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Friday Night Lights: Quick Lemon Blackberry Trifles

Because I am slightly dumb, and nothing if not ambitious, I recently elected to invite people over for dinner the night before I left for a conference. That would be the slightly dumb part. Of course, I could not merely suggest that we go out; that would be the ambitious bit. After years of painfully-earned experience, however, I have learned that reality tends to intervene–the nerve! So, I had to come up with a tasty menu that I could shop for, prep, and get on the table between leaving the office and the arrival of my delightful guests. (Did I mention that I had elected to go out for drinks and then watch two hours of Futurama on Thursday night? Dumb, dumb, dumb.)

It was also hot hot hot (as Nanny would say), so I turned to my trusty Salade Niçoise to provide a bright and savory–yet cooling–entree. I also picked up some nice cheese and nuts to create a snacking buffer so no one would starve whilst I banged out the salad’s components. It’s merely a matter of keeping a pot of water on the boil for the eggs, potatoes and beans, and then cutting everything else up, though, so dinner was in the bag. Dessert, however, still necessitated some attention… and ambition.

I couldn’t–just couldn’t–buy something and serve it straight out. I thought about gelato from Pitango, which is super delicious, but then my brain melted at the thought and I had to come up with something else. Enter the sainted, buxom, permissive Nigella, and her plate trifle, which is the even more laid back inspiration for my individual trifle cups. I managed to allow myself the purchase of pound cake, lemon curd, cream, and berries, and I was off to the races.

This is really quite a delicious combo, even using bought cake and collapsing the traditionally separate custard and whipped cream into a single, lemony cream. It came together quickly and paid off in spades. Lemon and blackberry is a surprisingly tasty combination, particularly with port’s musky bite and the cream’s billowy richness. I’m kind of ready for another last minute dinner party just so I can make it again…

Nearly Instant Gratification Lemon-Blackberry Trifle
Yield: 6 servings

2 1/2 pts blackberries, raspberries, or other soft berries
1 tsp sugar
pinch salt
1 tsp cassis
~ 1 c ruby port (or cream sherry), divided
1 1lb all-butter pound cake
1 pt heavy whipping cream
8 tbs lemon curd

Chill mixing bowl and whisk attachment of a stand mixer (or a metal bowl and beaters of a hand mixer).

Combine 1/2 the berries, the sugar, and the salt in a small sauce pan. Cook over low heat, mooshing energetically with a fork, till mixure is saucy and sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, add the cassis, and about a tbs of the port. Set aside to cool.

Cut the pound cake into 1/2″ slices and lay out on a rimmed dish or pan large enough to hold them all in a single layer. Dribble about 1/3 of the remaining port or sherry over the cake, then flip the slices over and sprinkle with another 1/3 of the booze. Divide the cooked berry mixture between the slices of cake (up-sides only), being sure to use every last drop of juicy goodness. (If lemon is your thing, a tiny bit of lemon curd on top of the berry’d cake can be nice…)

In your chilled mixing bowl, whip cream till medium peaks form. Gently fold in lemon curd till evenly combined. Set aside.

Cube the jammy cake. Layer cake, lemon cream, and reserved berries into individual dessert dishes: cake, cream, berries, cake, cream, berries. Dribble the reserved port over as you layer. Serve immediately.

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