4th of july

Mixed Berry Shortcake Trifle

published Jul 2, 2022
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Cobbler trifle surrounded by servingware.
Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

A trifle is an impressive dessert. It’s made up of layers and layers of decadence and is often bursting with fruit. Made for a crowd, this simple dessert acts as a centerpiece all on its own. This one marries two classics into one refreshing and festive summer dessert. The classic components of a berry shortcake: juicy berries, tender biscuits, and fluffy whipped cream all layered in a dish, trifle-style.  

At first inspiration came rushing in from all sorts of creamy and fruity British desserts, thanks to my time living in London. I couldn’t stop thinking of one traditional British dessert, the Eton mess. It’s made with whipped cream, strawberries, and crisp meringues. But then I couldn’t get a fruit fool out of my head, with its puréed fruit swirled into fluffy whipped cream. And then what I realized I really wanted were the biscuits that sandwich a classic American shortcake. So instead of choosing just one of those things, I took inspiration from all of the above and created this shortcake trifle.

Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

Traditionally a trifle, which hails from England, is made with booze-soaked sponge cake or ladyfingers, and then doused with jam, custard, whipped cream, and fruit. I skipped the spirits here and instead of cake or cookies, cinnamon-scented biscuits (in the American sense) give body and heft to this summery treat.

Mixed frozen berries simmer with sugar and just a touch of flour to thicken things up. Although there are also fresh berries tucked within the layers of this trifle, using mixed frozen berries allows for an exciting blend of tender and toothsome fruit that tends to be more economical as well. And then comes the whipped cream with its special touch: rich mascarpone. A decent helping of mascarpone elevates standard whipped cream with its mildly sweet and buttery flavor, giving whipped cream a luscious, silky touch.

As the layers pile high, the syrupy berries mingle with the velvety cream, creating a hypnotizing tie-dye effect that very much reminds me of my initial inspiration. The end result is a refreshing, stunning, and satisfying treat ready to be scooped and served all summer long. And because some components can be prepared ahead, it makes entertaining a breeze.