Everything about it is sweet; everything about it is creamy and delicious; everything about it is perfect, so why did they name it . . . “Trifle”?
Those Brits . . . ! (shaking my head) I won’t get into other dessert names that originated across the proverbial pond, although I will mention them. Here’s just a sampling: Banofee pie, Bedfordshire clanger, Bird’s custard, Eton mess, Flummery, Flies’ Graveyard, Spoom, Syllabub, Suet Pudding, Clootie . . . okay. Enough of that. Perhaps the Brits just have a sense of humor when it comes to naming desserts.
Check out, after all, the first definition of the word “trifle”:
1. a thing of little value or importance.as in: “we needn’t trouble our dear mother over such trifles”synonyms: unimportant thing, trivial thing, triviality, thing of no importance, bagatelle, inessential, nothing, small potatoes.
The second definition gets it right, but by the time we get to that, we’re already thinking about inessentials, bagatelles, and small potatoes:
- 2. a cold dessert of sponge cake and fruit covered with layers of custard, jelly, and cream.
In any case, I’m recommending a re-naming of this fabulous British dessert.
I’m going out on a limb here and suggesting we change the name from “Trifle” to . . .
Creamy Delight-filled Birthday Essential!
The first definition of the word Essential, Gentle Readers, to wit:
1. absolutely necessary; extremely important.as in:”it is essential to make something toothsome for a birthday celebration”synonyms: crucial, necessary, key, vital, indispensable, imperative, obligatory
For years–decades, Gentle Reader!–my children have requested Birthday Trifle for their birthday cake: not every birthday (Timothy usually asks for Tres Leche cake), but it is an overwhelming favorite. I have made it dozens–scores!–of times, each time tailor-made to the birthday child’s preferences. You can vary the type of cake, the varieties of fruit, even the types of pudding and jam, so that every time you make it, it’s a new and delightful surprise.
It’s the perfect thing to serve to a special birthday person. Like this one, here. Look at that sweet smile.
Guess what. My little Mack turns 10 this Thursday. You know that God blesses me every day with joy–no matter what else is going on in my life–through this ornery kid. There are hard things that happen in my life, as I’m sure there are in yours. I don’t write about those here, but there’s always, always cause for joy. God provides balance, doesn’t he, even during tough times?
And little Mack is a constant source of joy. I know that you mamas and dads know what I’m talkin’ about.
I’m so grateful for him. When I discovered that I was expecting at the ripe old age of 40-something (okay, here’s your hint–I was closer to 50 than 40 when I gave birth to Mack) I was scared. I knew that babies were gifts from God. I personally loved babies, especially my own. I still do.
But. I was in denial for a couple of months, although all the signs (I had terrible morning/all-day sickness, with all six babies) pointed toward the fact that I was expecting. I took a pregnancy test. It was positive, but I knew that it was wrong. Those tests are only, what, 99.4% accurate? That means that somebody, someplace, gets an inaccurate result, at one time or another.
That somebody, clearly, that time, was me. I believed this (with 99.4% of my heart) to be true.
I finally drove myself to the midwife, without saying a word to anybody about it. I was scared, scared. I knew I must have cancer, or something gravely wrong with me, that I could feel so pregnant, and actually trigger a positive result on the pregnancy test, and yet not be pregnant because–who gets pregnant at 40–nevermind? Nobody I knew of.
It just simply could not be.
The midwife didn’t even give me a pregnancy test (she trusted my $1.99 test from the drug store, go figure), but whipped open a worn book on her desk and showed me a sobering chart of the incidents of birth defects for women over 40 having babies. According the the chart, they went very sharply up after the age of 40. I burst into tears, because I realized that I really was pregnant, if she was showing me this.
And because I was more scared than ever. It’s not that I didn’t want another baby. Heck. I’d take another one today, if it was possible. I was just scared. My midwife countered her statistical slap in the face with a hug and reassurances that women who gave birth in their 40s–no matter the outcome, whether the baby was normal or not–had all kinds of physical advantages: less cancer, healthier aging, more mature mothering, etc., but I didn’t really soak all that in.
What soaked in were the two words that I saw on the page of statistics: “chromosomal abnormalities.”
I drove home, but stopped in the graveyard that is just around the corner from our house and sat there and prayed and bawled for a long time. I didn’t want the kids to see me crying. I knew it would be upsetting to them, and I knew that I had to get it all out before I went home.
Well, as you know by now–little Mack was born absolutely perfect in every way, and in fact (except for a chronically smart mouth) is as healthy and delightful as he can be. I felt better during my pregnancy, in fact, than I did during any of the others. Everything went smoother and better than I expected. And I had a newborn baby boy at 40–something--that everybody figured was my grandbaby. That hurt at the time, since I wasn’t even a grandma yet, but I was so dizzily happy that my new baby was perfect and beautiful and without any “chromosomal abnormalities” that I didn’t care that folks thought he was Bethie’s baby (she was a mature 16 at the time). Well, not too much.
