Tropical Fruit Trifle

  • Serves: One clear glass bowl, with optionally gently sloping sides, about 11-inches in diameter and 5 1/2-inches high.
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Many tropical fruits look less than perfect when they are perfectly ripe. We use this less-than-perfect or what we call ugly produce in our fruit trifle, because this is a perfect way to use fruit that is overrippened or imperfect. I call this recipe as my way of showing you how to save food from your kitchen counter that would otherwise go to waste! 
Trifle is a quintessential English dessert: sponge cake soaked in sherry and perhaps brandy, covered with raspberry jam and then an egg custard, all topped by whipped cream. But, a modern trifle can be made with any fruit of your choice, with custard of any flavor, a soaking syrup or fresh fruit juice, and whipped cream, if desired. A sponge cake, such as an Angel food cake is desirable because it soaks in any liquid in the dessert without falling apart, but any kind of cake can be used. Trifle is usually served in a large cut glass bowl so that the layers of cake, jam, custard and cream can be appreciated. Feel free to be creative in whatever you do. 
For more information, go to our Ugly Produce is Beautiful Educational Campaign.

Cake - can be made in advance:
1 recipe Grandma's Angel Food Cake or a 10-inch store bought Angel Food Cake

Custard - make the night before or allow for 2 hours to chill: 
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
4 large egg yolks
4 cups whole or 2% milk
2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Fruit ingredients - can be prepared the night before and refrigerated, except for the bananas; all are best prepared the day of assembly:
One very ripe pineapple
3-4 ripe mangos, depending on size
4-5 kiwi fruits
2 bananas
freshly squeezed lemon juice 
additional fresh fruit for garnish

Soaking liquid:
1/2 cup orange or pineapple juice, or marsala wine, rum, or brandy 

Whipped Cream - Step IV: Just Before Serving:
3 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 piping bag
1 Wilton #
4B tip


1. Mix together sugar and cornstarch in a large saucepan.

2. Add the egg yolks and whisk to combine; then gradually whisk in milk.

3. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until custard thickens to the consistency of thick cream, about 25 minutes.
Transfer to a large bowl, and add vanilla. Cover surface of custard with plastic wrap to prevent a skim from forming, and refrigerate until completely chilled, about 2 hours.

Can be prepared the night before and refrigerated, except for the bananas; all are best prepared the day of assembly.
For the pineapple:
Pineapple is its sweetest when it has a little give, when gently pressed, and its leaves are a little dry on the edges.

Smell the bottom of the fruit. It should be very fragrant with a strong pineapple scent.
Another plus of buying “ugly” pineapple is that grocers often reduce the price. I got this beauty for .99!
Do not buy the pineapple if it has obvious soft spots or there is any mold on the bottom or the surface of the fruit.

1. Cut off the top and bottom of the pineapple with a large, sharp knife.

2. Carefully slice the tough skin off the pineapple with a sharp knife.

3. Go around the sides of the pineapple and cut off any remaining tough areas.

4. Cut the pineapple into slices, then cut out the core with a round cookie cutter. Don't throw the cores away; eat them as a sweet snack.
Cut the pineapple rounds into chunks.

For the Mangoes:
Choose mangos that give slightly to gentle pressure.
The color of the mango is not an indication of ripeness.
Sniff the stem end. It should smell sweet and fruity.

As you can see by the picture below, perfectly ripe mangos are not always the most beautiful.

1. Peel the mangos with a vegetable peeler.

2. Position the mango so that the narrow side it up.
Slice off each “cheek”, avoiding the long central seed.

3. Slice each cheek into 1/4-inch slices.

4.  Remove the flesh surrounding the seed and chop it into bite-size pieces. Save these pieces to use inside the layers of the trifle.

For the kiwi:
1. Peel the kiwi, then slice it, crosswise.

For the bananas:
Overripe bananas are perfect to use in a trifle.
1. Slice the bananas.

2. Then squeeze half a lemon over the slices, and gently toss to distribute the juice.
This will help keep the bananas from turning brown.

NOTE: Do not use the bananas on the exterior of the trifle, however. Keep them in the interior, because they will brown over time.

1. Cut the Angel food cake into 2 x 1-inch pieces or tear cake into large pieces.

2. Press a layer of kiwi slices all around the bottom of the bowl.
Make sure the slices are directly against the bowl, so the custard doesn’t seep under them, and mar the presentation.

3. Add a half dozen or so cubes of cake into the bottom of the bowl.
Place the orange juice or soaking liquid in a squeeze bottle and lightly moisten the cake.

4. Scatter some banana slices and mango pieces over the moistened cake.

5. Place a pineapple chunk above the kiwi slices, in the space between the slices. Make sure it is pressed against the glass bowl.

6. Cover the fruit and cake with a layer of custard.

7. Arrange 5 mango slices into a fan shape. You will need 4 of these fans.

8. Press the mango fans equidistant around the inside of the bowl. They will stick to the sides of the bowl.

9. Add two kiwi slices in between each of the mango fans on the inside of the bowl.

10. Add a layer of cake cubes, and lightly moisten with the orange juice soaking liquid.
Be sure to mound the cubes toward the center of the trifle, so the custard can fill the spaces between the fruit on the walls of the bowl.

11. Spoon some of the custard around the edges of the bowl, so it fills the spaces in between the fruit.
Spoon a little custard over the cake cubes, then add another layer of fruit.

12. Add another layer of cake cubes, then moisten them with the orange juice soaking liquid.

13. Put the rest of the custard over the cake and smooth the top.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Make the whipped
1Make the Whipped Cream - put heavy cream, sugar and vanilla extract into a large, well-chilled mixing bowl. 

2. Beat cream with a whisk or electric mixer fitted with whisks until cream holds soft peaks. Do not overbeat.

Garnish the trifle:
1. Spoon some of the whipped cream over the top of the trifle, and spread to the edges of the bowl with a large offset spatula.

2. Put the rest of the whipped cream in a large piping bag, fitted with a large piping tip.
 Pipe three rows of shells on top of the trifle.

3. Arrange additional fruit in the center of the trifle.
We used kiwi and mango, and a few large strawberries, for color and visual appeal.

4. Make sure you refrigerate your trifle for two hours before serving so the flavors have a chance to meld. But you can serve this immediately, if desired.

To serve, simply scoop out servings with a large spoon. You can also make individual servings by placing the layers in large wine goblets or in individual parfait glasses. 

Store in the refrigerator for a few days. The fruit will start to leach liquid during storage.

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