Just a Little Trifle

sweet tooth

The basic principle of this British classic is simple: assemble whipped cream, custard, cake and fruit into light, creamy layers. Beyond that, the sky’s the limit. We’ve created five picture-perfect showpieces guaranteed to be the crown jewel of your holiday table.


By ISA TOUSIGNANT
Photos by CHRISTIAN LACROIX Accessories styling by SYLVAIN RIEL FOod styling by ANNE GAGNÉ
Above Image | Brownie and Bourbon Caramel Trifle.

Clementine and Gingerbread Cookie Trifle

A throwback to the gingerbread houses we used to build as kids (or will build as adults), this fluffy-and-crunchy flavour combination steps up its game with homemade candied clementines. The seasonal staple shines in decorative slices along with a delicate custard with marmalade notes—the perfect foil to its buttery spice cookie topping.

Preparation | 1 hour 30 minutes Cooking | 45 minutes Cooling | 3 hours Resting | 12 hours Servings | 10


Microwave Candied Clementines

  • 2 cups (500 ml) water
  • 1 cup (210 g) sugar
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) corn syrup
  • 2 clementines, cut into 8 slices each

Marmalade Custard

  • 1 cup (210 g) sugar
  • 3 tbsp (25 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp (25 g) cornstarch
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups (750 ml) milk
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) mandarin marmalade (see note)

Gingerbread Cookies

  • 1 ½ cups (210 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 pinch salt
  • ¼ cup (55 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup (120 g) lightly packed brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) molasses
  • 1 egg

Filling

  • 2 cups (500 ml) 35% whipping cream
  • ¼ cup (55 g) sugar

Microwave Candied Clementines

  • 1 In an 8-inch (20 cm) square baking dish, combine the water, sugar and syrup. Cook for 3 minutes in the microwave oven on maximum intensity to fully dissolve the sugar. Add the clementine slices and continue cooking for about 12 minutes or until they become slightly translucent. Let cool. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours or until completely chilled. Drain.

Marmalade Custard

  • 2 In a saucepan off the heat, combine the sugar with the flour and cornstarch. Add the eggs and mix thoroughly with a whisk. Stir in the milk. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring continuously while scraping the bottom and sides of the pan, until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat.
  • 3 Strain the custard through a sieve into a bowl, if needed. Add the marmalade. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the cream. Let cool and refrigerate for 2 hours or until completely chilled. When ready to use the custard, stir with a spatula to soften it.

Gingerbread Cookies

  • 4 In a bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, spices and salt. Set aside.
  • 5 In another bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar and molasses with an electric mixer. Add the egg and beat until smooth. At low speed or with a wooden spoon, stir in the dry ingredients. Shape into two discs and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • 6 With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
  • 7 On a lightly floured work surface or between two sheets of parchment paper, roll out one disc of dough at a time into a ¼-inch (5 mm) thick rectangle. Cut out the dough into ¾-inch (2 cm) wide strips. Place the cookies on the sheets, spacing them evenly. Bake one sheet at a time, for about 12 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are lightly golden brown. Let cool on the sheets. Break into large pieces and set aside.

Assembly

  • 8 In a bowl, whip the cream and sugar with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.
  • 9 At the bottom of a 12-cup (3 litre) glass serving bowl, spread ½ cup (125 ml) of the whipped cream and one-fifth of the crushed cookies. Top with half the marmalade custard. Place 8 to 10 clementine slices against the sides of the bowl and reserve the remaining slices to garnish the trifle. Add one-fifth of the cookies and half of the remaining whipped cream. Continue with one-fifth of the cookies, half the marmalade custard and another fifth of the cookies. Finish with the remaining whipped cream. Refrigerate for 12 hours. When ready to serve, top with the remaining cookies and clementine slices.

NOTES

You can use orange marmalade instead of mandarin marmalade, or, if you have a few candied clementine slices left over, simply chop them and add them to the custard.

Short on time? Replace the gingerbread cookies recipe with 5 oz (150 g) of store-bought ginger cookies.


Brownie and Bourbon Caramel Trifle

This crowd-pleaser won’t let any craving go unsatisfied. From the airy whipped cream to the silky chocolate custard, sweet-and-salty caramel, crunchy pecans and the deep, dark intensity of the brownie chunks, consider this your gift to every one of your guests.

Preparation | 1 hour Cooking | 45 minutes Cooling | 3 hours Resting | 12 hours Servings | 10


Classic Brownies

  • 5 oz (140 g) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • ¾ cup (170 g) unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup (120 g) lightly packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup (55 g) sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup (70 g) unbleached all-purpose flour

Chocolate Custard

  • ½ cup (105 g) sugar
  • 3 tbsp (25 g) cornstarch
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups (500 ml) milk
  • 6 oz (170 g) chopped dark chocolate

Bourbon Caramel

  • 1 cup (210 g) sugar
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) bourbon or water
  • ½ cup (125 ml) 35% whipping cream
  • ½ tsp fleur de sel

Filling

  • 2 cups (500 ml) 35% whipping cream
  • ¼ cup (55 g) sugar
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups (180 g) toasted pecans (½ cup whole and 1 cup crushed)

Classic Brownies

  • 1 With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter an 8-inch (20 cm) square baking pan and line the bottom with a sheet of parchment paper, letting it hang over two sides.
  • 2 In a bowl, over a double boiler or in the microwave oven, melt the chocolate with the butter. Let cool.
  • 3 In another bowl, combine the eggs, brown sugar, sugar and salt with a whisk until smooth. Add the chocolate mixture, then the flour, and stir until smooth.
  • 4 Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out with a few crumbs and not completely clean. Let cool in the pan, about 2 hours. Remove from the pan and cut into cubes.

