I don’t think I could write a book that didn’t include a recipe for trifle somewhere—and this, I tell you, is the trifle to end all trifles. The shiny black of the berries, the soft whiteness of the mascarpone above them and the golden toastiness of the almonds on top, make it, in the first instance, beautiful to look at. But the key element here is ease: unlike with other trifles, there is no caution-requiring cooking of custard, which however delicious, has its stresses. In fact, the only cooking whatsoever is a little heating of some jam on the stove. The Anglo factor is provided by the trifle sponge cakes, jam and hedgerow-redolent fruit; the amaretti, limoncello—or any other lemon liqueur—and tiramisù-like eggy mascarpone layer fulfill the Italian side of the partnership.
I use black currant rather than blackberry jam, simply because I want a more jellied, less seedy smearing between the sponges, but it wouldn’t really matter which you go for. Similarly, feel free to use rum in place of the limoncello. It’s just that I find it hard to come back from holiday in Italy without lugging strange lemon-shaped bottles of local liqueurs, and then want to justify the effort by finding some use for them in the kitchen.
As with all trifles, it’s not the amounts that are so important, but the layering: in other words, different-sized bowls will require different quantities of ingredients; the ones that follow are enough to fill a bowl—and it should be glass—of about 2-quart capacity.
- 8 to 10 ladyfingers
- ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons black currant jam
- 7 ounces amaretti biscuits
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons limoncello (or other lemon liqueur)
- Juice of half a lemon
- 3¼ cup blackberries
- 2 eggs, separated
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1¾ pounds mascarpone cheese
- Scant ¼ cup slivered almonds
Split the ladyfingers and make little sandwiches of them using more than half of the jam, then press them into the base of your glass bowl. Reduce the amaretti biscuits to rubble in the food processor and, reserving some crumbs for sprinkling over the top at the end, scatter most of them evenly over the ladyfingers and then pour over them a generous ½ cup of the limoncello. Put the remaining ¼ cup or so of jam into a wide saucepan with the lemon juice and melt over a low heat, then tumble in the blackberries and turn in the heat for a minute or so just until the juices start running. Tip these over the biscuit-sprinkled, liqueur-soused sandwiches to cover and leave this while you get on with the next bit.
Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until you have a thick, smooth, yellow paste. I use my KitchenAid for this, but any old handheld electric mixer or whisk would be fine. Still whisking, drip in another ¼ cup limoncello and continue whisking away until you have a light moussey mixture. Whisk in the mascarpone until everything is smoothly combined, and when this is done add the remaining limoncello. Finally, in another bowl, whisk the egg whites until firm, but not dry, and fold these into the lemony, eggy mascarpone mixture. Now spread this gently over the blackberries in the glass bowl.
Cover the thus-far assembled trifle with plastic wrap and leave in the refrigerator for the flavors and textures to steep and meld for at least 4 hours and up to 24. Take the trifle out of the refrigerator for about 40 minutes to an hour before it’s needed (depending on how cold your refrigerator runs) to get to coolish room temperature. Not long before you want to eat, toast the slivered almonds by tossing them in a dry pan over medium heat until they are turning gold and flashed bronze in parts, then tip them onto a plate. When they’re cool, mix them with the reserved amaretti crumbs. Remove the plastic wrap from the bowl and scatter the nuts and crumbs over the pale, set surface. Dig in and serve, making sure to heap the full triple-banded layer on each plate: the lemony, almondy, cream-swathed berriness makes this the perfect ending to a large, lazy summer lunch.
This recipe serves 14