Mixed Berry Shortcake Trifle

published Jul 2, 2022
summer
Mixed Berry Shortcake Trifle Recipe

An impressive bowl of buttery shortcakes, berries in berry syrup, and whipped mascarpone cream.

Serves10 to 15

Prep45 minutes

Cook40 minutes

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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. 

Mixed Berry Shortcake Trifle Recipe

An impressive bowl of buttery shortcakes, berries in berry syrup, and whipped mascarpone cream.

Prep time 45 minutes

Cook time 40 minutes

Serves 10 to 15

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 3 cups

    plus 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for surface

  • 1 cup

    plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

  • 1 tablespoon

    plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    ground cinnamon

  • 12 tablespoons

    (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter

  • 4 1/2 cups

    cold heavy cream, divided

  • 2 pounds

    frozen mixed berries (about 7 1/2 cups)

  • 2 (about 8-ounce) packages

    cold mascarpone cheese (2 cups)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

  • 1 pound

    fresh strawberries

  • 10 ounces

    fresh blueberries (1 pint)

Instructions

  1. Place 3 cups of the all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, and 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon in a large bowl and whisk to combine.

  2. Grate 1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter on the large holes of a box grater directly into the flour. Toss the butter into flour with a flexible spatula, breaking up any large clumps of butter. While stirring constantly, gradually pour in 2 1/4 cups of the cold heavy cream. Continue stirring and gently pressing to combine, until the mixture is mostly combined and barely any dry spots remain. Fold together, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl, until a shaggy, sticky dough forms.

  3. Transfer the dough onto a floured work surface. Fold the dough over itself a few times until it comes together. Pat into a rough 12x10-inch rectangle about 1/3-inch. Use a 2-inch diameter cookie or biscuit cutter to punch out rounds. Gather any scraps and repeat as needed until you have 30 rounds. (Alternatively, cut the dough into 30 (2-inch) squares.)

  4. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Transfer the biscuits to one of the baking sheets. Refrigerate for at least 15 or up to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat the oven to 375°F.

  5. Transfer half of the biscuits to the second baking sheet and space all the biscuits apart evenly. Bake 15 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets from top to bottom and from front to back. Continue baking until puffed and golden-brown, 10 to 17 minutes more. Let cool completely on the baking sheets.

  6. Meanwhile, place 2 pounds frozen mixed berries, 3/4 cup of the granulated sugar, and the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour in a large saucepan and stir to combine. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the mixture is syrupy, thickened, and the berries break down but still maintain their shape, 6 to 8 minutes. Uncover and let cool completely, about 45 minutes.

  7. Place 16 ounces cold mascarpone cheese, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, remaining 2 1/4 cups cold heavy cream, and remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Beat with the whisk attachment on medium speed until medium peaks form, 2 to 4 minutes. Refrigerate until ready to assemble.

  8. Trim 1 pound fresh strawberries and halve or quarter if large (about 3 cups). Place in a medium bowl, add 10 ounces fresh blueberries (1 pint), and gently toss to combine.

  9. Assemble the trifle: Reserve 1/3 cup of the syrupy berries for drizzling. Reserve 3 biscuits for the top. Quarter the remaining biscuits.

  10. Place 1/3 of the quartered biscuits (27 pieces) in the bottom of a 3.6-quart or larger trifle bowl or large glass bowl, pressing them down into a tight layer and some against the sides. Spoon about 1 1/3 cups of the syrupy berries evenly over the biscuits. Top with 2 generous cups of the mascarpone cream and spread into an even layer (it’s okay if a swirling effect happens with the syrupy berries and the mascarpone cream). Sprinkle with 1 1/2 cups of the fresh berries.

  11. Repeat layering the biscuits, syrupy berries, mascarpone cream, and fresh berries two more times. Quarter 1 1/2 of the remaining biscuits and crumble the rest. Stand the quartered pieces straight up in the top and sprinkle with the crumbs. Drizzle with the reserved syrupy berries. Scoop to serve.

Recipe Notes

Berries: Blackberries or/and raspberries can be substituted for the fresh berries.

Make ahead: The biscuits can be baked up to 1 day ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

The syrupy berries can be made up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container. Let come to room temperature before assembling.

The mascarpone whipped cream can be made 2 hours ahead and refrigerated. Stir gently before using.