Melissa is my Valentine child, born on February 14th (the day she was due, which I very much appreciated at the time). Having a birthday in the middle of winter had its problems. Aside from having to share “her day” with the rest of the world, it never failed that some significant invitee to her birthday party would succumb to whatever contagion was active that year. Grandma, Papa, Dad, Meg, friends … you name ’em, she missed ’em. Everyone except me. I had to be there to supply the cake.
Her perennial birthday cake request had cake in it, but wasn’t actually a cake at all. What she almost always wanted was Strawberry Trifle. As with most of my recipes, this one morphed over the years, but the biggest challenge was finding good berries in February. So I would grab any I could find within a week of the party. But once I found them, the other big challenge was to keep them from spoiling.
Well, Melissa married Jake last year and she now lives in St. Louis, so I don’t actually get to make birthday cakes for her anymore, but I still try to make a trifle for us.
Strawberry Trifle, aka Melissa’s Birthday Cake
(some assembly required)
2 large boxes or 3 small boxes of Jello “cook and serve” vanilla pudding (NOT instant)
5 cups of whole milk (I use less than called for so the pudding will be thicker)
1 ½ cups heavy cream (unsweetened)
Cook on stove or in microwave until thickened
Put in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap on top to prevent a skin from forming
Cool thoroughly in refrigerator
Whip heavy cream (no sugar) and fold into pudding
2-3 quarts of strawberries, hulled and quartered (more is better)
2 Tbs. sugar sprinkled over berries and gently stirred in
2-4 oz. slivered almonds toasted for 5 minutes at 350 (be careful they don’t burn)
6 egg whites
6 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
¼ cup hot water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
Whip egg whites into soft peaks
In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar, then mix in water and vanilla.
Fold flour and baking powder into yolk mixture
Fold egg whites into yolk mixture
Bake in an ungreased tube pan at 350 for 45 minutes
Decide if you want to make one large trifle or two small ones and divide accordingly.
Cut sponge cake in half horizontally and sprinkle with Amontillado sherry to taste (just stick your thumb in the bottle and spritz over the cut side of the cake)
Put a little pudding/cream in the bottom of the serving bowl(s)
Layer cake, strawberries, almonds and cream filling, in that order, twice.
Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving if possible.
Garnish with sweetened whipped cream and whole strawberries if desired