Zuppa Inglese (English Trifle)

An English trifle is so colorful, light, and delicious that it seems frivolous–hence the name. But a lot of work goes into making a good one, so the maker is within his or her rights to take great pride in its making. The most challenging part is making pastry cream, a recipe for which follows. But you do that in advance. The rest is easy. This is the same dessert that Italians misleadingly call zuppa Inglese (“English soup”). It should not be soupy, however. This is best made in a glass bowl, because the colorful fruits make it very pretty. Don’t hesitate to substitute other fruits. A trifle is also a great use for leftover cake, even if it’s a little stale. Finally, this makes a good summer dessert because it’s usually served a little bit chilled.

  • 3 cups sponge cake or lady fingers, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup Kirsch (cherry brandy)
  • 3 cups pastry cream (see recipe)
  • 1 pint fresh ripe strawberries, sliced
  • 2 ripe bananas, sliced
  • 2 kiwis, peeled, cut end to end, and sliced across
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup crushed pistachios or slivered, toasted almonds

1. In a bowl, soak the cake or lady fingers in just enough Kirsch to soften them but not turn them to mush.

1. In a chilled metal bowl, whip the whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and continue whipping until the peaks stiffen and no gritty sugar remains. Do not overwhip! The cream might break.

3. In a glass bowl than can hold about three quarts, make a layer of the cake at the bottom. With a spatula, spread a half-inch-thick layer of pastry cream on top of it. Cover (incompletely) with some of the strawberries, banana slices, cake, and nuts. Spread a layer of whipped cream over the fruit, then top with a layer of kiwis, blueberries, cake and nuts. Spread more pastry cream, and make two more layers as above.

4. Top the bowl with whipped cream and stud it with some of all of the ingredients in the layers below. Refrigerate until serving time.

5. To serve, use a big spoon and scoop through two layers to get all the ingredients. It’s prettiest when served in glass dishes.

Serves eight to twelve.

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