Looking for a baking project this weekend? Maybe you have a BBQ or picnic to go to? Celebrate the summer with a fresh berry trifle, because there’s nothing better than a cool, sweet dessert on a hot day.
I prefer a tall, straight-sided trifle dish for a centerpiece kind of presentation, but this can be adjusted for individual trifles if you wish.
Now, there are a couple shortcuts I’ll tell you about at the end of this post if you’re not the from-scratch type of baker. But, for now, let’s go old school…
FRESH BERRY TRIFLE
For the cake:
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp bourbon (optional – if not using, add another tsp of vanilla)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup milk
For the filling and garnish:
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 pint fresh strawberries
1 pint fresh blueberries
1 pint fresh blackberries
1 pint fresh raspberries
2 tbsp. white sugar
Zest of one lemon
1. Slice all strawberries, saving the biggest one and about six or seven medium-sized ones for garnish. Set the saved berries aside in a medium bowl, including any of the other types of berries you want to use for garnish. Put the rest of the berries in a large bowl, sprinkle with 2 tbsp. sugar and lemon zest to macerate. Toss thoroughly, cover, and put both bowls of berries in the refrigerator.
2. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and line a 9×9 square or 8-inch round baking tin (make sure that your trifle dish will accommodate that size).
3. In the bowl of a standing mixer, or a large mixing bowl for a hand mixer, cream together butter and sugar. When it’s light and fluffy, add in eggs one at a time, making sure they’re fully incorporated before moving on.
4. Add vanilla and bourbon, then carefully add flour and baking powder a little at a time, on low. You may want to stir this in by hand with a wooden spoon if you’re looking to get a little activity happening while you bake.
5. The dry ingredients should be almost fully incorporated before you begin with the milk. Pour in a little at a time until the batter is smooth.
6. Pour into your prepared baking tin, then knock it on the counter a couple times to get it evenly distributed and to pop any large air bubbles. Bake 30-40 minutes, or until the top springs back when you touch it (or a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean or with just a crumb or two).
7. Set cake aside to cool. I like to take it out of the tin and put on a wire rack, as that allows it to cool more quickly.
8. In your largest bowl, pour in heavy whipping cream and start whipping. As it begins to thicken, add in sugar and vanilla extract. Continue whipping on high until stiff peaks form. Cover and set aside in refrigerator until cake is completely cool.
9. When cake is absolutely cool – not even a hint of warmth should be coming from the center or bottom – slice cake through the center if you used a round pan such that you end up with at least two layers. It’s preferable to try to get three layers if you’re feeling adventurous. If you used a square pan, cut cake into pieces just over an inch thick to form the layers. Retrieve berries and whipped cream from refrigerator.
10. Begin building your trifle in your serving dish by putting a layer of cake down in the bottom. Add a fairly thick layer of whipped cream across the cake, about the thickness of your cake slices. Spoon some of the macerating liquid over (being sure to keep the liquid from running down the sides into the lower layers), then some of the softened berries. Add another layer of cake, more whipped cream, macerated berries, cake, whipped cream, and macerated berries. More cake, more whipped cream, more berries until you run out of cake or room in your dish.
11. Put the trifle in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to allow all the layers to come together and the top to dry out a bit. Then finish the trifle by using the rest of your whipped cream to cover the entire dish completely, and arrange the saved garnish berries as you wish (I sliced some of mine because I was feeling fancy).
12. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving, so that the entire trifle has a chance to come together as a cohesive dessert.
Head swimming? Thinking that the assembly is tedious enough, and you don’t want to deal with baking a cake from scratch? Well, you’ve got options.
When I’m in a rush, I’ll grab a pre-made angel food cake from the bakery section of the grocery.
If I’m dealing with a gluten-free audience, I’ll use a gluten-free mix.
And if there are berry allergies (that’s a thing now), you can always use fruit that is most appropriate for your party. I don’t recommend using apples or pears, as they brown quickly. Citrus fruits lose juice as they sit, so be careful if you’re going that route. If using stone fruit (I love white peaches combined with black cherries), just be sure to cut the fruit into pieces that are a little less than an inch square so that no one ends up with a giant piece of fruit hanging out of their mouth.
Happy weekend, y’all!