If you're going to take on an ambitious dessert, it had better look and taste spectacular. This is one of those creations — a dome of cake filled with alternating layers of almond and pistachio mousses, fresh raspberries, and finished with billows of whipped cream. It comes to the table looking like a great white snowdrift studded with fresh raspberries.
This recipe teaches you an easily mastered technique that will make you feel like you've stepped into the shoes of a pastry chef. It also uses a lot of egg yolks, so make our Pine Nut Meringues with the leftover whites. And one more thing: perhaps the best part is that this dessert can be made at a leisurely pace, months ahead of time.
Cook to Cook: The sugar syrup holds, covered in the refrigerator, for at least a month. Fillings can be made a day ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator. Freeze any leftover filling, which is a good dessert on its own.
Make 24 hours in advance; keeps up to 3 months in the freezer
Here, Lynne prepares a trifle that is not exactly this recipe but a fun variation. Video by Jennifer Simonson for MPR.
1. Heat the water and the sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat to a low boil. Don't stir or swirl. Once liquid is clear, continue cooking until bubbles are glossy, another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool.
2. Pour the cooled syrup into a large stainless steel bowl (about 8 quarts). Whisk in the egg yolks and 9 tablespoons of the almond syrup. Set the bowl over a large pot of simmering water, making sure it does not touch the water. Whisk the custard over the simmering water until it is very thick, about 5 minutes. Take care that it doesn't overcook and become grainy. It needs to reach 165°F on an instant-reading thermometer.
3. Immediately scrape the custard into the bowl of an electric mixer with a whisk attachment. Quickly add the remaining almond syrup and the vanilla. Beat at high speed until it more than triples in volume, about 5 minutes. Then continue beating at medium-low until cooled to room temperature, about 10 minutes.
4. Divide the mixture equally between two bowls. To make the pistachio cream, lightly fold the pistachios into one bowl, and then lightly fold in 1/2 of the whipped cream. To make the plain almond mousse, fold the rest of the whipped cream into the other bowl. You can chill these from 3 to 24 hours if convenient.
5. Line a 2-1/2-quart stainless steel bowl with plastic wrap, leaving a generous overhang. With a long, sharp knife, shave away the browned exteriors of the cakes. Slice one cake along its long sides into 3/4-inch thick rectangles. Cut each rectangle on the diagonal to make 2 long triangles. Fit and gently press them together to completely line the bowl. Trim any cake standing above the rim.
6. Scoop the plain almond mousse to nearly fill half of the bowl. Place it in the freezer for an hour. Then cover the mousse with the drained raspberries.
7. To create the second layer of the trifle, take the second cake and slice it horizontally into layers that are 3/4-inch thick. Trim two of the layers (save the rest for another use), to cover the raspberries with a sturdy layer that is pressed into the sides of the bowl.
8. Brush the cake layer with the Marsala. Scoop in the pistachio mousse, and tap the bowl lightly on the counter to firm the filling. Cover the pistachio mousse with another layer of the cake, gently pressing pieces so they make a solid layer. Bring up the plastic wrap to completely seal the trifle. Freeze 24 hours to 3 months.
9. About 30 minutes before serving, remove the mold from the freezer and turn it out on a platter. First lift off the bowl, and then gently pull away the plastic wrap.
10. Whip the cream with the sugar until there are soft peaks. Spread it thickly over the frozen trifle with sweeping motions so you get great swirls. Scatter the fresh raspberries and sugar pearls over the cake if using, and cluster pine sprigs around its base. Serve the trifle sliced in wedges.
This recipe appears in Italian Holidays: Eating In with Lynne Rossetto Kasper, Issue 3, which is available as an e-book.
Lynne Rossetto Kasper has won numerous awards as host of The Splendid Table, including two James Beard Foundation Awards (1998, 2008) for Best National Radio Show on Food, five Clarion Awards (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014) from Women in Communication, and a Gracie Allen Award in 2000 for Best Syndicated Talk Show.
Sally Swift is the managing producer and co-creator of The Splendid Table. Before developing the show, she worked in film, video and television, including stints at Twin Cities Public Television, Paisley Park, and Comic Relief with Billy Crystal. She also survived a stint as segment producer on The Jenny Jones Show.