Grandma inherited her mother’s glass trifle bowl, the traditional wedding gift for a bride nearly a century ago in the 1930s. The cut glass sides still glitter like a giant Christmas decoration when filled with the classic layers of poached fruit, sponge cake, raspberry jam and custard topped with whipped cream, a very special party treat.
1-pound/450-g pound cake, fresh or ready-made, baked as a loaf
¾ cup/175 g raspberry jam
½ cup/125 ml sweet sherry
Medium can (1-lb/450-g) sliced pears or peaches, drained
¼ cup/60 g whole blanched almonds, roasted
1 cup/250 ml heavy cream, stiffly whipped
For the custard:
3 cups/375ml milk
1 vanilla bean, split, or 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
5 egg yolks
¾ cup/150 g of sugar
1½ tablespoons cornstarch
Glass bowl (about 3-quart/3-liter capacity); pastry bag and medium star tube.
1. Cut the cake horizontally into three layers and sandwich it with the raspberry jam; cut it in 1-inch squares. Put the squares in the bottom of the bowl and spoon in the sherry; press down lightly so the cake is soaked. Spread the drained fruit on top.
2. For the custard: Scald the milk with the vanilla bean and leave in a warm place to infuse for 10-15 minutes. Do not add the vanilla extract at this point. Beat the eggs and egg yolks with the sugar and cornstarch until light and fairly thick. Stir in half the hot milk and stir this mixture back into the remaining milk. Heat gently, stirring constantly, until the custard thickens; if you draw your finger across the back of the spoon, it will leave a clear trail. Do not overcook or boil or the custard will curdle.
3. Take the custard from the heat and strain it into a bowl (the vanilla bean can be washed, dried, and used again). If using vanilla extract, add it now. Sprinkle the custard lightly with sugar to prevent a skin from forming and let it cool to tepid. Pour the custard over the cake and fruit – they should be completely covered. Cover and chill. You can prepare 24 hours ahead up to this point. Keep the trifle, covered, in the refrigerator.
4. For decoration: Not more than 3 hours before serving, put the whipped cream into a pastry bag fitted with a star tube and pipe a diagonal lattice over the custard, using about half the cream and leaving diamonds of yellow custard visible. With the remaining cream, pipe small rosettes of cream around the edge of the bowl. Top the rosettes with roasted almonds and serve the trifle chilled.
Pound Cake earns its name from its measurements: equal weight of eggs, butter, sugar and flour, in the old days measuring was done on a balance scale, like the scales of justice. This recipe calls for four 2-ounce eggs, thus requiring 8 ounces each of butter, sugar and flour. This recipe is baked in a loaf pan so as to be easy to cut into cubes for trifle.
Heat the oven to 175˚C/350˚F and set a shelf low down. Butter and line a 3x4x8-inch/7.5x10x20-cm loaf pan with parchment paper. Butter the pan and coat it with flour, tapping out the excess. Sift 2 cups/250 g flour with 1 tablespoon baking powder and a pinch of salt. Beat 1 cup/250g butter until soft, add 1¼ cups/250 g sugar and continue beating until the mixture is light and soft, 1-2 minutes. Beat in 4 eggs one by one, beating thoroughly after each addition. With the last egg, add 2 tablespoons of the flour so the batter does not separate. Beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla essence. Using a large metal spoon, fold the flour into the batter in 3 batches, then spoon the batter into the cake pan. Bake the cake in the oven until browned and the edges of the loaf start to shrink from the sides of the pan, 40-50 minutes; the center of the cake will spring back when lightly pressed with a fingertip. Transfer the cake to a rack to cool, then peel off the paper.