TRIFLE! (Cardamom & Clementine Buttermilk Cake, Maple Bavarian Cream, Cranberry Purée, Candied Citrus...)
In reality, I'm not thinking about this right now
well actually maybe now I am after scoping the photo and reliving the enrapturing experience of eating that thing...
So the realization at hand is this: if you too just came inside from screaming at your 14 cows, who, despite their innate idiocy, managed to find a way out of their extremely generously sized meadow and trampled your garden, which you may or may not adore and put a whole lot of heart and soul into... perhaps you too, should check out that photo of my badass trifle and take your mind off of the belief that all cows should look like this
(which is another story for another day... soon!)
The first thing I did, in the midst of the panic, was call my husband and tell him that if I had had a loaded gun five minutes before, we would have a whole lot of meat on our hands.
Clearly, I wasn't joking.
But I would have looked more like this
A state of simultaneous fury, triumph and rage... coupled with slimJim (note that the wrapper remains on–ie: the spear of "meat" was nothing more than a matter of aesthetic; a prop for the occasion, not under any circumstance considered to be an edible accoutrement... ie: on the same plain as the menthol VirginiaSlim Ultra Lights and the blue Mountain Dew purchased on the same day for the same celebration...)
How did I go from fancy-feasting to Virginia Slims?
Rage will do that to you I suppose.
Anyway, feasting has been serious since Thanksgiving. I mean it is always pretty serious around here but we have gotten extra wild... from that fateful brined turkey in cooler-with-wheels on to butchering five of our lambs, experimenting with melt-in-your-mouth chicken under a brick with the sexiest sauce any bird has ever been blanketed with (recipe will appear as soon as I can remember to take a chicken out of freezer...) and on to a new fascination: TRIFLES. And by that I do NOT mean this... YIKES YIKES YIKES YIKES!!!
This tragic photo in a way illustrates why I do this blogging thing...
I feel strongly that the public should not discover this without warning, on wikipedia, if they happen to hear the word "trifle" and wonder what that might be... I don't think it is OK to be fed the belief that the potential of a "trifle" ends here, with what looks to be whipped "topping", Red #40 Gelatin and Wonder bread!?!?
Further into my research I discover this: "The word 'trifle' comes from the old French term 'trufle,' and literally means something whimsical or of little consequence."
Whimsical–perhaps.... "of little consequence" ?? I don't know. I'd say this beauty has the power to radiate quite the joyful reaction...
Things I like about trifles (or my own definition of a trifle I suppose):
creativity can ABOUND, you can use "scraps" left over from other cake projects, if you don't make a perfect cake it doesn't matter–it is hidden between other delicious layers, it looks cool and you can see all the coolness from all sides, rather than blanketing it with frosting (not that I don't condone that, I am way into cakes too as you know). And of course tastes sublime if you choose fabulous components. Oh, and of course, my favorite trifecta is present in a perfect ratio – efficiency, glamour, creative potential.
For this one, the evolution went a little like this:
Recipe test 1 – Thanksgiving Eve: I happened to have a lot of buttermilk kicking around, left over from making butter (YUM)... so I thought I'd make a buttermilk cake... I had heard from aforementioned rockstar pastry chef friend that he was bringing some big pears to poach and they needed a vehicle... naturally I wanted to implement cardamom because it rocks and I thought citrus would be a wicked addition–and there you have it, the cake element was sorted. We turned into mad scientists that night and ended up pairing the pears with a spicy chipotle-chocolate sauce, meanwhile spotting a new trifle dish in the corner and deciding to use the cake element there, paired with other delicious layers... Being partial to maple... and of course having some of our own dark dark dark maple syrup on hand I watched le chef whip up some maple Bavarian cream and for color, a little velvety cranberry-sugar "sauce"... It was beyond a hit... so good that I barely changed a thing this time around (unheard of for those who know me and my penchant for trying something new everytime I cook). I found Bavarian cream to be incredibly simple and wonderful and I even "wung" a cranberry gelée for the top, that came out beautifully smooth.
And I think you should give it a whirl - this glam dessert is a lot easier and less time-consuming than the finished product lets on!
**If you do not have a trifle dish, or are partial to cute food, you can rock individual glasses or jars for the mini trifle effect!
CARDAMOM-CLEMENTINE BUTTERMILK CAKE (or course you can use oranges or tangerines in place of clementines)
2 sticks of butter (1 cup)
1.5 cups sugar (I used raw organic)
1 vanilla bean
1.5 cups buttermilk
1 tsp finely grated clementine zest
2 cups Flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 tsp salt
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1 tsp fresh grated ginger (or 1/4 tsp dried)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cardamom
1. Bring all your ingredients to room-temp. Butter and flour two 9-inch diameter cake pans (**Or, if you are not confident in your horizontal cake slicing skills you could use four cake pans, which would give you your four cake layers without having to implement the serated knife at all!
2. Sift all dry ingredients above (the list from flour down to cardamom ((not sugar)) into a large bowl together. Slice vanilla bean down the center vertically.
3. Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment if you have one, or electric beaters, Beat 2 sticks (1 cup) butter on med-low until lightly colored and fluffier. With the mixer on, add 1.5 cups sugar, a little bit at a time. Blend until smooth and consistent and then add eggs one at a time. Scrape vanilla bean seeds into mixture and add in 1 tsp of citrus zest.
