Wednesday, December 24, 2008

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas I Made For My Family: One English Trifle, One New York Style Cheesecake...

By Christmas Eve each year I like to have all my running around done so I can focus on baking and getting ready for Christmas. I have been assigned desserts most years, and part of that is making an English Trifle.
My English Grandma made these each year for us as we were growing up, and now the tradition has been passed on to me. I loved my Grandma's trifles, although she did take a lot of shortcuts. I knew that she always used canned fruit cocktail, red Jello, custard from a mix (although it was Bird's from England) and cool whip on the top, but I was shocked to learn from my Aunt that she used Twinkies with the cream hollowed out for her sponge cake. Not being a fan of shortcuts, I decided to take the longer route when I make mine. After living in England I learned how to make my own sponge cake, and I make my own custard, use real whipping cream, raspberries, and, well, I still use the red Jello. It just wouldn't be the same without it.
I love making the trifle each year because it reminds me of my Grandma and Grandpa and the fun Christmases we spent at their house. They lived just down the street from us so we would go down for dinner and festivities Christmas night. We would open presents, hang out with my cousins, and have a great time. My favorite memory of Christmas with my Grandma and Grandpa was when one of us got the Queen album The Game and we put it on their turntable and all danced together to Freddie Mercury's high notes, including my Grandpa. They were a lot of fun, and I miss them dearly. Here's some photos of putting together the trifle:

In my best Yorkshire accent: "'Ere's me homemade sponge" for the trifle. It looks pretty good when it comes out of the oven, but then I have to take the beautiful golden skin off so the sponge is exposed to soak up the Jello. The mixture of the cake and the Jello is really the magic of my Grandma's trifle.

The stirred custard I make for this and my berry fruit tart I make in the summertime. It's not difficult, but it does require 7 - 10 minutes of constant stirring. It's worth it.

The trifle will stay halfway done until tomorrow, when I will add a layer of custard, a layer of (real) whipped cream, and top it with fresh raspberries.

The New York Style Cheesecake was my addition a few years ago. My family loves cheesecake (especially my Dad), and I started a quest to make the perfect one, and finally did it with the help of the recipe in The New Best Recipe Cookbook. It's the only one I've ever made that doesn't crack. Those Cooks Illustrated people are geniuses, I tell you. I top it with fresh raspberry sauce and raspberries, and, If I may say so myself, it's rather fantastic. It's nice to have a little bit of American me thrown into our English Christmas traditions, and I look forward to seeing what the next generation adds.