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Berry Trifles with Vanilla Custard Sauce

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Berry Trifles with Vanilla Custard Sauce

When you get a batch of really sweet berries, sometimes it seems like a shame not to use them to make a wonderful dessert when you know that a top quality berry will really make any dessert heavenly. Of course, it also often seems like a shame to add too many other flavors and textures in to a dish to compete with the berries. This dessert is a really simple way to put fresh berries to good use without doing too much to them. It’s a quick-fix trifle that uses cake, berries and a very light custard sauce.

Trifle is typically a very rich dessert, made with lots of thick custard and/or whipped cream mixed with layers of fruit and cake. I wanted to keep the flavors and feel of this dessert light, so I used angel food cake (any vanilla cake will work, however), a slightly thin custard sauce that soaks up well into the cake and, of course, lots of berries.

The custard sauce, which is a lot like a runny American-style pudding, has to be made in advance so that it can cool down. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long to make and will keep for several days, so you can make the dessert almost any time. Just cut up your cake and berries, then layer them in individual dessert glasses (wine glasses work well) with the custard and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.

Berry Trifles with Vanilla Custard Sauce
2 1/4 cups milk (low fat or skim is fine)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
several slices vanilla cake or angel food cake
1-1 1/2 cups fresh mixed berries (raspberries, strawberries, blackberries)

Make the custard sauce in advance.
In a small sauce pan, bring the milk just to a simmer, until you can see tendrils of steam rising from the surface.
While the milk heats up, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and the egg in a medium bowl. Slowly stream in the hot milk, whisking constantly. When all the milk has been added, strain the mixture back into the sauce pan and cook over medium heat until thickened. Custard will thickly coat the back of a spoon when ready.
Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla. Transfer to another bowl, cover with plastic wrap, pressing it down against the surface of th custard to prevent a film from forming, and refrigerate until cold.

To make the trifles, place a little bit of custard at the bottom of a dessert glass. Top with a layer of berries, a layer of cake and more custard, repeating until the glass is full. Fill additional glasses the same way.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes 4, although there will be custard left over for additional trifles.

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  • AmyH
    June 2, 2008

    We must be on the same track…just yesterday I had some great berries and on the spur of the moment made some creme anglaise for them…hadn’t occurred to me to use angel food cake. We didn’t have any anyway. I was thinking some kind of delicate cookie would have been good with them…any suggestions?

  • Linda
    June 3, 2008

    Angel food cake works great in trifles as long as they aren’t too wet with the berry juices–then it can be a sponge and get a little damp. But, I love to make trifles with angel food cake cubes and people forgive the sogginess at the bottom because it still tastes great. Trifles are great for cakes that stick and break or seem to be dry. All my co-workers love trifles–particularly in the summer when the berries are prolific in Oregon.

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