4. With the mixer still running on low, add the flour mixture - alternating with the buttermilk and beat until smooth. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and bake 25-30 mins, until a toothpick or stick or whatever pokey thing you use, comes out of the center clean! Let cool completely.
While your cakes are cooking/cooling, start making component #2...A very simple, very delicious, snappy saucy, festive layer.
2 cups fresh whole cranberries
1/3-1/2 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you prefer it–start with less and give it a taste of course to decide if youd like it sweeter, then just add more sugah!)
2-ish tablespoons brandy/Cointreau/Gran Marnier
1/4-1/3 cup water or orange juice if you like it extra orange-y.
Throw everything in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and stir very often until the cranberries "pop" and deflate into a sweet saucy sticky consistency (about 7-10 mins). Let cool and then blend with an immersion blender to achieve a smooth consistency. Set aside.
MAPLE BAVARIAN CREAM
Have your other components ready to go when you start the bavarian, as you don't want it to set-up before you lather it onto the cake layers.
1 (generous) tbsp powdered gelatin
1/4 cup luke-warm water
1/2 cup maple syrup (the darker the better)
1 cup hot milk
1 vanilla bean (or 1/2) (optional)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 tbsp rum or whiskey!!
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Add 1 tbsp gelatin to 1/4 cup luke-warm water in small bowl.
Place 1 cup milk in the top of a double-boiler or in a heatproof bowl placed over a pan of boiling water (don't let the water level touch the bowl). Slice open the vanilla bean length-wise and scrape seeds into milk. When milk is warm to the touch, add 1/2 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and stir until ingredients are dissolved and consistent.
Beat 3 egg yolks in a medium-size bowl and slowly pour hot mixture over egg yolks, whisking rapidly the entire time. Return the sweetened yolks to the double boiler/heat-proof bowl. Stir the mixture over the boiling water until it coats the back of a wooden spoon in a thick layer. Stir in the gelatin mixture until it is dissolved. Cool the custard and add in 1 tbsp liquor of choice (or 1 tsp vanilla if you're not alcohol inclined)
While the custard is cooling, whip 1 cup cream. When custard is cooled to almost room-temp, fold in the whipped cream gently... it takes quite awhile and it looks lumpy but don't get impatient and rough with it, keep on keeping on – folding gently, round and round. You will probably get huge muscles like these cream folders pictured below
Eventually you will end up with a lovely smooth, sweet, maple-y, velvety product like so:
Now you are ready to assemble! (then we'll make the citrus and the gelée layer while trifle is setting up)
Line up your components.
For the cake layers, if you opted to use two cake pans rather than four, slice each of them horizontally in half to create four same-size layers.
Place one cake layer in the bottom of the trifle dish and spread a layer of cranberry purée over it. Spread a layer of the bavarian over that and gently top with another cake layer. Cranberry layer next, followed by another cake layer and then a bavarian layer. Cranberry layer then a cake layer then bavarian again.
Consult photo below (or you can do anything you want and make your own pattern!)
While the trifle is setting up, make the gelee for the top (if you so desire the glassy look above, or you can skip it and use the cranberry purée, or just end with the bavarian and candied citrus slices) If you are going for the gelée, make sure your bavarian layer is as flat and smooth as possible.
CRANBERRY GELÉE TOP LAYER
1 cup fresh cranberries (1/4 pound)
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 cup orange juice
3/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
Combine 1 cup crans with 1/4 cup water; cook over medium heat for about five minutes or until they pop. Cool and then purée with an immersion blender or pour into an upright blender and purée until smooth. Pour the purée through a fine sieve or strainer, into a bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over two tablespoons of warm water in a small bowl. Let stand until softened, about five minutes. Meanwhile, add to a small sauce pan: 1/8 cup sugar and 1/8 cup of water and bring to a boil, stirring, until dissolved. Remove from heat and cool down. Add the orange juice and cranberry puree and stir.
Whisk the gelatin into the cranberry mixture until smooth.
By this time your trifle should be set up. (I put mine on the porch to chill out, you could stick it in the fridge for a bit but make sure it is set before you pour on the gelée)
Slowly pour the gelée over the top, tilting the trifle to even out the layer.
Put it back on the porch:
Meanwhile, make the
1.5 cups water
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
3 clementines, 1 large navel orange or 2 tangerines (give or take)
Slice citrus into very thin rounds. In a large, heavy skillet bring the 1.5 cups water and 1/2 cup of white sugar to a boil. Add the citrus slices. Let the mixture boil for about seven minutes, turning slices once or twice, then reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking for about 30 minutes. Turn slices occasionally and watch to make sure the sugar doesn't begin to burn. When the mixture becomes a thick syrup, reduce the heat to a low simmer and continue to cook until the syrup is very thick and the oranges are nearly translucent but still have form! (approx. 10 more minutes) note* clementines will take less time than oranges so watch closely... don't walk away or you will end up with tooth-breakingly hard bits!.
Remove the slices from the pan and place on wax paper to cool down.
Retrieve trifle from the porch or fridge and top with slices, voila'!!!
Let me know how your whimsical trifle-ing expeditions go! Also, of course you could make one of these components to combine with another item... for example, that cranberry layer would be killer with something chocolate and that maple bavarian would be stellar with some homemade nut brittle and of course that cardamom cake would work underneath some poached fruit...