Jun 29, 2009

Chocolate Raspberry Trifle

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.


Patricia @ ButterYum said...

All you hard work paid off because this trifle looks divine! Can't wait to make it!

Anonymous said...


Your trifle looks delicious, anything with chocolate, raspberries and cream would be a welcome hit in my house. So far, I would pick this cake to be my first to try when I get the book.
You have been one very busy cake baker lately, Jim must love you more now than ever.

evil cake lady said...

BBC, those 4 components are all good and yummy things in my opinion, too! This trifle must be incredibly delicious, and the raspberry whipped cream is really pretty! I used to throw a lot of tantrums when I had baking mishaps, but since I started blogging I now think any mishaps are just good stories for the blog. My friends are very thankful for my blog ;)

Marie said...

I can't wait to see other versions, although I think that I may become quite jealous.

This would be a good first effort, especially if you take it someplace where a lot of people can eat it and give you so many compliments it will turn your head.

You're right about the mishaps turned into good blog stories. I've noticed that even my friends who make fun of me for my blog and my obsessions don't mind eating the bread and cake.

Melinda said...

My oh my, that looks so good. I can just about taste how good it is.
Which, with recent events, is just as well. damn!
I think it looks beautiful as is.

Marie said...

This will be a good one to try when you get the cookbook because you can give yourself just a tiny piece and take the rest to work, where everyone will love you. Not that they wouldn't love you for yourself alone.

hector said...

this is one fine FINE FINE made trifle! no bakery can top off home made creme anglaise nor real raspberry whipped cream nor real chocolate genoise. well done marie WOLF!

doughadear said...

Trifle is a favourite dessert of mine. I love anything made with creme anglaise, whipped cream and fruit. How can this trifle not be a hit when it is made entirely from scratch. It really does look incredibly good.

Marie said...

Thank you--that's a very nice compliment. I would say that it's one fine recipe, Rose!

When I was first browsing through the cookbook, this is one of the recipes that caught my eye. There's another trifle recipe in the book that has spun sugar on top--that caught my eye too, but for a different reason. Fortunately, it's still too hot and humid to even attempt spun sugar so I'm safe for another few months.

Kate said...

Okay, I need trifle NOW. I wasn't planning on having trifle today ... things have changed since reading this post!

Anonymous said...

Brava, Marie!

This trifle sounds so yummy! Besides, nothing with creme anglaise can be bad, lol.

As I read your posts, I can't help but look forward to your end-of-book roundup of which desserts you liked best. I know there is a ways to go, though.

Laura NYC

Marie said...

I know just how you feel--that's how I felt after I posted it. It looked so delightful, and none was left.

Laura NYC,
There is a LONG ways to go. I can't imagine ever getting through the entire book, but who knows?