Cherry Trifle

1/07/2022 09:14:00 PM

Cherry trifle. Today's recipe is for a massive cherry trifle - layers of brandy soaked sponge cake, cherry jam, cherry compote, cherry jelly, vanilla-bean custard and whipped cream. A creamy dreamy dessert, perfect for summer!

Cherry Trifle
Cherry trifle

Hah, I know, we've just finished Christmas and I'm sharing a trifle recipe. If I were a more organised blogger, I'd have made and tested this months ago, and posted about it weeks in advance of Christmas. But, I came up with this trifle recipe for our actual Christmas dinner, so here it is now. I figure that here in Australia we still have almost two months of summer (and cherry season) ahead, and many of us will be having outdoor gatherings and picnics (if any at all), so this recipe may come in handy. But most importantly, I just really loved this trifle and wanted to record the recipe here!

So, leading up to Christmas I was trying to figure out what dessert to make for our family dinner, and was endlessly texting back and forth with fellow food-loving friend Clarice to discuss different dessert options for our respective Christmas meals (hers in the wintry northern hemisphere, mine in the summery southern). Following last year's lovely roasted peach and jelly trifle, I was definitely thinking trifle, and preferably a summery version. (Something similar to my Passionfruit, Meringue and Mascarpone trifle from 11 years ago). I then thought it might be a good opportunity to try Nigella's Rhubarb and Custard Trifle in Cook, Eat, Repeat, (not quite summery, but a trifle nonetheless, and rhubarb is still widely available in the supermarkets). The decision was made, for a minute. And then, Sandra received a beautiful two kilogram gift box of cherries from her work as a Christmas gift - it had to be cherries!

Nigella actually has a cherry trifle recipe in her seminal book, How to be a Domestic Goddess, which I read through after I decided on a cherry trifle. Strangely, despite having used and read the book widely over the last seventeen (!) years, I'd never really noticed the cherry trifle recipe before (even though I can easily recall the recipes for the two other trifles in the book). It sounds like it would be nice - trifle sponges sandwiched with cherry jam, soaked with brandy, topped with fresh pitted cherries, topped with vanilla bean-brandy custard and whipped cream, and garnished with toasted almonds and a cherry jam glaze. I thought of trying the recipe out as is, but after much deliberation I ended up doing my own thing. I didn't have enough brandy to follow the recipe exactly, the yolk-to-milk ratio seemed awfully high, her method of infusing vanilla and brandy into the custard seemed to miss out on scraping the expensive vanilla seeds into the custard, I thought cooked cherries would be nicer than raw, and I couldn't figure out a suitable Australian alternative for a store bought trifle sponge. Also, the picture in the book has a very homely feel, but I'm not too embarrassed to admit that I'm superficial and wanted something that looked a bit more Instaworthy.

(While I self-indulgently blab on about this thought process in far too much detail, may I remind you that I now always include a "jump to recipe" link on each of my recipe posts, so I don't feel guilty about my wordiness here, and blithely ignore any people on Twitter who "edgily" recycle the joke that introductions on FREE recipe blogs are too long).

Wait, where was I? Oh yes, that's right, back to my trifle. So, I started with supermarket sponge cake, halved it and spread it with cherry jam, layered them it a trifle bowl and poured brandy over. I pitted cherries and steeped the pits in cream in the fridge overnight (Stella Parks' idea, adds a little extra flavour) for the topping. I cooked the cherries in water and lemon juice, and made a jelly from the juices. (Like in Beatrix Bakes Notorious Black Forest Cake). I arranged the cooked cherries over the sponges in the bowl, and once the jelly had firmed up enough that it wouldn't just soak through to the bottom of the bowl, I poured it over the cherries. (Like in Nigella's magnificent rhubarb, muscat and mascarpone trifle from How to Eat). 

Cherry and cherry jelly layer
Cherry and cherry jelly layer

I let the whole thing set in the fridge overnight, and the next day I made a vanilla bean custard (I used the ratios from the rhubarb and custard trifle in Nigella's Cook Eat Repeat) and layered it on top. Traditional custard / crème anglaise recipes have you heat the milk or cream with vanilla in a pot, pour all the hot cream over the beaten egg yolks and sugar, and rinse out the pot before pouring the whole mixture back in the pot and cooking until thick. I can never be bothered with all that cleaning! I just whisk a scoop or two of the hot cream into the egg yolk mixture to temper them, before pouring that mix back into the pot, stirring it together and cooking from there. Far easier.

Vanilla bean custard layer
Vanilla bean custard layer

I then strained the cherry pits out of the cream that I'd stashed in the fridge, and whipped it to make the topping. (The cherry pits only add a really mild flavour and colour to the cream, but you're pitting them anyway so why not get a little extra out of them?) 

Whipped cream
Whipped cream, custard layer

I decorated the finished product with toasted flaked almonds and some more fresh cherries. TADAH!

Cherry trifle topping
Cherry trifle topping

I really loved the trifle! From an appearance perspective, I thought it had a good balance between homely deliciousness and Insta-worthy layers, without it being OTT like one of those intense perfectly aligned trifles you see on magazine covers at Christmas that are all bright colours, right angles and improbable ingredients that won't absorb the liquid and meld deliciously into the trifle. (Wagon wheels? Macarons? Whyyyyy?)

