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Thursday, March 15, 2012 02:15 pm

Irish whiskey trifle

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Trifles are traditional in England and Scotland as well as Ireland, one of those preparations that undoubtedly came about as a way to use stale leftovers – in this case, cake – but that was so delicious that it soon was being made for its own sake. Various spirits are used to moisten and flavor the cake – in England, sherry is often the choice – but the Irish make it their own by using Irish whiskey.


A trifle bowl is a deep glass bowl (usually footed) that’s straight-sided to display the layers of cake, custard, and fruit. 

  • 1 day-old 9-inch round yellow or white cake layer (NOT angel food-type), or substitute a small (10.75 oz.) purchased Sara Lee all-butter pound cake, cut into cubes
  • c. Irish whiskey, such as Bushmill’s, or more or less to taste
  • Chilled custard sauce, recipe follows
  • Raspberry purée, recipe follows
  • 1 c. chilled heavy whipping cream,
  • 2 T. sugar, preferably superfine
  • 1 pint fresh raspberries
  • c. slivered or sliced lightly toasted almonds

Sprinkle the cake cubes with the whiskey. Use enough to dampen the cake and give it flavor, but be careful: using too much can turn it into a soggy mess. Let stand about 15 minutes. Put half the cake cubes in the bottom of a trifle bowl or other glass serving bowl and drizzle with some of the raspberry purée. Cover with half of the custard sauce and sprinkle half of the fresh raspberries over that. Repeat with another layer of cake, purée and custard. Whip the chilled cream with the sugar until it stands in firm peaks. Smooth the whipped cream over the custard. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes; it can be made and refrigerated several hours ahead. Just before serving, drizzle with the remaining raspberry purée and garnish with the remaining fresh raspberries and nuts.

For the custard sauce:

  • 4 egg yolks
  • c. sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Beat egg yolks, sugar and salt in the container of a blender or bowl of a food processor until thick and creamy. Heat milk and cream in a heavy saucepan or the top of a double boiler just until tiny bubbles appear around the edge. Do not allow to boil. With the food processor or blender running, pour in the hot milk mixture in a thin stream. Return the mixture to the pan, and put the pan over low heat. Stir constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon until the mixture has thickened to a creamy consistency that coats a spoon. Stir in the vanilla extract. Remove from the heat. Sauce may be served warm or cold.

For the raspberry purée

  • 12 oz. bag unsweetened raspberries, unthawed
  • c. sugar, or to taste
In the container of an electric blender or the bowl of a food processor, purée the berries and sugar until the sugar is dissolved and the berries are liquefied. Strain through a fine mesh strainer.
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