But that’s another story.
In any case, little Mack is going to be ten years old this Thursday, and I can say, without exception and without any qualifiers, that he is an unmitigated blessing to his dad and me. Even with his oft-bristly, sarcastic personality, he absolutely fills my life with joy.
You know what unmitigated means, right?
- absolute; unqualified
–as in”the child was an unmitigated blessing”
synonyms: absolutely, unqualified, complete, total, utter, undiluted, perfect, pure, consummate
A word, to my younger married gentle readers: don’t miss out. Don’t let anybody talk you out of having children, if you are thinking that you might like to have a family someday. Don’t let anybody use practical or political or environmental (or financial!) arguments to talk you out of having children. Our culture is decidedly anti-child right now, especially anti-more-than-one-or-two-children. It’s sad. But take it from me, a simple word of advice from a mama of 6: you don’t want to miss out on it, if it’s possible for you to become a parent.
You won’t regret it. There’s absolutely nothing like it.
It’s an unmitigated adventure, like no other.
I could write much more on this matter, but this post started out about birthday trifle–er, Creamy Delight-filled Birthday Essential.
So let’s get on with it!
Creamy Delight-filled Birthday Essential is made of five simple ingredients:
- sponge cake: you can use a cake mix, but since I’m not a fan of them (my kids call them “air cakes”), I usually make a scratch cake from the easy-peasy recipe below. (I won’t judge if you use a box cake, by the way.) (I’m that nice.)
- jam: I use a jam that sounds good with the fruit choice. And, hopefully, that I already have. 🙂
- fresh fruit: according to what the birthday boy/girl wants. Possible combinations: mango, kiwifruit, and banana (and coconut is a nice addition to that one!). Blueberry, peaches, and strawberries (and sometimes I throw in walnuts, pecans, or chopped almonds, but always toast them first! (Trust me.) Also pineapple, orange, and melon is very good, too!
- pudding or custard: Okay, I have made homemade pudding, but I am happy (-ish, meh) with the boxed pudding, so I cut this corner and make the easy two-minute stuff in the box. (Please don’t judge.)
- whipped cream: buy a quart of heavy whipping cream, whip it up vigorously with your electric mixer, tossing in (la-de-da) about 2 Tb of powdered sugar (taste it–add more if you think it needs it) and 2 tsp vanilla. Yum. Taste often, and again, and anon, and don’t you love fresh whipped cream? I could eat the entire bowlful by this point. But I don’t.
Yum, huh? Now here’s how to assemble your Essential. Are you familiar with the term mise en place? It’s a fancy-schmancy French chef’s term for getting everything together ahead of time. It’s particularly important with this recipe.
First, make your cake. The following recipe is the easiest sponge cake you can make, with only three ingredients!
I call it Spring Sponge Cake, because we always are overrun with eggs in the spring, from our chickens, and this recipe helps use them up. 🙂 And isn’t it fun to whip up a quick cake to go with the strawberries in the strawberry patch?
- 6 eggs, separated
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup cake flour (or all-purpose will work in a pinch)
- Grease and flour a 9.5 x 11″ cake pan.
- Separate eggs, putting whites in large mixer bowl and yolks in small mixer bowl.
- Add 1/2 c sugar to whites and beat until very stiff.
- Add remaining 1/2 c sugar to yolks and beat until very thick and light yellow in color.
- Fold egg yolk mixture into egg whites.
- Fold flour in, adding one-third of it each time, until well mixed. Don’t overmix!
- Pour into prepared pan.
- Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out dry.
- Cool for a few minutes, then cut up into bite-sized squares for your Essential.
While your cake is baking:
- Whip together your pudding and set aside.
- Whip up your cream and set it aside, too.
- Wash and prepare your fruit . . . don’t eat it all . . . and set aside.
- Chop and toast the nuts if you’re going to add them and (as you guessed) set aside.
We’re almost there!
Once the cake is cooled, the fun begins. Into a large bowl (we usually use a fancy crystal punch bowl, as shown in the first photo) toss in a layer of cake cubes. Grab your jam jar and apply a light schmear of jam to about half of the cubes. Then, add about a fourth of the pudding, topped with about a quarter of the fruit, topped with a nice layer of whipped cream.
In a deep bowl, you should be able to repeat these layers 3 or 4 times. The top layer should be whipped cream, topped by a pretty arrangement of fruit.
And that’s it! And that is probably what I will be making on Thursday, for little Mack’s birthday celebration.
It’s spectacular. It’s not difficult. It’s fresh and delicious.
Thanks for reading, Gentle Reader, and I do hope you have a delightful, delicious day!
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