Carola Dunn was born and grew up in England but has lived in the US for the past 50 years or so. In spite of this, almost all her books are set in England, including twenty-three mysteries in the 1920’s era Daisy Dalrymple series, four Cornish Mysteries set around 1970, thirty-two Regency novels, and four collections of Regency novellas. Learn more about Carola and her books at her website.
Trifle is an English dessert dating from 1598 (first citation in print according to the OED). At that time the word referred to a mixture of cream boiled with other ingredients, more like what we call a “fool” today. By 1755, it was much like what we know today as trifle. My Aunt Margery (actually a second cousin a few time removed) used to make trifle for the holidays. I don't have her recipe, and in fact, I don't use a recipe at all, but this is how I make it yearly for Christmas Eve dinner with friends.
I have to say, the first time I brought it on Christmas Eve, it was looked at askance by a few who aren't into desserts--but they are the ones who came back for more!
Ingredients – exact quantities are unimportant—guidelines below
Plain cake—I've used angel food from a mix, and bakery pound cake, but the most popular was homemade sponge cake that was actually a complete failure—the two layers each came out about 3/8” thick. For some things you really have to follow the recipe!
Raspberries—I freeze my own every summer, but this is one time frozen work better, because they have lots of juice. (Some people use jam/jelly or jelly/jello, unsatisfactory in my opinion, or soak the cake in sherry, which I don't care for.)
Custard—I use Bird's Custard Powder, but vanilla pudding is more or less equivalent.
Whipped cream—Here I'm really fussy. Spray can cream does NOT work. Even grocery store whipping cream, which usually comes full of thickeners such as carrageen, is not that great. I use heavy cream (unadulterated) from a local dairy, or Trader Joe has an excellent heavy cream. If you love whipped cream, you probably have your own source.
Glacé cherries for decoration—or fresh raspberries if available.
Trifle is attractive in a glass bowl, but any bowl—preferably flat-bottomed—works well. The bowl in the photos is 6-1/4” x 3-1/4” deep. I made two roughly the same size using about ¾ of a small pound cake, a 12 oz bag of frozen raspberries, a pint of custard, and a ½ pint of cream. It would be enough for 6 or 8 people. Or it can be made in individual glasses such as sundae glasses.
Place slices of cake about 1” to 1½” deep in bottom of small bowl or 2 to 2½ in large bowl. I fill in gaps with scraps of cake.
Pour juice from bag more or less evenly over cake to soak in. Distribute berries in an even layer on top.
Make custard or pudding. Cool slightly (so it doesn't cook the berries) and pour on top before it completely thickens.
Whip cream till really stiff—beyond stiff peaks (but don't let it turn into butter!) unless you're going to serve the trifle immediately and you know there won't be any left over. Even with the best cream, stiff peaks will weep after a few hours. Good cream doesn't need any flavouring. If you have to use grocery store whipping cream, you might want to flavour it with a spoonful of powdered sugar and/or a drop of vanilla.
Spread on top of cooled custard. Decorate.
Serve with a large spoon (a cake server doesn't work well), preferably in glass bowls.
The Corpse at the Crystal Palace
A Daisy Dalrymple Mystery, Book 23
April 1928: Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher is visited in London by her young cousins. On the list of must-see sites is the Crystal Palace. Discovering that her children's nanny, Nanny Gilpin, has never seen the Palace, Daisy decides to make a day of it―bringing her cousins, her 3-year-old twins, her step-daughter Belinda, the nurserymaid, and Nanny Gilpin. Yet this ordinary outing goes wrong when Mrs. Gilpin goes off to the ladies’ room and fails to return. When Daisy goes to look for her, she doesn't find her nanny but instead the body of another woman dressed in a nanny's uniform.
Meanwhile, Belinda and the cousins spot Mrs. Gilpin chasing after yet another nanny. Intrigued, they trail the two through the vast Crystal Palace and into the park. After briefly losing sight of their quarry, they stumble across Mrs. Gilpin lying unconscious in a small lake inhabited by huge concrete dinosaurs.
When she comes to, Mrs. Gilpin can't remember what happened after leaving the twins in the nurserymaid's care. Daisy's husband, Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard, finds himself embroiled in the investigation of the murdered nanny. Worried about her children's own injured nanny, Daisy is determined to help. First she has to discover the identity of the third nanny, the presumed murderer, and to do so, Daisy must uncover why the amnesic Mrs. Gilpin deserted her charges to follow the missing third nanny.
(For a Daisy Dalrymple murder mystery, check out Mistletoe and Murder, Book 11.)