OMG! If I were 13 years old, that is how I would begin a description of this dessert, which is so impressive and delicious that it's sure to wow a crowd.
My last two bosses have both retired, and so our office had a party for the two of them. Like most public defender low-budget functions, this was a potluck, and, because some excellent lawyers are also excellent cooks, we had a good spread. Based on people's reactions to this trifle, I think I can safely say that it was one of the standouts in a crowded field, although I must give a shoutout to Ngoc's Vietnamese roast pork, Jodie's S'Mores cheesecake, and Sara's macaroons.
There are five components to this cake:
1. Raspberry syrup
2. Chocolate genoise
3. Creme Anglaise
4. Raspberries and Preserves
5. Raspberry Cream Topping
The syrup, the fruit, and the cream are all easy. The genoise and the creme anglaise are not difficult, although they are time-consuming, and, at one point on Thursday night, while I was straining the creme anglaise and working up quite a sweat running around the kitchen, I said, "If this is on the quick and easy list, I'm going to shoot myself." It's not.
You can make the syrup, which just involves sugar, water, a liqueur (framboise or Chambord), ahead of time, and refrigerate it. This is good because it 1) commits you to making the trifle and 2) makes you think that you're further along the road than you really are.
The second part is making the genoise. I made a genoise once, about 20 years ago. It was awful--about one-inch tall, leaden, and flavorless. I saw no reason to repeat that mistake because I have nothing against baking powder. I considered baking another kind of chocolate cake because no one would know what it was supposed to be like, but I knew I would be compelled to confess when writing about it, so I decided to forge ahead. I don't know what I did wrong 20 years ago (I didn't have a KitchenAid for one thing), but this genoise was light and flavorful.
The chocolate has to be melted and cooled, so I did that before I started on step #3, the creme anglaise.
The creme anglaise is lovely and rich, with more egg yolks (12) and more cream (2 cups plus a cup of milk) than most versions. As you probably know, creme anglaise can curdle if you overheat it, but it's okay if you don't let it get quite to the boiling point.
Those are vanilla bean pods left in the creme to add more flavor. I tried Evil Cake Lady's method of using fingernails instead of a knife to get the seeds out of the pod, but most of them stayed attached to my fingernails, so I added some vanilla extract to make sure the custard had enough of a vanilla punch. The creme anglaise had to cool for two hours before I could assemble the trifle, so I moved back to the cake.
I do like the transformation of the eggs after they've been heated and then beaten to within an inch of their lives.
The flour is folded in, and then the chocolate.
I wasn't very careful about folding in the flour, which became very obvious after the cakes were split--there were still a lot of white specks of flour. Rose advises plunging your hand into the batter and squeezing the little globules of flour specks, but that sounded too disgusting so I didn't do it. It didn't matter for the trifle, but I'll do it when I make this genoise again for another recipe.
The layers looked handsome coming out of the oven, and I removed them from the pan, and then inverted them again without mishap.
After I let the cakes cool, washed the raspberries, split the cakes, and spread raspberry preserves on each cake half, I was ready for the fun part--the layering.
If I did this again, I think I'd invest in a straight-sided trifle bowl. Mine is bigger at the top than at the bottom, so I had to cut one layer into a smaller circle, and, by the time I got to the top of the bowl, the cake was smaller than thw bowl and didn't come right up to the edge.
This is just one reason that my trifle did not look as spectacular as the one pictured in the book. Also, I'm kind of a klutz. Also, this is not my day job. The other problem--appearance-wise--is that the top two layers fell apart when I tried to pick them up and put them in the bowl. With the preserves spread on top of the cake halves, they became moister and more fragile. If they had not been destined for a trifle bowl and a lot of whipped cream, which covers a multitude of sins, I would have cried when the first layer fell apart. Then I would have cried harder when the next layer fell apart. Jim says I would have sworn and thrown something across the kitchen, but I think that would be immature.
Just before going to the party, I added the whipped cream, which was flavored, sweetened, and colored with more seedless raspberry preserves and a bit more framboise.
It's so pretty! Why has no one ever thought of this before? Or, at least, why haven't I thought of it?
I didn't have a tasting panel because it was a party, and also because I'd had a few glasses of wine and one of Teddie's signature cocktails, so I forgot. I can tell you that the comments were not only complimentary, they were ecstatic. Sara said, "Marie, this is good." I thanked her. She said, "No, Marie, I mean this is REALLY, REALLY good." Ngoc said it was bursts of flavor that melted in her mouth. I had tried each individual component separately and liked all of them, but then I love chocolate and raspberries together, I love custard, and I love whipping cream. I was afraid that the whole might be less than the sum of the parts, but it wasn't. All the individual flavors stood out, but they enhanced each other as well. This is definitely a dessert that's worth the time it takes to make it.