- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 21, 2004

“There are many mentions of trifle-like recipes through the centuries,” says John R. Gonzales, the executive chef in charge of the four Colonial taverns and the free-standing restaurants operated by Colonial Williamsburg.

“Soaking dried cake and breads in various liquors and then layering them with custard cream and prepared fruit became a popular dessert,” says Mr. Gonzales. “Though some slow-ripening fruit was brought up from the Caribbean during Colonial winters, most settlers would have used varieties that had been ‘put up.’ ”

Mr. Gonzales knows his territory well — he grew up in the village known as Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area.

His latest book, “Holiday Fare: Favorite Williamsburg Recipes” (Colonial Williamsburg) is a collection of about 60 recipes drawn from the culinary history and traditions of Williamsburg, full of seasonal flavor. They range from sausage and oyster gumbo to Christmas corn pudding, from rosemary-rubbed rib of beef to buttery rum crumble pie, and they include this trifle.

Mr. Gonzales’ recipe calls for fresh and prepared fruit, including kiwis, pineapples and raspberry jam. Be sure to display the dessert in a glass trifle bowl or individual glasses, he says, so everyone can appreciate the colorful fruit and custard cream layers.

Remember that a trifle can be served at festive occasions other than Christmas.

Christmas trifle

This recipe is from “Holiday Fare: Favorite Williamsburg Recipes.”


21/2 cups milk

1/3 cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

5 egg yolks

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 cups heavy cream

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until barely simmering.

Separately, mix the granulated sugar, cornstarch and egg yolks with a pinch of salt in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, and heat over medium heat.Whisk in the hot milk slowly, about 1/2 cup at a time, until all the milk is incorporated into the egg mixture. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until lumps of custard begin to form. Lower the heat and whisk until smooth. Remove from the heat and mix in the vanilla extract.

Transfer the custard to a large bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, poke a few holes in the plastic, and cool.

Place the heavy cream and confectioners’ sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Whip on medium speed for 4 to 5 minutes, or until stiff peaks form, and refrigerate.

Reserve 2 tablespoons of the whipped cream for decoration.

Once the custard has cooled, mix in one-third of the whipped cream with the custard using a rubber spatula to lighten. Gently fold in the remaining whipped cream and refrigerate the custard cream.


11/2 pounds vanilla or lemon pound cake, sliced 1/2-inch thick

1 cup raspberry jam

4 ounces dry sherry

10 kiwi, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch slices, reserving several slices for decoration

24-ounce container pineapple, or mango, drained and cut in chunks (in the fresh fruit section)

2 10-ounce containers frozen strawberries with their juices, thawed, reserving 1 berry for decoration

1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted (about 1 ounce), for decoration

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Lay the pound cake on baking sheets and bake about 10 minutes, or until partially dried. Remove from the oven and cool. Spread each slice of pound cake with a thin layer of raspberry jam.

Place a layer of pound cake slices, breaking them to fit evenly, into an 8-inch-deep trifle bowl, or 3-quart glass bowl. Drizzle one-third of the sherry onto the pound cake.

Line the edge of the bowl with the kiwi, leaving a slight gap between each slice. Fill in the gaps with chunks of pineapple. Spoon on one-third of the strawberries with their juices, making some visible through the kiwi.

Add additional kiwi, pineapple and strawberries to level out the layer. Add in and spread evenly one-third of the custard cream.

Repeat this layering process twice, ending with a layer of custard cream on top. Decorate with the reserved whipped cream, kiwi, strawberry, and the toasted almonds.

For individual portions, layer the glasses proportionately and decorate each serving. Makes 16 servings.


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