Courage, my friends; ’tis not too late to build a better world. ~Tommy Douglas
There’s a scene in the play All My Sons by Arthur Miller where an angry son says to his mother, “You can be better! Once and for all you can know there’s a universe of people outside and you’re responsible to it…”
The play has nothing to do with Canada and our incessant naval gazing, but as July 1st approaches, I can’t help but see the relevance of those words to this huge and beautiful fumbling nation.
But it’s a party, so I won’t rant.
In a good year, the strawberries are out in time for Canada Day, so this dessert is a tribute to the bounty of the realm.
The trifle is a layering of orange pound cake, strawberries steeped with brown sugar and balsamic vinegar, and a light white chocolate cheesecake-like topping.
The pound cake is dense enough to hold up without dissolving under the other layers. The hint of orange in the cake goes well with the berries, but you can substitute any pound cake or dense cake.
The berries are quartered rather than sliced because I think it gives a better burst of strawberry. The touch of balsamic vinegar heightens the strawberry flavor, but doesn’t assert itself. (It’s a great little trick, and works wonders for berries that are not at their peak!)
The cheesecake topping is lightened by whipping in a generous amount of cream.
What I like most about this dessert (apart from the fabulous taste) is its flexibility.
You can vary the berries with any combination of fruit, and adapt the cake and topping to complement them. Peaches with almond and orange. Blueberries with lemon or lime. Plums with ginger…
You can also format the dessert to suit a wide range of circumstances: make it single layer in two 9×13-inch baking dishes, or serve it shortcake-style on individual plates with a slice of cake topped with berries and the cream.
Or ditch the cake and just layer the berries and cream. Or don’t layer at all. Just top a bowl of berries with the cream. Or use the cream as a dip. So many options…
(Note: You’ll need to prepare the berries ahead of time to give them time to soften up, and the prepared trifle will need to sit in fridge for at least two hours before serving to give the cake time to absorb the juice from the berries.)
Happy Birthday, Canada.
(Please don’t break my heart.)
- 4 cups / 1 liter pound cake, cut in 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes
- 7 cups / 1.75 liters of hulled and quartered strawberries
- 2 tablespoons / 30 ml brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon / 15 ml balsamic vinegar
- 1 (8 oz / 250 g) package cream cheese, at room temperature
- ⅓ cup / 80 ml icing or confectioners sugar
- ¼ cup / 60 ml orange juice concentrate
- 1 cup / 250 ml white chocolate chips
- 1-1/2 cups / 375 ml whipping cream (35% butterfat)
- Rinse strawberries, remove hulls and cut berries into quarters.
- Sprinkle with the brown sugar and balsamic vinegar.
- Stir gently to mix sugar and vinegar with berries, and let sit in the fridge until the berries begin to release some of their juice (from 6 hours to overnight).
- Beat cream cheese until softened and add icing sugar. Beat for 1-2 minutes longer.
- Add orange juice concentrate and mix thoroughly.
- Melt white chocolate in microwave. Heat for 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each interval until chocolate is smooth. If you don't have a microwave, melt chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water until the chocolate has melted and can be stirred smooth.
- Add melted chocolate to cream cheese mixture.
- Using the whip attachment on your mixer (or a hand held mixer), slowly add the whipping cream while the mixer is running. Continue to beat, scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed, until the mixture is stiff.
- If you are using a trifle bowl, layer the bottom with ½ of the pound cake. Cover with ½ of the prepared strawberries.
- Spoon half of the cream cheese mixture over the berries and spread gently to cover. Repeat layers.
- Let prepared dessert rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving. This will give the cake time to absorb juice from the strawberries.