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Helloooo from my new house! It’s been a whirlwind of sorting and packing and near-hernias and boxes and even MORE boxes around here lately. We just moved in a few days ago, so I’m still in bare survival, can’t-find-anything mode. I’m writing this from a card table surrounded by skyscrapers of cardboard in my new office, and even cobbling together this sorry set-up made me feel like a total MacGyver.
The smartest thing I did before the move was to make and photograph a bunch of desserts, so that I wouldn’t have the added pressure of unpacking the kitchen and immediately starting to bake. The dumbest thing I did was to not actually write the posts and schedule them to publish, because I tricked myself into thinking I’d have aaaallll the time in the world to cozy up with my laptop during the move. Ha.
Well, here I am a few days later than planned, sharing this easy and delicious dessert with you! Trifles are one of my favorite secret weapon desserts—you know, the ones you can turn to in times of true baking emergency. When family members spring an unexpected visit on you. When you have to impress the boss and—whoops!—that Baked Alaska just caught fire in the oven. (It’s possible I’m just cribbing from an old I Love Lucy episode here.)
No matter your situation, I’m pretty sure trifles are the answer. They’re fast to assemble and can be as complicated or as simple as you want them to be.
For this recipe, I used leftover Chocolate Pound Cake cut into small cubes. You could make the pound cake from scratch, sure, but you can also substitute any chocolate cake of your choice (boxed or homemade both work!) or even brownies. I layered the cake cubes with coconut pastry cream and toasted flaked coconut, then topped them with whipped cream and more coconut shreds and chocolate curls. If you want to simplify it even more, you can swap the pastry cream for coconut instant pudding and people will still think you’re a culinary genius.
This is the perfect dessert for those times you have a cake itch you want scratched, but you don’t want to turn on the oven or, you know, actually make a whole cake. Just throw your leftover cake cubes together with something moistifying (technical term), and you’re instantly enjoying all the best parts of cake without any of the work!
Now if you need me, I’ll be tunneling out of my box fort. Over and out.
Toasted Coconut Chocolate Trifles
For the Chocolate Pound Cake:
- 5 oz cake flour (1 1/4 cups)
- 2 oz unsweetened cocoa powder (2/3 cup)
- 1/3 tsp salt
- 6 oz butter at room temperature
- 8.75 oz granulated sugar (1.25 cups)
- 3 eggs at room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp instant espresso powder (optional)
- 4 oz cream (1/2 cup)
- 4 oz bittersweet chocolate finely grated
For the Coconut Pastry Cream:
To Make the Chocolate Pound Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray an 8.5x4.5" loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. (A larger loaf pan can be used, resulting in a shorter pound cake.) Cut a strip of parchment the width of the pan's bottom, and lay it along the bottom of the pan, extending up over the sides. Spray the parchment.
- Sift together the cake flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Sift them a total of three times, to give the cake an extra fine, light texture.
- Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Cream them together on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix well.
- Stir together the cream and espresso powder, if you're using it. With the mixer running on low, add half of the flour to the mixing bowl, and when it's nearly incorporated, add the cream. Once the cream is mixed in, add the remaining flour, and mix until just a few flour streaks remain. Stop the mixer and finish mixing by hand, stirring with a spatula and scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl. Add the grated chocolate and gently stir it in.
- Scrape the batter into the loaf pan and spread it into an even layer. Bake the cake at 350 F for 60-70 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. If the top seems to be getting too dark while baking, cover it with loosely tented foil.
- Let the cake cool for 15 minutes, then run a knife gently around the edges of the pan. Use the parchment to help you pop the cake out of the pan, and cool it completely on a wire rack.
To Make the Coconut Pastry Cream:
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the yolks, egg, cornstarch, and 1/4 cup of sugar. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and salt. Heat the milk over a medium burner until it just starts to boil. Start whisking the egg mixture, and while you’re whisking, drizzle a little hot milk into the eggs. Continue to whisk and drizzle until you’ve added about half of the milk. Switch to whisking the milk, then pour the eggs into the milk mixture while whisking.
- Return the pan to the burner and heat the cream, whisking constantly. Use a rubber spatula to periodically scrape the bottom of the pan so it doesn’t scorch . Cook until the pastry cream thickens and starts a very gently bubbling, then cook for 1-2 minutes longer. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the vanilla bean paste or extract, 1 tsp coconut extract, and butter. Whisk until the butter melts, then (carefully!) taste the pastry cream, and add more coconut extract, if desired.
- Pour the cream through a wire mesh strainer into a bowl. It will be somewhat thick, so use a spatula to help work it through, straining out any clumps of egg that have developed. Press a layer of cling wrap directly on top of the pastry cream, and let it cool to room temperature. Once at room temperature, refrigerate it until it's cold and thick, at least 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 325 F. Spread the coconut out on a baking sheet and toast it for 8-10 minutes, stirring several times during the process, until it is an even golden brown color. Cool completely.
- Cut the cake into slices, then cut the slices into cubes. Place a layer of chocolate cubes at the bottom of 8 1-cup trifle dishes or ramekins. Spoon a thick layer of pastry cream on top of the cake, and top with a big pinch of toasted coconut. Add a second layer of cake cubes, filling it to the top of the dish.
- Whip the cream together with the powdered sugar until it holds medium peaks. Place a big dollop of whipped cream on top of each trifle, and finish with toasted coconut or chocolate curls. Serve immediately, or chill for several hours before serving.