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The countdown to Christmas is on. Are you ready? I for one am not. And by not, I mean, I’ve made and indulged in a few festive desserts, like this one, but other than that, I’ve accomplished nothing. My gift lists have yet to be made to get me organized and on track. I took out my little Christmas tree and decorations, and then I decided I was
too lazy tired, so they sit quietly in a neat little pile in their boxes, smack in the middle of my living room. I swore at the end of November that this year would be different and that this holiday, I would get ready in advance. Hah!
In the spirit of trying to make the holidays a little simpler for all of us and attempting to not leave EVERYTHING to the last minute, I came up with this trifle recipe. Why? First of all, because I love trifle. Second of all, because I love all things eggnog and I’ve clearly been on a cranberry kick lately. Third of all, you can make the components of this dessert ahead of time, so even though it seems complicated, it’s not, and you can do it all a few days before serving. Here’s the breakdown of the schedule:
- up to one month ahead: make the whole-egg sponge cake (a.k.a. Zilla’s cake) and stick it in the freezer. Just defrost it in the fridge a day before you plan on assembling the trifles
- two days before serving: make the eggnog custard and the poached cranberries
- one day before serving: assemble the trifles
- just before serving: whip the cream and garnish (technically you could even whip the cream the day before and finish the trifles completely, but I personally prefer freshly whipped cream)
I hope you will make this trifle, or at the very least, make the eggnog custard and serve it on crêpes for a fancy, festive brunch over the holidays. But I seriously think you should make this trifle. It tastes like Christmas! Looking for an even easier eggnog treat? Try this eggnog milkshake, which is ready in minutes. Literally!
Holiday eggnog & cranberry christmas trifle recipe
Holiday eggnog & cranberry trifle
For the sponge cake
For the poached cranberries
- 200 g granulated sugar 1 cup
- 250 mL water 1 cup
- 360 g frozen cranberries 3 cups
For the eggnog custard
- 500 mL milk (2 % fat)
- 100 g granulated sugar
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 3 tbsp all purpose flour
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 4 large egg yolks
- ¼ tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp spiced or dark rum
- 9 tsp spiced or dark rum
For the final touches
- 250 mL whipping cream (35 % fat) 1 cup
- 25 g icing sugar
- White chocolate shavings I got the white chocolate curls at my local bakery
- Freshly grated nutmeg
Make the sponge cake up to a month ahead of time
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour a 9×9 metal baking pan (Chicago Metallic on Amazon)
- Warm the milk with the butter to melt them together in the microwave or a small saucepan. Add the vanilla and set this aside to cool.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (I have also done this successfully with the paddle attachment!), beat the eggs and sugar until they are light and fluffy and creamy coloured (this takes a good 5 minutes of beating), then add in the salt.
- Sift the flour and baking powder into a separate bowl.
- Add the flour mixture, alternating with the warm milk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour.
- Transfer the cake batter to the prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes until the sides are golden brown and pull away from the pan, and a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Unmold after 5 minutes onto a wire rack to cool completely. Make ahead, wrap tightly with plastic wrap + foil, and freeze for a month.
- Defrost in the fridge 2 days before serving.
Poach the cranberries 2 days before serving
- In a large saucepan, combine the cranberries, water, and sugar. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and when the sugar is completely dissolved and the cranberries are soft (but haven’t completely burst), take the pan off the heat and let cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container in the fridge overnight.
Make the eggnog custard 2 days before serving
- Have a strainer ready and a plastic wrap-lined baking sheet nearby.
- Whisk together the milk, nutmeg, and half the sugar over medium-high heat.
- Meanwhile in a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs with the rest of the sugar, then add the flour and cornstarch and whisk to combine and get rid of the lumps.
- When the milk is steamy and hot, pour it over the egg mixture, and whisk to temper the eggs. Pour everything into the saucepan.
- Heat the custard, whisking constantly, until it boils then boil for 1 minute.
- Remove the mixture from heat, strain and transfer to a plastic wrap-lined baking sheet and smooth into a thin layer. Top with another layer of plastic wrap, directly in contact with the pastry cream. Wrap tightly. Cool completely in the fridge.
- Transfer the chilled custard to a bowl and whisk vigorously to loosen it up, then whisk in the vanilla and the rum just before assembling the trifles.
Assemble the trifles the day before serving
- Cut out 9x2-1/4–2-1/2 inch rounds of cake. Place one in the bottom of each jam jar. Sprinkle each with a teaspoon of rum.
- Layer in dollops of eggnog custard and poached cranberries, dividing them among the jars as you like (if you decide not to use all the cranberries, serve them with your morning pancakes).
- Close the jars and set them aside in the fridge until you are ready to serve the trifles.
- Just before serving, whip the cream to soft peaks, and add in the icing sugar before you finish whipping. Divide the whipped cream between the 9 jars. Top with a sprinkling of shaved white chocolate and freshly grated nutmeg.
- For this recipe, I used large Canadian eggs
Egg Farmers of Canada offered me financial compensation to develop a recipe with Canadian Grade A eggs. Thanks for supporting the sponsors that allow me to create new recipes for Kitchen Heals Soul. As always, please know that I wouldn’t work with a sponsor or product if it wasn’t worth it. And since I cannot live without eggs (or eggnog custard), this just makes sense!
Janice Lawandi is chemist-turned-baker, working as a recipe developer in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. She studied pastry at Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa and cooking at l’Académie Culinaire. She has a BSc in Biochemistry from Concordia University and a PhD in Chemistry from McGill University. Visit janicelawandi.com to see my portfolio.