The Cherry-Buttermilk Trifle (not to be trifled with)

I can’t tell you about that amazing layer cake that I made for my graduation party last week. You’ll have to wait just a little bit longer. Today is National Cherry Tart Day and it just so happens that yesterday for Father’s Day I made a really delicious cherry buttermilk trifle, which is kind of like a cherry tart (re: there are cherries in it), only so, so much better. (Can you tell I’m not a big pie person?) I seriously debated telling you about it just yet, first because I thought it might be cruel and unusual punishment to tease you on Saturday with one of the best cakes I’ve ever made and then hold out on the recipe, and second because I didn’t quite nail it. In the end, though, I know it’s going to be a long, long time before I get around to making this a second time, and whether you know it yet or not, you just can’t wait that long for this one.

Everyone at Father’s Day went nuts about this – there were only 5 of us, but even so, it was unanimously well received. There’s this layer of orange sponge cake covered by a thin layer of tangy-sweet buttermilk pudding, topped with dollops of cherry compote and sprinkled with chocolate chips, slivered almonds and fresh cherries for garnish. I meant to put chocolate chunks in the actual trifle layers, and my sister wisely noted that white chocolate would taste heavenly, too; but alas, I didn’t remember that I wanted to incorporate chocolate until the trifle was fully assembled, so I had to relegate them to garnish status. After making the cherry compote, I’m convinced that simply simmering cherries without any of the sugar would be equally successful, but I also had relatively sweet and decidedly un-tart cherries on my hands. I also wasn’t going off of one recipe, but rather pulling from many recipes and my own thoughts, so I wound up with not quite enough pudding to generously coat the cake (which would be the #1 reason why I hesitated telling you about this yet). Double the pudding recipe and you’ll be golden (the recipe below will make the quantity that I made). As it was, it still tasted good and didn’t stop my mom or me from going back for seconds. I would say that it makes 12 servings easily, and it’s filling – that second serving was probably not the best decision I’ve made, but boy did it taste good…

One Year Ago: Lemon Asparagus Ribbons with Pesto

Cherry-Buttermilk Trifle
This trifle layers sweet orange sponge cake cubes with a mild yet tangy buttermilk pudding and a simple cherry compote, all garnished with chocolate chips and almond slices to make you feel like you’re getting a spoonful of heaven in every bite.

Yield: 10-12 servings
Prep Time: 1 hour plus 5 minutes plus 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes plus 25 minutes plus 20 minutes

The Ingredients
6 eggs plus 3 egg yolks
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 ¾ plus ⅓ cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
1 teaspoon orange zest (from 2 oranges)
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
3 cups sweet cherries, pitted1
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 cup low-fat milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons slivered almonds
fresh cherries, for garnishing

The Method
Prepare the cake: separate 6 eggs and allow both the whites and yolks to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Beat the 6 egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed of a stand mixer until soft peaks form. Slowly add in ½ cup sugar and increase the speed to high until stiff peaks form. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 325° Fahrenheit and grease a 9x13 inch pan with cooking spray.

Add 6 egg yolks to the stand mixer (you don’t need to worry about washing because you did the whites first), and beat on high speed until thick and lemon-colored, approximately 5 minutes. Add in the orange zest, juice, water, and vanilla extract and lower the speed to medium just to combine the new ingredients. Gradually add in 1 cup of sugar before increasing the speed again to medium, and continue beating until the mixture thickens slightly and doubles in volume, approximately 5 minutes.

Mixing by hand, sprinkle ¼ cup of the flour at a time over the egg yolk mixture, folding until combined between each addition. Next, fold 1 cup of the beaten egg white mixture into the yolk mixture, and then gently fold the yolk mixture into the remaining whites. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and place in the oven for 27-30 minutes, or until the cake springs back lightly in the center upon being touched. Remove from the oven, run a knife or soft spatula around the edges, and invert immediately onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

While the cake is baking, move on to the cherry compote: combine ¼ cup sugar and ¼ cup water in a small sauce pan set over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer and watch carefully until the mixture has taken on a light caramel color, 5-10 minutes.2Add in the cherries and simmer for another 2 minutes before stirring in the balsamic vinegar. Allow this mixture to bubble and thicken, approximately 10-15 minutes (or longer if you have the patience). Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon of chia seeds. Cover and set aside to cool, refrigerating once it has come down in temperature enough.

Next, move on to the buttermilk: combine the low-fat milk with the lemon juice and set to the side to create buttermilk, at least 5 minutes. Whisk the remaining 3 egg yolks (reserve the 3 remaining whites for another use) together in a medium-large mixing bowl and set by the stove. In a medium-large saucepan, combine the corn starch and remaining sugar (⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon). Whisk in the heavy cream in a steady stream until no lumps remain. Stir in the prepared buttermilk and then turn the heat on to medium-low. Heat gently, stirring often, until the mixture has begun to simmer and has turned noticeably thicker, at least 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and add ¼ cup of the hot buttermilk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking vigorously as you pour to temper the eggs and prevent them from scrambling. Repeat this two more times before adding the warmed egg mixture into the remaining buttermilk in the sauce pan. Return to medium-low heat and whisk vigorously and constantly until the pudding has thickened appropriately. Signs that this has occurred: your arm has literally fallen off and is lying sore and useless on the kitchen floor; at least 10 minutes but possibly closer to 15 have gone by;3 and/or a spatula leaves a defined trail in the pudding when dragged through. Transfer to a medium-large bowl, press plastic wrap up against the surface of the pudding to prevent skin from forming, and cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge to finish setting up, 1-2 hours.

When all ingredients are fully cooled/chilled/set, cut the cake into cubes of desired size (I aimed for bite-size, maybe ¼ inch). Arrange half of the cubes in a large trifle dish or punch bowl. Top with ¾ of the buttermilk pudding and spread evenly across the cubes. Add ¾ of the cherry compote and spread evenly across the pudding. Repeat with the remaining cake, pudding, and compote. Garnish with the chocolate chips, slivered almonds, and fresh cherries.

Sources, adapted: Annie’s Eats4(cake), Apples and Butter (cherry compote), and Food52 (buttermilk pudding)

1This took me 10 minutes easily, perhaps as much as 15, but check out the original recipe blog post (above) for a neat trick for this. It uses a decorating tip – just be warned, I completely mutilated mine going through all of those cherries and now need to buy a new one. I admittedly didn’t pit it exactly according to instructions so you may not run into the same problem, but I thought I should give that disclaimer just in case.
2This will take a seemingly long time, but once it starts to turn, it’ll go from light-caramel to burnt in no time, so really do watch it fairly vigilantly.
3Ok, ok, no you do not need to whisk vigorously and constantly for 15 minutes straight. I took breaks and towards the end of it just stirred it around in a slow, gentle manner with the occasional strong whisk to prevent burning or sticking – but by breaks, I mean that I stood over the mixture staring at it intently, ready to spring back into action if necessary. Do not walk away. Be patient, be persistent. You can do this. Your arm will not actually fall off onto the kitchen floor, I promise.
4I also used this cake as the base for the Cranberry-Orange “Petits Cakes” with Buttercream Filling that I made last December.

This sounds like a very labor intensive recipe. It kind of is. I had the cake already made and cut into cubes in my freezer from a fondue party canceled at the last minute months and months ago, which really helped to reduce my prep time. But really, it isn’t a difficult dish to prepare, it just takes a little bit of dedication, and the pay off in the end is definitely worth it.

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