Merry post Christmas and Happy New 2016! I hope you had a fantastic festive season and aren’t planning to punish yourselves in anyway with month long detoxes or exclusions? You can drink a wee bit less or eat more vegan food any time you know. A pissing wet January weekend isn’t my moment to have a major life change, but I guess everyone’s different…
My big difference this Christmas was that I didn’t cook. I ate some excellent food but for once I allowed other people to cook for me. And it was absolutely wonderful.
My lovely friends went out of their way to welcome me to their homes and tables over the holidays and make food I could eat and make no fuss when there was something I couldn’t. As a result I enjoyed each and every time I ate and felt more treated and spoiled than if I’d been plied with gifts.
This was my first Christmas in England and I decided to go the whole hog and do as many firsts as possible and try as much new stuff as I could. I ate my first blini, drank my first Baileys, ate Brussel sprouts and pigs in blankets with Christmas dinner, had a snowball and the big one, made and ate my first ever trifle.
I have always loathed the idea of trifle. Technically I have never loathed trifle because I have never eaten trifle until last week. It’s not something we do in our family and frankly, I’ve always found it rather English.
My only childhood experience of trifle were terrifying ready made Dale Farm ones made of lurid jelly, cryogenically suspended tinned fruit and squirty cream begging to be put out of its mercy. Other Northern Irish children of the Eighties probably remember these in Crazy Prices or Stewarts too. I believe one was supposed to wash it down with some of that day glo orange squash children were practically weaned on in those days since it came in milk bottles beside your daily pinta.
I never touched them no matter how rude it made me look when I went to friends’ houses for tea after school. Luckily most adults were so tickled by a small child refusing sugar that they forgot to tell my parents what a precocious brat I was. Once I got to secondary school, trifle just seemed to vanish out of my life and I’ve avoided it ever since.
Listening to this Radio 4 programme with Tim Hayward before Christmas was my equivalent of watching a horror film. I ducked beneath the bed covers at least once as they discussed jelly and declared myself trifle-phobic.
Then it all happened. My friends who I was joining for Christmas dinner asked me to bring a dessert. I decided to make a version of this chocolate prune cake but with chestnut puree instead of dried fruit. This was my no cooking Christmas after all and that cake is so simple you can make and bake it in under an hour.
But what you can’t do at 1am on the morning of Christmas Eve is take it out of a bundt tin without it breaking into moussey hunks of panic on your kitchen worktops. Emergency Googling told me you have two options with a broken cake: cake pops or trifle.
And when you’ve got Christmas Eve plans involving prosecco and good jamon and better manners than turning up to Christmas lunch with no desert, you go with trifle.
One swift trip to Tesco Express later and I had the makings of a chocolate mousse trifle. I would layer the sliced cake up and pour raspberry coulis and fresh raspberries over it, add homemade chocolate mousse, more raspberries and whipped cream and it would all be fine.
Apart from the fact a trifle-hater doesn’t usually have anything they can make trifle for 6 people in and carry it around the corner with ease. Which is how I found myself making a bucket of trifle in a Tupperware container big enough to bath a baby, but yet easy to transport.
This actually make enough trifle for 16 people so it was going to be too weird to excuse myself from eating my own dessert. I dug in and told myself it wasn’t really trifle because the cake hadn’t been moistened but was meant to be like that.
And it was delicious. Incredibly ridiculously rich. But delicious. Turns out I’m not trifle-phobic. I’m just fussy. But you probably all knew that anyway…
Chocolate Mousse Trifle (serves an even dozen at least)
For the cake:
- 400g dark chocolate
- 200g chestnut puree
- 175g butter
- 6 egg yolks
- 6 egg whites
- 3 tablespoons icing sugar
For the mousse:
- 400g milk chocolate
- 175g butter
- 6 egg yolks
- 6 egg whites
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the trifle:
- 350g raspberry puree
- 200g fresh raspberries
- 500ml double cream
You could of course just make the cake or the mousse and not bugger either of them up and serve them separately. But if I’d done that I wouldn’t have had an amusing anecdote or a blog post.
Grease and flour a 9 inch cake tin. You can use a bundt if you want to save on some of the effort of slicing, but a standard tin is fine. Heat the oven to 175℃.
Make a bain marie by placing a large bowl over a pan of water on the cooker, making sure the water doesn’t touch the base of the bowl. Melt the chocolate, chestnut puree and butter together in this. Separate the eggs and set aside.
Once the chocolate is melted, take it off the heat and set carefully into a sink of cold water to cool. Beat the egg whites with the icing sugar until stiff peaks and set aside.
Take the chocolate out of the water and beat each egg yolk into it one at a time with your electric whisk to add lots of air. Then fold in the egg whites a third at a time.
Pour the mix into your cake tin and bake for 40-45 minutes. The cake will rise massively in the oven so allow breathing space. Once the top is slightly cracked and light in colour, take out and let it cool on a wire rack.
Make the raspberry puree by blitzing either defrosted raspberries or fresh ones with a tablespoon of icing sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice and set set aside.
Slice the cooled cake and layer into a trifle bowl (or enormous tupperware container.) Pour the raspberry puree over it and add about half the raspberries. Allow to sit while you make the mousse. You could use that bottle of Chambord you have knocking round instead if you prefer.
Set up up your bain marie again and melt the chocolate and butter together. Separate the eggs and cool the melted chocolate well. You do not want scrambled egg while you’re making trifle (obviously I got it on Christmas Eve and just carried on anyway.)
Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks with a pinch of salt and set aside. Add the vanilla extract and beat each egg yolk in one at a time and then fold in the egg whites a third at a time.
Pour over the cake and raspberry puree and chill for 4 hours or overnight. About an hour before serving whip the double cream and spread on top of the set mousse and decorate with the remaining fresh raspberries. Serve and convert all the trifle haters and jelly doubters!