If all goes well, this will be the last dessert I truly eat for…awhile. Like a month. Or maybe more.
(Pause for dramatic effect.)
Don’t get me wrong. I’m still going to keep making and posting new dessert recipes on SugarHero, and I’m still going to taste-test them all to make sure that I love them and think they’re perfect. But there’s a big gaping chasm between taste-testing a bite here and there, and the kind of “taste-testing” that I’ve been doing, which generally involves a giant spoon and a huge plate and a very embarrassing interlude of snorfing and gulping and licking my chops behind closed kitchen doors. Things have gotten a little out of hand.
Since having my son a year ago, I’ve learned some very important lessons. Lessons like: people who claim the baby weight “just falls right off” when breastfeeding are big lying liars. And they should probably be shunned, or at least glared at behind their smug backs. And that a steady diet of sugar and butter and four hours of sleep a night does not, in fact, make that weight fall right off either. And that one must finally accept some responsibility and put down the giant trifle eatin’ spoon and get to work.
So this, then, was my last hurrah, at least for a month or so while I reset my eating habits and get reacquainted with my long-lost friends, vegetables. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I recently did a 3-day juice cleanse, which was a great kick in the pants to get serious about eating well. I was planning on going straight from the juice cleanse into my don’t-call-it-a-diet-diet, but the prospect of three parties this weekend convinced me to relax the rules, enjoy the socializing, and make a real start after Memorial Day.
If I have to hold back on desserts for a bit, I’m glad I got to say goodbye with this trifle. It’s like a greatest hits collection of many of my favorite things: ultra-moist cake, tangy lemon curd, softly whipped sweet cream, juicy berries, and a hint of fresh mint. It was the perfect dessert for Memorial Day, when spring transitions to summer and the world is warm and bright.
I know I’ve talked up trifles before, but allow me to gush a bit more. They look fancy, they taste amazing, but they’re so easy to make. The directions basically amount to “Layer yummy things in a bowl. Serve.” I’ve provided recipes for making the cake and lemon curd from scratch, but you can easily substitute purchased cake and curd and make this without breaking a sweat.
Options, you ask? Options, you have: Use jam instead of lemon curd, change out the berries, experiment with cake flavors, add some cream cheese to your whipped cream—there are endless possibilities, and unless you’re making pineapple-red velvet-basil-fig jam trifle, you really can’t go wrong. And even then, well, the magic of trifle just might surprise you.
So long, sugar gluttony, and thanks for all the trifle.
Recipe Notes: If you don’t want to prepare all of the components from scratch, you can substitute about 10 cups of cubed pound cake (or other sturdy cake) for the cake in this recipe, and about 2 cups of prepared lemon curd. Super simple, right?
Lemon Blackberry Trifle
yield: one large (3-4 quart) trifle
For the Lemon Cake:
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp packed lemon zest (from one large lemon, preferably organic)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk, at room temperature
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 oz (6 tbsp) butter, at room temperature
2 tsp lemon extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
For the Lemon Curd:
3 ounces unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
To Finish the Trifle:
24 oz blackberries (12 oz can be frozen, but at least 12 oz should be fresh berries)
2 tbsp granulated sugar
10 large mint leaves, finely chopped (optional)
2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup powdered sugar
To Make the Lemon Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9×13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Place the sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Rub the zest into the sugar with your fingers until the sugar is moist and very fragrant. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix everything on low speed until well-combined. Add the milk, oil, butter, and vanilla to the mixing bowl and once it’s incorporated, raise the mixer speed to medium-high and beat for 2 minutes.
Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl, then add the 2 eggs and beat for 2 minutes more on medium-high speed. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl once more.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the top springs back when lightly pressed. Let the cake cool completely on a wire rack.
To Make the Lemon Curd:
Fill the bottom of a double boiler (or a regular saucepan) with about an inch of water and bring it to a simmer on the stovetop.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar with a handheld or stand mixer until the mixture is light and fluffy. Slowly add the eggs and yolks, and beat for 1 minute more. Add the lemon juice and mix—at this point the mixture will look curdled.
Pour the liquid into the top of a double boiler or a bowl that fits snugly over your saucepan. (I actually like to use the metal mixing bowl that goes on my stand mixer so I’m not dirtying too many dishes.) Cook the mixture over the simmering water, whisking frequently, until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. If you want to use a candy thermometer, cook the curd until it reaches 175 degrees F.
Once the curd thickens, remove the pan from the heat and pour it through a fine mesh strainer to remove any bits of cooked egg. Press a layer of cling wrap directly on top of the curd, and refrigerate it until it is chilled and thick.
Combine 12 ounces of blackberries and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a medium bowl. If you are using frozen berries, they should be completely defrosted. Mash the blackberries with a fork or potato masher until they’re coarsely broken down and release their juices. Add the finely chopped mint leaves, if you’re using them, and stir them in.
Whip the cream and the powdered sugar together until the cream holds firm peaks.
Cut up the lemon cake into small cubes.
Assemble the trifle in a large glass bowl or trifle bowl. (A 3-4 quart bowl is perfect.) Spread a little whipped cream on the bottom of the bowl, and cover the cream with a single layer of cake cubes. Top the cubes with about a third of the lemon curd, then spoon half of the blackberries on top of that, then add a layer of whipped cream. Repeat this process with more cake cubes, the rest of the lemon curd, the rest of the blackberries, and more cream. Top the bowl with a layer of cake cubes. Spread a thin layer of cream over the cubes. Decorate the top with the remaining fresh blackberries, the rest of the whipped cream, and any other garnishes you’d like, like fresh mint leaves or a twist of lemon.
Chill the trifle in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, to let the cake absorb some of the moisture. The trifle can be chilled overnight and served the next day. Leftovers will keep, well-wrapped and refrigerated, for up to a week.