Cherry trifle
Cherry trifle

The flavours were beautiful too - the sweet and juicy cherries, the fragrant and smooth vanilla bean custard, all melding into the boozy sponge. It's really a classic British-style trifle! It is quite a bit of work, but you can (nay, must) split up the work over a couple of days, and the end result really is beautiful and impressive. Read the recipe carefully before you get started, and enjoy!


Cherry Trifle
A recipe by Sarah Cooks, cherry compote and jelly adapted from Beatrix Bakes (Natalie Paull), vanilla bean custard adapted from Cook Eat Repeat (Nigella Lawson)

For the cake & jam layer
1 x store-bought sponge cake layer, approx. 250grams (you may need slightly more or less depending on the exact size of your trifle bowl, most supermarket cakes come in packs of 2 anyway so you will have extra cake on hand)
100 grams (approx) cherry jam (I used Bonne Maman brand)
60 millilitres brandy
For the topping
500 millilitres cream
3 tablespoons flaked almonds
12 extra cherries
For the cherry compote
800 grams cherries
60 grams caster sugar
100 grams water
Juice of 1 lemon
For the cherry jelly
Orange or mandarin juice (if required, see recipe)
6.25 grams gold-strength leaf gelatine, or 10 grams titanium-strength leaf gelatine
For the custard
600 millilitres cream
1 vanilla pod
6 egg yolks
8 teaspoons (40 millilitres) caster sugar
4 teaspoons (20 millilitres) cornflour
1 x 20cm diametre trifle bowl

To make the cake and jam layer, gently slice the brown edges off the sides of the cake (not strictly necessary, but it makes the finished layers look prettier), and slice the cake in half horizontally. Spread one cake with the cherry jam. Pour half the brandy into your trifle bowl, and place the cherry jam-covered cake half into the bowl. Place the other cake half on top, and pour the remaining brandy over. You want the cakes to fit exactly into the bowl, so if they are too big trim the edges, and if they are too small, cut slices from the second cake to fit into the gaps and squish them in. Sorry for being vague, it really depends on the size of your trifle bowl and the cakes themselves.
To make the cherry compote, wash and pit the cherries. Place the cherry pits in a non-reactive container, pour the 500ml cream over, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
Place the caster sugar, water and lemon juice in a medium saucepan and boil for 1 minute. Add the pitted cherries and cook on a high heat for another 2 minutes, or until the cherries start to break down and release their juice. Strain the cherry juice into a jug - you need 250ml. If you don't have enough, squish down gently on the cherries to release more juice, and if you still don't have enough, add orange or mandarin juice to make it up to 250ml.
Arrange the cooked cherries in a layer over the cake/jam/brandy in the trifle bowl and set aside.
Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water until softened, then squeeze them out. Add the gelatine to the hot cherry juice and whisk in. Allow to cool until thickened and almost set. (You can speed this process up in the fridge, but not the freezer or the jelly will go weird and crunchy). Pour the thick jelly sludge over the cherries in the trifle bowl, cover the bowl with clingfilm and refrigerate overnight.
To make the vanilla-bean custard, place the cream in a medium saucepan. Split the vanilla pod open with a knife and scrape out the seeds into the cream, and put the pod in the pot too. Heat over a low-medium heat until it starts to simmer. Turn the heat off, place a lid on and allow to infuse for 30 minutes. Whisk together the egg yolks, cornflour and caster sugar. Pour a couple of scoops of the warm cream over the egg yolk mixture and whisk to combine. Pour this mixture back into the pot with the rest of the cream. Cook over a low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Remove from the heat immediately and pour into a jug or bowl. Press a sheet of clingfilm or wet greaseproof paper against the surface of the custard and allow to cool completely. Scrape the cold custard into the trifle bowl and smooth out with a spatula.
To decorate and finish the trifle, toast the almonds in a dry frying pan until lightly golden brown. Place in a bowl or plate and set aside to cool. Sieve the cherry pits out of the cold cream. Whisk to soft peaks. Spread the whipped cream into the trifle bowl, arranging some pretty whirls and swirls if you like. Arrange the 12 extra cherries around the border of the bowl. Sprinkled the toasted and cooled almond flakes around the centre. Stand back and admire your masterpiece. You can serve it now, or cover it loosely with clingfilm and refrigerate until time to serve. (Try to take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before eating for optimal texture, but it's always good).
Makes one big trifle, serves 8-12

Have you made this recipe? Leave a comment below! Tag me on Instagram @sarahcooksblog and hashtag #sarahcooksblog

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  1. This looks amazing. I don’t have the energy to make this today in Melbourne’s hot summer but I wish I did!

  2. It's a lil bit like Tiramisu in cherry version. But it definitely looks amazing.

  3. I love cherries they lower my anxiety. I like how you used them in a neat way.

  4. Great article! Seems so delicious! I'd definetly try it asap :)

  5. Very good recipe... Thank you very muh...



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