While making pastry cream is not difficult, it is a rather exacting formula. Using different recipes, I’ve gotten wildly different results. Some recipes used flour and cornstarch to thicken, some recipes used one or the other, some cooking up thin as a sauce, while others cooked up gummy or gloppy. Searching the internet for a good, all-purpose pastry cream, I found pastry chef Stella Parks’ recipe. She wittily likens its versatility to that of a basic but classic cable knit sweater: it goes with everything. She also suggests some interesting flavoring ideas and creative uses. Carefully follow her recipe and you will be rewarded with an abundance of silky, rich pastry cream. Find her well-written recipe here: http://bravetart.com/recipes/CremePat
In our family, the favorite fruit/pastry cream/cake dessert is the Trifle. Trifle is actually more of an assemblage piece than an actual recipe. A layered dessert made in a deep glass bowl or straight-sided glass trifle bowl showcasing the contrasting colors and textures of all elements. You gather up the best fruits of the season, some jam, some liqueur, some cake, and pastry cream. All parts can be made in advance. The entire trifle can be made up to two days before serving, making a big trifle a perfect center piece dessert for a party. Traditionally, the British serve it at a festive Christmas dinner. That version uses sponge cake or pound cake, “crème pat,” frozen strawberries, sherry, all finished off with a deep drift of whipped cream and possibly silver dragées or slivered almonds on top.
Though the American version most often feature spring and summer fruit, thrifles are infinitely variable to fit any season. One can find four trifle recipes on our website, www.myteaplanner.com : Christmas Trifle, Chocolate Trifle, Peach Raspberry Trifle, and Gingerbread Trifle with Leftover Pie. All are delicious.
Here is the blueprint for our go-to trifle.
Murdock Family Trifle
Since trifle bowls come in various sizes, quantity and thickness of layers will differ. Embrace this, knowing each trifle will be perfectly unique!
1 loaf or round pound cake or two layers white or yellow cake
Approximately 1/4 cup liqueur
Approximately ½ cup jam
3 to 4 cups prepared seasonal fruit plus additional for garnishing top
3 to 5 cups cooled pastry cream
Garnish: 1 cup heavy cream, whipped
Special equipment: Trifle bowl or other deep, clear glass bowl, serrated knife, cutting board
Makes one trifle, serving about 10 to 12 portions
- Gather all ingredients on work surface. With serrated knife, trim a layer of cake about ½ inch thick to fit into bottom of bowl.
- Sprinkle with liqueur.
- Spread with a layer of jam.
- Spread about 1 cup of pastry cream.
- Arrange a layer of fruit over pastry cream, making sure fruit looks attractive, as seen through side of bowl.
- Repeat Steps 1 through 5, until you run out of ingredients or reach top of bowl.
- Cover with plastic wrap and chill until serving time, at least 4 hours or up to 2 days.
- To serve: Top with whipped cream and serve immediately. Chill covered leftovers promptly up to two days.
To assist you in making your own, unique trifle, here is a chart of complementary flavors. Feel free to mix and match according to your tastes.
Cake: Pound, Yellow Cake, White Cake
Jam: Berry or Lemon Curd
Fruit: Strawberries, Kiwi, Cooked Rhubarb
Cake: Pound Cake
Fruit: Peaches, Apricots, Cherries, Berries
Cake: Spice Cake, Gingerbread, Applesauce Cake
Liqueur: Brandy, Sherry, Rum
Jam: Apple Butter
Fruit: Poached Apples or Pears
Cake: Pound Cake
Liqueur: Amaretto, Frangelico, Sherry, Brandy
Jam: Raspberry, Apricot
Fruit: Frozen Raspberries, Bottled Cherries
Cake: Chocolate Cake, Mocha Cake
Liqueur: Kahlua, Brandy, Crème de Cacao
Jam: Cherry or omit
Fruit: Bottled Cherries or omit