Chocolate Custard

  • 5 In a saucepan off the heat, combine the sugar with the cornstarch. Add the eggs and mix thoroughly with a whisk. Stir in the milk. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring continuously while scraping the bottom and sides of the pan, until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat.
  • 6 Strain the custard through a sieve into a bowl, if needed. Add the chocolate and mix until completely melted. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the cream. Let cool and refrigerate for 2 hours or until completely chilled. When ready to use the custard, stir with a spatula to soften it.

Bourbon Caramel

  • 7 In a saucepan, bring the sugar and bourbon (or water) to a boil. Cook without stirring until the mixture turns golden brown. Off the heat, gradually add the cream and salt. Beware of splattering. Bring back to a boil and cook until the mixture is just smooth. Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely.

Assembly

  • 8 In a bowl, whip the cream, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.
  • 9 At the bottom of a 12-cup (3 litre) glass serving bowl, spread ½ cup (125 ml) of the whipped cream. Layer with half the brownies, a quarter of the caramel, half of the crushed pecans, half the chocolate custard and half the whipped cream. Repeat the sequence a second time. Garnish with the reserved brownies, whole pecans and the rest of the caramel. Refrigerate for 12 hours before serving.

NOTE

Time saver: Swap the Classic Brownies recipe with 1 lb (454 g) of store-bought brownies.


Chocolate Profiterole Trifle

This riff on the festive French dessert packs on more cream puff pleasure than ever with just enough pastry to provide the right amount of substance. Topped with delicate, soft choux balls and luscious licks of fudge sauce, it’s a handsome conversation piece and toast-worthy finale to any feast.

Preparation | 1 hour Cooking | 45 minutes Cooling | 3 hours Resting | 12 hours Servings | 10


Choux Pastry

  • ½ cup (125 ml) water
  • ¼ cup (55 g) unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 pinch salt
  • ½ cup (70 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs

Vanilla Custard

  • 1 cup (210 g) sugar
  • 3 tbsp (25 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp (25 g) cornstarch
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups (750 ml) milk
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract

Fudge Sauce

  • ¼ cup (55 g) sugar
  • ¼ cup (25 g) cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 cup (250 ml) 35% whipping cream

Filling

  • 2 cups (500 ml) 35% whipping cream
  • ¼ cup (55 g) sugar
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract

Choux Pastry

  • 1 Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
  • 2 In a saucepan, bring the water, butter and salt to a boil. Remove from the heat. Add the flour all at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the dough forms a smooth ball that comes off the sides of the pan.
  • 3 Return the pan over low heat and cook while stirring for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let cool for 1 minute.
  • 4 In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, in a food processor or with a wooden spoon, add the eggs, one at a time, stirring thoroughly after each addition, until smooth.
  • 5 With a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch (1 cm) plain tip and filled with choux pastry dough, shape approximately 27 choux (balls) about the size of a loonie on the baking sheet.
  • 6 Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown. With a small knife, slit the choux on the side to allow steam to escape. Return them to the still-warm oven, turned off, for about 10 minutes to dry them slightly. Let cool on a wire rack.

Vanilla Custard

  • 7 In a saucepan off the heat, combine the sugar, flour and cornstarch. Add the eggs and mix thoroughly with a whisk. Stir in the milk and vanilla. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring continuously while scraping the sides of the pan until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat.
  • 8 Strain the custard through a sieve into a bowl, if needed. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard. Let cool and refrigerate for 2 hours or until completely chilled. When ready to use the custard, stir with a spatula to soften it.

Fudge Sauce

  • 9 In another saucepan, off the heat, combine the sugar, cocoa powder and cornstarch. Add the cream and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring with a whisk. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Pour into a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the sauce. Let cool or refrigerate until ready to serve. The fudge sauce will keep for about 1 week.

Assembly

  • 10 In a bowl, whip the cream, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.
  • 11 At the bottom of a 12-cup (3 litre) glass serving bowl, spread ½ cup (125 ml) of the whipped cream and a third of the choux. Add half of the vanilla custard, half the fudge sauce and half the whipped cream. Repeat the sequence a second time, finishing with ¼ cup (60 ml) of fudge sauce and the remaining choux. Refrigerate for 12 hours before serving.

Cranberry and Raspberry Trifle

This version comes with its very own holiday wreath—the bright berries kissing the dreamy whipped cream as if under the mistletoe. The semi-moist, slightly crunchy ladyfingers give the lovely layers legs, making this beauty capable of winning even the Grinch’s heart.

