Traditional Pound Cake has an easy recipe ratio…1 part each of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour (by weight). So delicious, and perfect for a layered Trifle!
When I think about layers, several different images pop into my head.
The scientist part of me immediately goes to sedimentary rock…layers upon layers of compressed silt and mud from ancient sea beds, trapping and fossilizing plants and animals alike.
The mother in me thinks about layering clothing, as in “I’m cold, put on a sweater.”
But the chef in me holds the title…I think about the gooey goodness of lasagna and moussaka. I think about slicing into a delicious layer cake. My younger daughter, a fantastic cake decorator, once made me a gorgeous rainbow layer cake for my birthday, since she knew that rainbow was my favorite color.
And I think about Trifle, that fluffy dessert concoction that is all about the layers.
Assembling a Trifle...the components
The main distinction about Trifle is its presentation...colorful and contrasting layers in a (usually) straight-sided glass bowl. I mean there really isn’t a recipe needed to make Trifle, just guidelines.
You use something creamy (like pudding and whipped cream), some fruit (for color and texture), a sweetness intensifier (think jam or a dessert sauce), and something baked for texture and/or crunch. Pound cake is traditional, but any sort of tea bread, brownies, or cookies, whole or crumbled, would work as well.
You can drizzle liquors or juices on the baked goods to soften them and add more flavor (and buzz your guests) if you want.
In other words, you can adapt Trifle to fit most any season, holiday, or celebration.
Assembling a Trifle...the presentation
The beauty of Trifle is how you present all these ingredients to make a picture-worthy dish. Now, as good as a chef as I am, I’m also a klutz, hence my motto: if it tastes good, forget if it doesn’t look Pinterest-perfect!
(Well, that’s more my credo than my motto…I’m not that pretentious).
My point is that, try as I might, I always mess up the layers when I assemble the Trifle in the requisite Trifle bowl. I’ll drizzle the jam on the walls of the glass bowl, then make a smear when I try to clean it up, or the fruit will sink into the pudding so I have to keep adding more and more to try and even it out until one side sinks down like a reverse geyser into the lower layers. ** SIGH **
Stratification is HARD! (Hey, do you want some cheese with that whine?!)
Anyway, the idea is to try (as best you can), to spoon the pudding, fruit, jam, cake, liquor, and whipped cream into the bowl so the layers are clean and separate, then decorate the top layer (usually the whipped cream) to finish off your masterpiece.
Make your own components for Trifle
Because of the simple nature of the components, quality is key here.
Yes, you can use ready-made whipped cream, boxed puddings, and store-bought pound cake (and I have done it, too). In a pinch Trifle comes together very quickly and isn’t the first dessert that comes to mind for most people, so it’ll be different from the usual suspects on the dessert table.
However, I advocate to make what ingredients you can from scratch. I’m talking about the cake or cookies..of course yours will be better than the store. You don’t use preservatives at home!
For the pudding, homemade pudding is so good, and relatively easy to make. As for the whipped cream…c’mon, do you really want all those additives and stabilizers in your diet when you can literally whip up a pint of heavy cream in a couple of minutes?
Another benefit of Trifle is that it is scalable, i.e., you can make a full batch in a large Trifle bowl, or make Trifle’s younger sister, the parfait, in as many individual serving containers as you need.
Actually, the preparation of the layers is a little easier with the parfait as there is less space to mess up (although I do manage to somehow). That’s why I’m not really giving a traditional recipe for Trifle with amounts needed for each ingredient…you judge how much you’ll need based on what type of glass container you use and how many servings you need.
By the way, making parfaits is a great way to use up leftover tea breads!
A Traditional Pound Cake using recipe ratios
The recipe ratio for pound cake is literally it’s name, a pound of each of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour (so it’s 1-1-1-1), combined in that order.
Notice I said a pound, not cups. This recipe ratio (like most of them) is based on weight, not volume. The best thing to have in the kitchen is a kitchen scale. It makes baking loads easier!
A full pound of each ingredient will make two large loaves of cake (made in a standard loaf pan), so half a pound of each ingredient will make one large or 4 small cakes.
Ruhlman has a wonderfully informative chapter in his book about Pound Cake and Sponge Cake explaining how varying the amounts or the mixing method of the ingredients affects the overall result. I recommend this book highly as I really learned a lot from it and use it (and it’s accompanying iPhone app) constantly.
That’s it! Easy, right? Pound Cake can be flavored with liquors, fruit juices and zests, and/or food flavorings like vanilla, almond, or rum...just mix those in before you add in the flour. The finished cake can be glazed or served as is, or you can cut it up into cubes and layer it into your Trifle.
For Trifle, use what you have on hand
Returning to Trifle, traditionally, it's made with vanilla pudding, berries & matching jam (strawberries or raspberries), pound cake, whipped cream, and perhaps rum.
But how about bananas, and banana bread or vanilla cookies instead? Butterscotch pudding, pumpkin butter and pumpkin bread with gingersnaps? Or chocolate pudding, raspberries, brownies with chocolate sauce (I’m sensing a theme here…). The mind boggles.
The Trifle I've pictured above was made with Caramel Banana Pudding from Dessert for Two, leftover Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, and bananas and blueberries. So yummy!
Give the recipe for Pound Cake a try, then use it into a Trifle. Happy layering!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
Recipes for Trifle cakes
Traditional English Trifle calls for pound cake, but other tea cakes work well also. Here are some ideas to try, and don't worry, you won't notice the sourdough starter discard in those cakes!
- Traditional Pound Cake
- Orange Vanilla Pound Cake
- Old-Fashioned Sourdough Gingerbread
- Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread
- Honey Cake with Pecans & Jam
- Mini Limoncello Cake
- Sourdough Pumpkin Cake
- Glazed Chocolate Chip Sourdough Banana Bread
- Eggnog Bread
- Cinnamon Streusel Orange Glazed Cranberry Bread
- Authentic British Sticky Toffee Pudding
Traditional Pound Cake
- 1 cup butter, at room temperature (8 oz, 227g)
- ⅔ cup sugar, (8 oz, 227g)
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature, see Recipe Notes
- 1¾ cups all-purpose flour, (8 oz, 227g)
- 1 tsp kosher salt, if using unsalted butter
- Use a kitchen scale to measure out 8 oz of each of your primary ingredients.
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter and flour a standard loaf pan (8 1/2- x 4 1/2-inches). Whisk the flour and salt (if using) together in a medium bowl.
- Using a stand mixer with paddle attachment or hand mixer, beat the butter at medium speed for about a minute to lighten, then add the sugar and cream together at a medium-high speed until the mixture is light in color and the volume has increased.
- Mix in the eggs, one at a time, making sure they are fully incorporated after each addition.
- Slowly add in the flour mixture and beat at a medium-low speed until just incorporated.
- Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for about an hour until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool cake completely.