Fig and Marsala Trifle with Toasted Meringue

by thomandaimee

I must be watching too much Great British Bake Off or simply being too much of an anglophile. Every time a celebration or an occasion is mentioned in British context, there seems to be a glorious towering glass of trifle being brought out onto the dining table with all eyes fixed on the distinct multiple layers of cake, fruit, cream, custard and jelly (or not). Just reading about it just makes me salivate, I don’t even have a look at an image.

The French or the Italians may scoff at it, but digging my spoon into layers and layers of trifle-goodness is a personal dream of mine. Who in the sanest mind would refused a deep dish of overindulgence of possibly many desserts put into one? I wouldn’t. Sure, it could be a massive fool (the other dessert) in disguise but one would be an actual fool to not like it.

The challenge of trifle was the layers. Sadly, we did not have a trifle bowl so we had to make do with wineglasses. So, goodbye layers, we’ll be doing trifle free-style. The recipe called for rather unconventional ingredients so it didn’t matter how sticky we had to be with tradition. For example, we used a madeira sponge cake instead of the typical finger boudoir biscuits. We did however made sure the custard was as original as it was, without any added support from flour or corn starch.

After the cake was laid at the bottom, figs and pomegranate seeds were placed as neatly as they could. Custard was then poured into the glass, and thus filling up all the gaps the fruits and cake made. Topped with lightly toasted meringue, the dessert was like a gooey mixture of creamy goodness. The joy about trifle is not about looking good when eating it (it never be – just too sloppy), it’s about indulging the kid in you. Although we didn’t grow up eating trifle, at least we know how it feels like now.

Fig and Marsala Trifle
 with Toasted Meringue
By Angela Boggiano and Debbie Miller

Serves 2

For the Madeira Cake

88g butter, at room temperature
88g caster sugar
1.5 eggs
125g self-raising flour
1.5 tbsp milk
1/2 lemon, zest only

Directions for the Madeira Cake

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease an 20cm x 9cm x 7cm loaf tin, line the base with greaseproof paper and grease the paper.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating the mixture well between each one and adding a tablespoon of the flour with the last egg to prevent the mixture from curdling.

Sift the flour and gently fold in, with enough milk to give a mixture that falls slowly from the spoon. Fold in the lemon zest.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and lightly level the top. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until golden-brown on top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and set aside to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn it out on to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

For the Creme Anglaise / Custard
Makes 300ml

250ml full-fat milk
½ vanilla pod
3 egg yolks
40g caster sugar

Directions for the custard

Put the milk into a heavy-based saucepan. Using a sharp knife, split the vanilla pod along its length, scrape the seeds into the milk, then put one half of the pod in too. Place over a medium heat and bring to just under the boil.

Put the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and whisk until pale and creamy. Pour the milk slowly in a trail, into the egg mixture, whisking wekk as you do so. Return the mixture to the pan and place over low heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir continuously in a figure of eight until the custard thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Strain immediately into a clean bowl and continue stirring for a few minutes. Serve hot, or leave to cool, then store in the fridge, covered with cling film, until you’re ready to use it.

For the Trifle
50g good white chocolate
75g Madeira sponge
1 tbsp of Marsala
2 fresh figs
Seeds from 1/2 pomegranate
250g custard
62.5g granulated sugar
1 tablespoons water
1 egg white


Melt chocolate, broken up, in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Remove from the heat and stir until just smooth. Cool slightly.

Meanwhile, cut Madeira sponge into small cubes and put into 2 serving glasses. Drizzle each with 1 tablespoon of Marsala.

Cut 2 fresh figs into eighths and sit on top of the sponge. Divide the seeds from 1/2 pomegranate between each glass.

Gradually stir egg custard into the chocolate, until thickened. Spoon egg mixture into glasses. Cover and chill until needed.

Put sugar and water in a heavy saucepan. Bring slowly to the boil and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk 1 egg white to stiff peaks. Using an electric mixer, pour the hot syrup onto the egg whites in a steady stream while whisking, until it is stiff and shiny. Cover with cling film.

Just before serving, spoon the meringue onto the custard. Toast the tips of the meringue under a very hot grill for 30 seconds (or use a blow torch).