Preparation | 1 hour Cooking | 20 minutes Cooling | 2 hours Resting | 12 hours Servings | 10


Raspberry Curd

  • ¾ cup (160 g) sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ¾ cup (180 ml) raspberry purée
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) lemon juice

Cranberry and Raspberry Compote

  • 3 cups (315 g) fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 cup (210 g) sugar
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) water
  • 2 cups (270 g) fresh raspberries

Filling

  • 2 ½ cups (625 ml) 35% whipping cream
  • ¼ cup (55 g) sugar
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract
  • 16 ladyfinger cookies, each cut in half
  • ½ cup (125 ml) milk

Raspberry Curd

  • 1 In a saucepan off the heat, combine the sugar and cornstarch. Add the eggs and egg yolks and mix thoroughly with a whisk. Stir in the raspberry purée and lemon juice. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring continuously and scraping the bottom of the saucepan, until the mixture thickens.
  • 2 Strain the curd through a sieve into a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd. Let cool and refrigerate for about 2 hours or until completely chilled. When ready to use the curd, stir with a spatula to soften it.

Cranberry and Raspberry Compote

  • 3 In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the cranberries, sugar and water to a boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until the compote is syrupy. Let cool, then refrigerate for 30 minutes or until completely chilled. When ready to assemble, stir in the raspberries.

Assembly

  • 4 In a bowl, whip the cream, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.
  • 5 At the bottom of a 12-cup (3 litre) glass serving bowl, spread ½ cup (125 ml) of the whipped cream. Place 16 half-cookies against the sides of the bowl and arrange 8 half-cookies, briefly dipped in the milk, on the surface of the cream. Cover with half the raspberry curd, half the whipped cream and half of the cranberry and raspberry compote, then finish with the remaining half-cookies, briefly dipped in the milk. Continue with the remaining raspberry curd and the remaining whipped cream. Refrigerate for 12 hours.
  • 6 When ready to serve, drain the remaining cranberry and raspberry compote and spoon on top of the trifle to form a crown.

Lemon Meringue Trifle

Citrus lovers won’t believe this take on the classic lemon meringue pie, as weightless as it is rich and sinful. The vanilla sponge cake and sharp lemon curd are wrapped in sweet clouds of whipped cream, while the Italian meringue topping is nothing to be trifled with.

Preparation | 1 hour 30 minutes Cooking | 40 minutes Cooling | 2 hours Resting | 12 hours Servings | 10


Sponge Cake

  • ½ cup (70 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • ½ cup (105 g) sugar
  • ½ tsp (2.5 ml) vanilla extract

Lemon Curd

  • ¾ cup (160 g) sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 lemons, grated zest only
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ⅓ cup (75 ml) water
  • ⅓ cup (75 ml) lemon juice
  • ½ cup (115 g) cold unsalted butter, diced

Italian Meringue

  • ¼ cup (55 g) sugar
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) water
  • 2 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) lemon juice

Filling

  • 2 cups (500 ml) 35% whipping cream
  • ¼ cup (55 g) sugar

Sponge Cake

  • 1 With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line the bottom of an 8-inch (20 cm) springform pan with parchment paper. Do not butter.
  • 2 In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • 3 In another bowl, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until the mixture turns light and triples in volume, about 10 minutes. Sift the dry ingredients over the egg mixture and fold in with a spatula or a whisk. Spread the batter in the prepared pan.
  • 4 Bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack. Run a thin blade between the side of the pan and the cake to unmould. Cut the cake into large cubes. You will have 6 to 8 cups of cubes. Set aside.

Lemon Curd

  • 5 In a saucepan off the heat, combine the sugar with the cornstarch and zest. Add the eggs, egg whites, water and lemon juice and mix thoroughly with a whisk. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring continuously while scraping the bottom and sides of the pan, until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat.
  • 6 Strain the curd through a sieve. Add the butter and stir until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd. Let cool and refrigerate for about 2 hours or until completely chilled. When ready to use the curd, stir with a spatula to soften it.

Italian Meringue

  • 7 In a saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil. Let boil over medium heat until a candy thermometer reads 240°F (116°C).
  • 8 In a bowl, beat the egg whites and lemon juice with an electric mixer at medium speed until soft peaks form. When the syrup reaches 240°F (116°C), reduce the mixer speed and slowly drizzle the syrup onto the egg whites while beating. Increase the speed and beat until the meringue has cooled and very stiff peaks form, about 20 minutes. Set aside.

Assembly

  • 9 In a bowl, whip the cream and sugar with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.
  • 10 At the bottom of a 12-cup (3 litre) glass serving bowl, spread ½ cup (125 ml) of the whipped cream. Add half the cake cubes, half the lemon curd, half the cream filling and half the meringue. Repeat the sequence a second time. Refrigerate for 12 hours before serving.

NOTE

Replacing the sponge cake recipe with a store-bought sponge cake (approximately 200 g) is an easy shortcut.