Sunday Dinner, Chapter 2: In Which We Learn That Trifle Is Not To Be Trifled With

This may be the first in a (highly disorganized, randomly timed) series about how much we love all of our wedding gifts.  We have unbelievably thoughtful and generous friends and family (and, Dear Reader, since no one else knows about this blog, you must be one of them!  Thank you!)

Our Dear Friends MF and KR separately found the same gift for us — a magnificent and large trifle dish, no doubt the pride of its parents.

KR biked said trifle dish all over Cambridge to get it safely to his home and thence to the wedding, at great risk to himself and his bicycle — a truly heroic effort. MF, bless her heart, picked out the same gift at the same time online — probably while KR was in the store! When we found this gift waiting for us when we got home from the wedding, we burst out laughing at the tangible proof that our two friends are so alike.

KR also informed us that he hopes the trifle tastes like danger.

Why, among all possible gifts, did we ask for a trifle dish? Well . . .

Sidebar: Since I survived adolescence, most of my ambitions have remained confined to the food sphere. Example: my ten-year-old self had delusions of grandeur regarding careers as (1) President and (2) astrophysicist, delusions which my sixteen-year-old self smashed by (1) deciding to be an humanities major (good-bye law school and lucrative career, hello early twenties to [. . .] spent in graduate school) and (2) earning a mercy C in BC Calculus (good-bye math, hello later failure of physics course senior year in college, followed by emergency use of freshman forgiveness rule to retake physics and earn a C.)

So, like I said: food sphere.  Hence the trifle bowl.

Thus, tonight’s dinner of black bean and quinoa salad and barbecued chicken was followed by a trifle of my own making.

Here’s what it looked like last night (trifles must be made the night before serving so the liqueur can soak into the cake):

Preliminary Trifle

This trifle of my own making was based on a recipe in Nigella Lawson’s Feast, which we used as our wedding guestbook (tasty recipes AND notes from our nearest and dearest = the best!).

Nigella’s recipe is for Chocolate Cherry Trifle.  Mr. O and I prefer raspberries, so that was the first change.  The delightful Ms. Lawson also recommends using store-bought pound cake, but I like to make things more complicated, so I used the Joy of Cooking recipe for vegan chocolate cake.  And I tweaked a few other things. Here’s the recipe.

Mrs. O’s Chocolate Raspberry Trifle a la Lawson; aka, The Danger Trifle

Please note: this recipe is long and involved.

First, make the cake:

(taken from The Joy of Cooking, 1997, p. 932 “Dairy-Free Chocolate Cake (Vegan)”)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, grease an 8×8 inch pan, and mix together these dry ingredients in a large bowl:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup and 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened nonalkalized cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt

Mix together and then into the dry ingredients:

  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (I prefer canola oil)
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Pour into the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes.

While the cake bakes, make the chocolate custard.

(modified slightly from Nigella Lawson’s Feast, pp. 406-08, “Chocolate Cherry Trifle”)

  • 2 oz bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 oz semi sweet chocolate
  • 1 1/3 cup and 1 T milk (whole)
  • 1 1/3 cup and 1 T heavy cream
  • 8 egg yolks (we use cage-free eggs)
  • 1/2 cup and 1 T sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa.

Here’s a paraphrase of what Nigella says to do with the custard.

Break the chocolate into pieces and melt it, on low heat, in the microwave.  It took the Os’ microwave a minute and a half, but yours is different! Leave the melted chocolate to the side while you work on the rest of the custard.

Heat the milk and cream on the stove — being very careful not to scorch it.  Keep an eye on it while you mix together the egg yolks, sugar, and cocoa powder in a good-sized bowl. Nigella recommends using a whisk, but I found that a spoon was better.  A fork may have been the best choice.

When the cream and milk are warm, not quite hot, pour the mixture into the bowl with the egg mixture. (This process tempers the egg yolks.) Stir together and then add the melted chocolate.  Rinse out the saucepan, set it on the stove, and pour the new mixture back into it.

Stirring constantly, bring the custard to a medium heat.  It has to thicken quite a lot, but it mustn’t boil, so keep stirring, and don’t get so impatient that you set the heat too high.  On the other hand, don’t turn on the heat before it thickens to a good consistency — runny custard is not as tasty as thick custard! And you want to be careful that the eggs cook all the way through.  Nigella also recommends that you keep a bowl or sink full of ice water so that you can rapidly cool the custard if you think it’s on the verge of boiling or curdling or burning. Nigella doesn’t tell you how long this cooking will take, but at medium heat, it took me about 30 minutes of stirring, which requires serious elbow grease — more than I have. Mr. O had to help out.

Once it’s cooked to the right consistency, pour the custard into a clean bowl (no cross-contamination from the eggs!), cover the surface in plastic wrap, and leave it in the fridge to cool.

By this point, the cake should come out of the oven. Leave the cake to cool on the counter, and leave the custard in the fridge.

Take out:

  • two 12-oz stand-up packages of Wyman’s frozen raspberries from the freezer. Leave them on the counter. You could use a different brand; just make sure it’s 24oz of unsweetened raspberries.

Go watch a few episodes of The Office.

Back? Ok.

Now, finish the cake layer.

Cut the cake into 1 1/4″ strips.  Halve each strip lengthwise, as if you were splitting a hamburger bun.  Spread one half of each strip with a generous amount of

  • raspberry jam or preserves (at least half a cup, maybe more).  At our large grocery store, the only jam without corn syrup we could find was Bonne Maman, which is absurdly expensive but also very very tasty.

Put the top half of each cake strip back on, as if you’re making a chocolate cake and raspberry jam sandwich. Cut the sandwiches into smaller rectangles, and arrange in a single layer in the bottom of your trifle bowl.  I filled in the empty spaces between the cake corners with jam.

Next, soak the cake layer with:

  • 1/2 cup Chambord (French black raspberry liqueur)

Drain the previously frozen raspberries. Reserve the juice.  Spread the raspberries in a single layer over the cake layer.

Remember the custard?  Take it out of the fridge, and carefully pour it over the raspberries, starting in the center and then pushing outwards with a knife to make it look nice.

Put plastic wrap over the custard layer and put your trifle in the fridge over night.

Wow. Lot of work, right?  Now take that reserved raspberry juice, mix it with a little Chambord, and drink. Delicious!

When you’re ready to serve:


  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • powdered sugar to taste.

Spread gently over the trifle. Grate:

  • 1 or 2 oz chocolate

over the trifle. [We forgot this part.]

Eat immediately.  This recipe supposedly serves 16.  4 of us ate about half of it, so in real life it serves 8.  We can also report that the cake layer is delightfully soggy.

Photos of the finished product:

The Danger Trifle

The Trifle Instigators, MF and KR:

The Trifle Instigators

Danger Trifle in a Bowl


Mr. O Serves the Trifle

P.S. Mom, the yellow spatula you gave us was indispensable when making this recipe.  And Dad, see the white spoon Mr. O is using to serve the trifle?  That’s the one you gave us that was used for Manhattan mixing pre- and post-wedding.  Thank you! xo, Mrs. O

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One Response to Sunday Dinner, Chapter 2: In Which We Learn That Trifle Is Not To Be Trifled With

  1. Pingback: Maine Trifle | The Os At Home

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