I admit that I bought the December 2009 issue of Gourmet Traveller based on the front-cover picture of dark berry trifle alone. A stunning mix of dark berry jelly, layered with sponge and creme fraiche, it beckoned like a siren from the newsstands.
Suzie from Munch+Nibble and I had set ourselves the We Made It challenge, where we select a food magazine each month and try to cook as many dishes from it as we can, rather than just bookmarking it and relegating it to the cupboard.
If it wasn't for the challenge, I think this trifle would have been one of the many recipes that I bookmark and then put away. We are big trifle fans in my household, but I've never attempted a trifle as elaborate as this. Fortunately, I had family to stay, a bottle of pink moscato donated by my father and dark berries in the freezer to use up, so these were also good incentives to make this dessert.
Before I talk about the recipe, I would like to state that this is quite simply one of the best dessert recipes I've ever made. It is the perfect showstopper dessert to bring to the table to show off the prettily coloured layers before you cut it up and serve. The seductive dark berry jelly mingles with the light-as-air sponge and the cream layers, all softly scented with vanilla and an alcoholic tinge.
As the recipe is for 15-20 people, it is the perfect party dish. As I didn't have that many people to serve, I halved the recipe with no problems. It still makes a very large dessert and if you have a small household, you'll be eating this for days.
Some notes on the recipe: I didn't have creme de mure or creme de cassis, so I substituted brandy and a tawny port. I'm sure the special blackberry liqueurs give it an extra dimension, but I found that the brandy and port provided a hint of alcohol, which I presumed was all that was needed. I also substituted whipped cream as I didn't have access to creme fraiche. I didn't need the milk to thin the cream but I did include the lemon rind and icing sugar to flavour it.
I made my sponge in a 20cm round cake tin and was lucky enough to have a glass bowl in which the sponge round fitted perfectly, so I didn't need to do any trimming of the sponge to make it fit. I'm not sure how a square cake, which is specified by the recipe, would work, but the layers should meld together anyway.
And please take note of the infusing and setting time - although each individual step is easy, it will take you all afternoon to make this dessert, once you allow for this time. The trifle should also sit overnight in the fridge so that the flavours can mingle and settle.
But these are all minor qualifications. Make this trifle: you won't be sorry!
Dark berry trifle
Recipe from Gourmet Traveller, December 2009
1.5kg blackberries or mulberries, plus extra to serve
300gm caster sugar
2 vanilla beans, split and seeds scraped
10 gelatine leaves (titanium strength), softened in cold water for 5 minutes
300ml pink moscato
Juice of 1 lemon
330ml creme de mure (or substitute creme de cassis)
1.25kg creme fraiche
150ml milk, or enough to thin
Finely grated rind of 2 lemons
40gm pure icing sugar, sifted
8 eggs, at room temperature
250gm raw caster sugar
250gm plain flour, sieved
50gm butter, melted and cooled
For sponge, preheat oven to 175 degrees. Whisk eggs and sugar in an electric mixer until tripled in volume (7 minutes). Fold through flour in batches, fold in butter, pour into a 28cm-square cake tin lined with baking paper. Bake until golden and centre springs back when pressed (20-25 minutes). Cool in tin, turn out, halve sponge horizontally, trim each half to fit a 6-litre capacity glass bowl, then remove from bowl and set aside, reserving trimmings.
Meanwhile, combine 1kg berries, sugar, 1 vanilla bean and seeds and 1.1 litres water in a large saucepan, simmer over low heat until infused (50 minutes). Strain through a fine sieve (discard solids), transfer 1 litre hot liquid to a bowl (reserve remainder). Squeeze excess water from gelatine leaves, add to bowl, stir to dissolve. Add moscato, lemon juice and 80ml creme de mure. Strain half into trifle bowl, scatter over 250gm berries and refrigerate until set (2 to 2 1/2 hours). Chill remaining berry jelly, removing from refrigerator if it starts to set.
Reduce 250ml remaining liquid (discard excess) over high heat to 50ml or until syrupy (10-15 minutes). Refrigerate until required.
Meanwhile, combine creme fraiche, milk, lemon rind, icing sugar and remaining vanilla seeds in a bowl, adding extra milk if necessary until spreadable. Spread one-third over set jelly, top with a sponge round, fill any gaps with trimmings, drizzle with 125ml creme de mure. Scatter over remaining berries, pour over remaining jelly (mixture should be starting to set) [my note - make sure the jelly is starting to set and is not liquidy or it will simply soak through the sponge, rather than sitting on top].
Refrigerate until set (2 to 2 1/2 hours). Top with half the remaining creme fraiche mixture, then remaining sponge. Drizzle with remaining creme de mure, top with remaining creme fraiche mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve scattered with extra berries and drizzled with blackberry syrup.