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Happy National Pound Cake Day!
…wait, what? You didn’t know it was National Pound Cake Day? You weren’t even planning on celebrating with any sort of pound cake today? What are you going to tell me next—that you didn’t even put up your pound cake tree or hang your pound cake stockings? But surely you were going to sing a few pound cake carols…right? No? For heaven’s sake. You are so lucky you have me in your life to remind you of these important holidays!
Okay, real talk. It’s possible that National Pound Cake Day is not a legitimate, nationally recognized holiday. (Yet.) But as we all know, I’m a sucker for food-themed days—any excuse to make a special dessert is okay by me.
As longtime readers know, I’m a trifle nut. Just call me TrifleHero! I’m always trying to think of ways to change up the basic trifle equation of cake cubes+squishy stuff+fruity bits. I’ve had the idea of a vertical trifle bouncing around my head for a few months now, so this seemed like the perfect time to experiment. This sort of trifle design, with strips of cake running vertically along the sides of the bowl, requires a cake that is fairly sturdy and won’t collapse during assembly. Hello, pound cake? That’s your cue.
I slathered the pound cake slices with homemade lemon curd, raspberry jam, and vanilla meringue, to give it a sunny, summery flavor, even in the dead of winter. And atop the trifle? What else but a billowing cloud of fluffy vanilla meringue, torched on top for the perfect toasted marshmallow flavor! No matter what the question is, I’m pretty sure the answer is always “toasted meringue.”
More real talk. This trifle construction was a learning process! I figured out a good method by the end, but there were some missteps in the beginning, and even now, the cake slices that aren’t perfectly straight make my left eye twitch. (Pro tip: perfectionists should not make desserts that require straight edges.) But you, dear reader, can learn from my mistakes, and follow this helpful photo tutorial and the instructions below. Your dessert will be a pinnacle of 90-degree angles and straight lines. Rulers, protractors, and geometry geeks alike will look at it and marvel.
Getting your trifle slices perfectly vertical is beside the point, though, when the flavor is so good! There is something sublime about the combination of moist pound cake, tart lemon curd, fruity jam, and sweet, vanilla-scented meringue. It’s like the best parts of a cake and a lemon meringue pie got together and had a baby, and although I would not normally encourage you to eat a baby, I’m going to make an exception this time because this is truly a delicious dessert.
Raspberry Lemon Meringue Trifle
- Pound Cakes Six 1-lb Sara Lee, from the freezer section
- 1 1- lb jar raspberry jam
- 4 cups lemon curd (recipe below, or can use purchased curd)
- 8 cups meringue (recipe below)
- Fresh raspberries and lemon zest for decorating (optional)
For the lemon curd:
- 1 gelatin powder packet (2 1/2 tsp), unflavored
- 2 tbsp water cold
- 6 ounces unsalted butter
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 4 eggs
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 1/3 cup lemon juice freshly squeezed
For the Meringue:
- 8 egg whites at room temperature
- 14 oz granulated sugar (2 cups)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- Pinch salt
To Make the Curd:
- Make the curd at least 4 hours in advance. (The curd can be made up to a week in advance and kept in the refrigerator until ready to use.) In a small bowl, combine the gelatin and cold water and whisk together. Set aside to let the gelatin absorb the water while you prepare the rest of the recipe.
- 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 fitted with a whisk attachment 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 add the gelatin. Whisk until the gelatin liquefies and everything is well-mixed. Pour the curd through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl 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.
To Make the Meringue:
- Make the meringue right before you’re ready to assemble the trifle. Combine the egg whites and the granulated sugar in the bowl of a large stand mixer, and whisk them together. Choose a small saucepan that lets you fit the base of the stand mixer snugly into the top of the saucepan—this is your makeshift hot water bath. (Alternately, you can use a different bowl or an actual bain marie and then transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl once it’s heated.) Add an inch of water to the bottom of the saucepan, and bring the water to a simmer.
- Place the mixing bowl on top of the saucepan, making sure that the bottom isn’t in contact with the water, and heat the egg white mixture. Whisk frequently so that the egg whites don’t cook. Continue to heat the whites until they are hot to the touch, and when you rub a bit between your fingers, you don’t feel any grittiness from the sugar. Once the whites are hot, transfer the mixing bowl to your mixer and fit it with a whisk attachment.
- Beat the whites on medium-high speed until they are no longer warm, and they are shiny, white, voluminous, and hold stiff peaks when you remove the whisk. Add the vanilla extract and salt and whisk until well-incorporated. Use immediately.
To Assemble the Trifle:
- Stand a pound cake upright in your trifle bowl, and cut off any cake the extends past the top of the bowl. Use this cake as a guide, and trim the other cakes to the same height. Keep the trimmings for a later use. Use a large sharp serrated knife to cut the pound cakes horizontally into thin slices, less than 1/2-inch thick. Spread a slice with a thick layer of lemon curd, then spread a second slice with a layer of raspberry jam. Spread a third slice with meringue. Stack the 3 slices on top of each other, and cut them in half lengthwise so you have two long, thin sandwiches of cake and filling.
- Stand the cake slices with the cut sides against the edge, as pictured. Press the layers together firmly. Continue to make small “sandwiches” of strips of cake and filling, and press them together around the edge of the trifle bowl. If your trifle bowl sides are at a slight angle, you might find it helpful to cut a diagonal piece occasionally and wedge it between some of the pieces to give them stability. Repeat until your cake goes all the way around the bowl.
- Crumble the remaining cake, including the trimmings from the first step, into chunks, and spread a layer of cake pieces in the bottom of the bowl. Spread lemon curd on top of the cake, then top it with more cake, then layers of jam, cake, meringue, cake, et cetera, until the center of the trifle is filled.
- Spread the remaining meringue on top of the trifle and spread it all the way out to the edges. Use the back of a spoon to add decorative swirls. If you have a kitchen torch, you can toast the top of the meringue if you’d like. Finish with fresh raspberries and strips of lemon zest.