layers of fruits and creams. Spoon lots of cream on the top and don’t forget the stemmed- cherry garnish.
It should always be a dramatic presentation no matter the size.

  • Prep: 15 mins
  • Cook: 20 mins
  • Yields: Eight (8) Cherry-Berry Trifles



Pastry cream:

3 ½ cups whole milk, divided

5 large egg yolks

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

5 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Pinch kosher salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Cherry compote:

1 ½ pounds fresh, whole cherries

¾ cup granulated sugar

2-3 strips lemon peel

1 ½ teaspoons almond extract

Trifle assembly:

1 pound of prepared cake (neutral-flavored): angel food cake or pound cake

½ pint fresh raspberries

2 each, ½ pints fresh blackberries

10 ounces heavy cream (very cold)

1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted


Begin by making pastry cream. Gather and measure out all the ingredients; this is your ‘mise-en-place’. You will also need 2 stainless steel bowls, a fine mesh strainer, a whisk, a wooden spoon (or heat-resistant spatula) and a 2-quart non-reactive saucepan. (Using an aluminum pan may dis-color the pastry cream, giving it a gray tinge.)

Add the 5 tablespoons of cornstarch along with the single tablespoon of flour to one of the bowls.

Add ½ cup of milk and whisk to dissolve both starches. Set aside.

Heat the remaining 3 cups of milk in the saucepan. Bring to a simmer (this is called ‘scalding the milk’) and remove from heat. Try not to boil it, lest it taste like canned milk!

In the second bowl combine the egg yolks with ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar. Add a pinch of kosher salt and whisk the yolks and sugar together to thoroughly combine. Use a ladle or handled cup and slowly drizzle in ¼ cup of the hot milk into the eggs and sugar. Whisk continuously---you are ‘tempering’ the yolks; that is, adding the hot milk a little bit at a time to equalize the temperatures so as to not scramble/cook the eggs. Continue until all the milk has been added.

Re-whisk the starches together (the flour and cornstarch that are waiting in a separate bowl with ½ cup milk). Add this to the milk-egg-sugar mixture. Whisk to combine thoroughly.

Add all of this mixture back into the saucepan and return pan to stove to medium-low heat.

Continuously whisk the custard as it slowly begins to cook and thicken. This should take about 10 minutes. Do not rush it by turning up the heat or the custard may stick to the bottom of the pot and burn. (As custard gets thicker, switch from whisk to wooden spoon/at resistant spatula.)

The custard should come to a gentle boil. And when it does, remove pan from heat and strain into one of the bowls. At this point, some cooks would have you chill the finished custard over an ice bath. This is such a small batch of pastry cream that I don’t find this step completely necessary. Add the 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract and continue to whisk for a few minutes to cool the custard. Pour into a clean bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or longer. (Pressing a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the custard will prevent a ‘skin’ layer of starch from forming.)

n.b. This can be made up to two days in advance. Just make sure it is well and completely covered in the refrigerator so it does not pick-up any other flavors.

Make the cherry compote. Wash the cherries in a colander/strainer under cold running water.

Set aside 8 whole cherries with stems intact for garnish.

Work ‘deep in the sink’ so any flying- pitted- cherry juices stay in the sink. Grab another bowl to put the pitted cherries into.

Grab 2 to 4 cherries in one hand. One by one, remove the stem, push the pit out of the cherry and drop the pitted cherry piece(s) into the clean bowl. Repeat. (I pitted 1 ½ pounds of cherries in under 10 minutes. The trick is to have a few cherries in one hand, so as to not pick up each cherry one by one.

(Note to self: Buy a cherry pitter for next year’s cherry season!)

Put the pitted cherries in a non-reactive saucepan (again, not aluminum), add the ¾ cup of sugar and the strips of lemon peel. Put pan on medium-low heat. Add 2 tablespoons of water to help the sugar begin to met. Cook, partially covered until cherries have softened and syrup has thickened slightly. Cook no more than 10/12 minutes. Off the heat, remove the lemon peel and add the almond extract. Pour into a clean bowl, let cool at room temperature. Refrigerate for 1 ½ to 2 hours or longer or until ready to use. (This can be made up to 2 days in advance.)

Trifle assembly. Cut the angel food or pound cake in half, through the center. If using angel-food, turn each half on its side and cut 4 equal ½- inch thick pieces. You should now have 8 each, “C”-shaped pieces. Now, cut each “C”-shaped piece into 3 pieces. (yield:24 pieces)

If using pound cake, first, cut the cake in half and then trim the crust from all the sides. Use a serrated knife and shave away a tiny amount of all the outside layer. Slice each remaining “block’ of cake into ½- inch rectangular pieces. Use a circle cutter that is similar in circumference to your glasses and cut out 24 round pieces of pound cake.

Add the very cold heavy cream to a chilled bowl and begin to whisk to thicken. Add the confectioner’s sugar by sifting the sugar over the cream in the bowl. Whisk to just beyond soft peaks. The cream should mound slightly and softly.

Refrigerate until ready to assemble trifles.

(Of course, whisk with beaters or in a machine if you’d like.)

Wash and dry the fruits on a towel. Cut the blackberries in half, lengthwise.

Set out 8 glasses. The layers will be:

1. Start with a piece of cake in the bottom of each glass—don’t be afraid to press down firmly

2. Add 1½ tablespoons of cherry compote with juices

3. Add 1 generous tablespoon of pastry cream

4. Add another piece of cake

5. Cover with a layer of raspberries (divide the ½ pint among all the glasses and add a generous tablespoon of pastry cream

6. Add the third (and final) piece of cake to each glass.

7. Divide the halved blackberries among the 8 glasses. Add some more cherry compote and juices to each glass. Cover with a thin layer of pastry cream. The amount will depend on the size of your glasses…but, being sure to leave room to add a generous mound of whipped cream to the top of each glass!

8. Garnish each with one whole cherry, stem-UP!

9. Refrigerate until ready to serve. (Best made and devoured same day)