Trifle is a Virginia recipe and excellent for a summer dessert. Since the South is hot, it it figures that Southerners know about cold desserts. Of course, now, it is hot in New England too, but the cooks of the 1950s hadn't reckoned with global warming. The trifle did have a little bit of New England in it because I made it with leftover New York Passover Spongecake, much to the amusement of Rich, the only Jew to actually hear about my Passover baking in person.
Rich has a very dry sense of humor. "Passover? " he said. "Passover?" in very quiet, unbelieving tones.
I don't think he actually bought my explanation, or even understood it, because it may have been somewhat garbled. Everyone liked the trifle, especially me, who ate all the leftovers during the clean up.
Even though I like trifle, children may not, since the cake is soaked with sherry. I never liked any food with what I termed "liquor" when I was growing up. If you are making this for a family dinner you might want to leave the sherry out.
I made the trifle the night before the party because it had to chill. The first order of business was to walk down to the Exxon station, the only grocery store in our neighborhood, and buy a half gallon of milk. That being accomplished, I made the custard. The important instruction to remember while making the custard is, do not allow the custard to boil. I actually did allow the custard to boil. It makes it somewhat grainy. Better not to let it boil.
The recipe says to spread the cake with strawberry or raspberry preserves. I dug around in the refrigerator and found some grape jelly which was eked out with Polaner's All Fruit, something I used to eat when I ate bread.
Although this is technically not a day before recipe, I would advocate making it the day before, because it has to chill. You can stick it in the refrigerator and forget about it until dinner time.
8 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/2 cup sugar
4 cups milk, scalded
1 teaspoon vanilla
24 ladyfingers, or a comparable quantity of spongecake, torn into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup medium-dry sherry (use the Duff Gordon amontillado you bought for the game sauce)
1 cup strawberry or raspberry preserves
1/3 cup slivered blanched almonds or crumbled macaroons (optional) (I left these out.)
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped
glace cherries or one tablespoon slivered blanched almonds
1. Combine the egg yolks, sugar, and milk in a heavy saucepan, beating with a wire whisk to mix well. Heat over medium heat until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Do not allow custard to boil.
2. Remove from the heat and pour into a cold bowl. Stir in the vanilla and cool to lukewarm.
3. Sprinkle the ladyfingers or spongecake with the sherry and let stand five to ten minutes.
4. Place a layer of the soaked ladyfingers in a two-quart serving bowl, preferably glass.
5. Spread with one-third of the preserves and one-third of the almonds or macaroons. Repeat the layers until all ladyfingers are used.
6. Pour the cooled custard over the ladyfinger arrangement and chill several hours.
7. Decorate with the whipped cream, piped through a rosette tube, and garnish with the cherries or almonds.