It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s windy here. It’s winter. While I am fully embracing all of the winter foodstuffs that I’ve missed all summer long, I still need something a little bright. Something that lets me feel like the summer sun is still beaming outside—if even for just a few moments.
Don’t get me wrong; I love winter food as much as anyone. And it’s not that I love summer food more, either. (I mean, really, what even is “summer” and “winter” food? Is it like saying “ethnic food”? What does that even mean? I’m getting off topic). I always seem to have this issue; in the summer all I crave are stews, chili, Bolognese, and so on, but come winter I can’t for the life of me remember a single one of them because all I’m thinking about are summer fruits and ice cream. It’s a sickness, really. Thankfully, blood oranges have come to my rescue.
They’re available somewhere around December through March or April, depending on the specific variety. They have a deeper flavor than Naval or Valencia oranges, not quite as sweet and acidic, and have a subtle nuance with notes of citrus and berries that makes them so much more interesting than their more popular counterparts. From the outside, the skin can look virtually the same as any run of the mill orange or flecked with darker hues of red, but once you cut one open you’ll see where they get their name. The flesh is a dark crimson—almost sinister looking.
And then there’s the trifle. It’s an English dessert that kind of combines the classic custard fool (or foole) with sponge cake. Actually, I think it was a way of using up old cake, since you soak it in juice or liqueur. What I love about a trifle, aside from its adaptability and taste, is its striking appearance—the definitive show stopper. Layers of boozy cake, gorgeous fruit, and luscious custard all adorned with a big mound of softly whipped cream, and presented in a big, clear trifle dish; it leaves everybody reeling. It does take some time, making the custard and letting it cool before assembling, but it’s not something I would consider hard work. Make the custard the day before you plan to serve the trifle, and assemble everything the morning of, giving it roughly 8 hours to come together in the fridge and you’re all set.
The custard itself is made with a mix of coconut milk and heavy cream, which gives the trifle its tropical flourish. It’s not an overwhelming tropical essence by any means, because this isn’t meant to be a tropical dessert, but it’s enough to make you almost feel like the summer sun is beaming down on your shoulders.
You will notice that there are no chunks of fruit here, layered in between the cake and custard, as you would normally see in a trifle. I was conflicted with this. I’ve tried putting coconut flakes between the layers (too much), blood orange segments would be too wet, and any other fruit I could think of would either be too tropical or not suitable for me (strawberries—what’s the point?). Well, I’m perfectly happy to leave it out all together—you won’t miss it.
No need to make your own cake, either. Once you soak it in juice and booze you wont be able to tell the difference anyway so save yourself the trouble. I love to use store, or bakery-bought pound cakes for trifles, and while granted they are never quite good enough to eat on their own, or at least not nearly as good as a homemade one, here they are perfect.
The blood oranges give this a deep, rich red color that bleeds into the coconut custard where it meets the pound cake, giving it the slightest red-orange-pink-cream tie-dye. Not only is the color combination to die for, the taste will win everyone over. It’s cold outside, but when this gets brought out for dessert snow and cold will be the furthest thing from anyone’s mind.
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