From the Kitchen & Off the Vine – Sip & Celebrate

by Joan Saunders & by Tania Tomaszewska | photos by Amanda Cribdon Photography – 

Special desserts definitely signal that it’s a celebration. Add a lovely wine (or two) and you’ve got yourselves an event, no matter how many are seated at the table. And trifle is the ultimate make-ahead type of sweet, as it tastes even better the next day after the flavours have had time to come together in a splendid conglomeration of cake, cherries, custard and whipping cream.

In years past, I have had dessert parties which included trifle and they’ve been a success; it’s marvellous being indulgent while making every effort to impress. There’s something so glorious about choice: cake or cookies, tarts or trifle? A bit of everything, I say.

What I love about this recipe is that it’s not too rich, so it can be served after a meal and people can take as much or as little as they prefer. If you don’t want any sherry, then definitely omit it. If you’d like to explore options with more decorative flair, bake a jelly roll and line the bowl with the spiraled cake. But you’ll rest easy knowing that you’ve got a dessert tucked away that is as beautiful as it is delicious. Pull the trifle out of the fridge, whip the cream, then place it on the table to oohs and aahs; now pour yourself a glass of wine. It is a celebration, after all.

Sour Cherry Trifle
This is a dessert you can make ahead of time, as it’s best served the next day.
1 9-inch sponge cake (make own or purchase ready-made)
¼ cup raspberry, strawberry or cherry jam
⅓ cup sweet sherry, madeira or kirsch
2 jars (48 oz/1,440 ml total)
sour cherries in light syrup (can halve this if you prefer less)
⅔ cup sugar (if using less cherries, halve this too)
1¼ cups broken amaretti cookies
1½ cups (375 ml) whipping cream
¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted

5 egg yolks
⅓ cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
2 cups whole milk
3 tbsp butter
½ tsp vanilla

To make custard: Whisk together egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch in bowl. In saucepan, heat milk over medium heat. It’s ready when bubbles form around edge; now slowly mix ⅓ milk into egg mixture. Pour all back into pan; while whisking constantly bring to boil over medium heat. Continue to whisk and cook until bubbling and thickened, 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in butter, vanilla. Place plastic wrap directly on surface to stop skin on top, let cool slightly.

Cut cake in half horizontally. Spread cut side of bottom with jam; replace top half, pressing to stick it together. Cut into 1-inch cubes.

With half of cake pieces, line 12-cup (3-litre) trifle bowl; brush pieces with half the sherry. Repeat with remaining cake and sherry. Spread warm custard over top, place plastic wrap directly on surface of custard. Refrigerate until chilled (2 hours).

Put cherries with syrup and sugar in pot, bring to boil over medium high heat; boil until syrupy, reduce by half, about 25 minutes. Pour into heatproof bowl, let cool. Refrigerate one hour (until cold).

Pour cherry mix into strainer set over bowl; let stand a few minutes to drain. Save syrup.

Sprinkle amaretti over custard. Spoon cherries on top, sprinkle with about 2 tbsp syrup. Cover and refrigerate.

Take out of fridge a bit before serving it so it’s not too cold. When ready: in bowl, whip cream (I like to add a little bit of vanilla and a few tablespoons of sugar, but it’s up to you); spread over trifle. Sprinkle with almonds.

Recipe adapted from:

Off the Vine
Some Pairing Ideas for Your Trifle

Trifle can be tricky! First things first. Is your masterpiece going to be booze-infused or “straight?” Think about your guests’ palates when pouring in terms of volume of alcohol and whether what’s in their glass will dance with the cream, cake, custard and berries and not clash with what’s spiking them.

Dessert & Fortified
If you’re including sipping sherry or madeira in your trifle recipe, then you could offer some of the same in small shot glasses when serving. For me, it’s all about the sour cherry and sweet tones here, so cherry flavored liqueurs or brandy can be a way to go. Cream sherries (especially PX) and young ruby port will also work.
Some Festive Picks: Alvear Pedro Ximenez Solera 1927 (Spain), Sandeman Fine Ruby Port or Taylor Fladgate First Estate Port (Portugal).

Sparkling Wine
This trifle will love bubbles, especially pink ones, so I’m leaning to sparkling rosé here to play off all of the red fruit and to cut through the cream and custard. Sparkling rosé looks beautiful and just feels special. But your fave white fizz will work too, particularly if it’s off dry. Whether they are “traditional” method bubbles (such as Champagne, crémant, cava or franciacorta), prosecco-style drops, moscato or brachetto, these are all fun and will look great with this beautiful dessert.

Some Festive Picks: Unsworth Vineyards Charme de L’ile Rosé (Cowichan Valley), Bouillot Crémant de Bourgogne Rose Perle d’Aurore (France). For those who like sweet sippers: Acquesi Asti Moscato (Italy).

For Red Lovers: Pinot Noir
If you like sticking with your dinner red heading into dessert as I do, then a fruity pinot noir can be a nice option here. But try to select one with a rich and round, deep red cherry profile, as opposed to a lighter expression having tart cranberry, mushroom or fennel tones.

Some Festive Picks: Tantalus Vineyards Pinot Noir (Okanagan Valley), Joseph Drouhin Bourgogne (France), Meiomi Pinot Noir (California).

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