I'm behind on my cake posting, though not on the baking. I did bake the St. Honore Trifle last weekend, started a blog post (well, wrote down some notes), then left town on a business trip. Somehow I then never got back to that write-up. I'm going to post the trifle tonight and this week's cake tomorrow. At least that's the plan...
Last weekend's baking was rather an uninspired effort on my part as it fell during the weekend I took a local tour of sweetshops and bakeries called Sugar Coma. (Also yet to be blogged.) After 5 hours or so of tasting one sweet treat after another Saturday morning, cake-of-the-week was not calling to me. But in the spirit of completeness (and because I like trifle), I started the St. Honore Trifle Saturday evening. Someday I'd like to try spun sugar, but it wasn't happening last weekend. (Given the usual humidity levels in Georgia, I'm not sure it's happening any time unless I can actually make it and serve it within hours. That sort of timing is usually not in my schedule.)
The recipe as written makes a very large trifle, so I decided on a half recipe. I turned to my 6" pans for the sponge cake, and it rose high. The pastry cream preparation went smoothly, though I used the Madagascar vanilla bean I had in hand and didn't go in search of a Tahitian one, too. A quick syrup with Grand Marnier added, some orange marmalade thinned with more Grand Marnier, and all the pieces were assembled.
I do actually own a trifle bowl, but it is huge--bigger than the full recipe needs. My half recipe substitute was a glass mixing bowl that was almost big enough. The taper on the mixing bowl required some extra cutting and fitting of cake peices to get the layers and I was a little short on the top layer. I split the cake layers horizontally to get 4 rounds, then brushed one side i with the marmalade. One of these (trimmed to fit) was put, marmalade side down. The upper side was brushed with syrup, then on went a layer of pastry cream, then strawberries. Younger niece and I took a look and felt that there weren't nearly enough strawberries, so she sliced up more and we added to the recipe amount, ending up with double strawberries. The layers then repeated for a total of 4, and in a nice, straight-sided trifle bowl that would just use up the 4 split cake layers.
We used all the strawberries in the house for layers of the trifle and forgot to reserve one or two for garnish. I had to compress the trifle a little to get the last layer in, but I think that was probably a help to getting the layers to meld. In addition to being a little short on the top layer of cake, I was a little short on the whipped cream for the topping, so this is definitely not in the running for prettiest cake I've made.
Not bad, not great. Probably not worth the effort of the multitude of steps, when I prefer the results I've gotten with simpler trifles. My nephew called it "bitter", but my conclusion is that he didn't like the alcohol flavor. He didn't finish his serving. Younger niece and I both liked it a lot, but still had some things we'd change. Niece suggested everything needed to be smaller: smaller pieces of strawberry, thinner layers of cake and pastry cream. I like trifles where the cake becomes a little soaked with the pastry cream, which didn't happen in this trifle. I also probably went a little too lightly with brushing syrup on the cake layers, keeping them a little drier than designed. On the other hand, I wouldn't have wanted much more liqueur flavor in the trifle. Cutting thinner cake layers might have let the pastry cream soak in more and muted the liqueur, too.
The real standout component was the Chiboust pastry cream--that I will probably come back to!