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Chef Jon Ashton Summer Berry Trifle

There’s a Reason This Dessert Has Been a Classic Since the 16th Century

The people of England’s Tudor period knew how to celebrate. Expansive tables would be lavishly adorned with suckling roasts, meat pies, loaves of leavened bread and freely flowing wine. At the sparkling center of these feasts were decadent sweets of candied plums and berries, multi-tiered cakes and other confections that could have doubled as art pieces. In this era, the newest trend on such tables was the trifle. This multi-layered dessert has gone through many iterations since the 16th century, after it first gained prominence among “common” folk in the 18th century, when early cookbook author Hannah Glasse featured it in her how-to tome The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy in 1747.

Since then, it’s been a staple in English celebrations, usually featuring some concoction of the primary ingredients: sponge cake soaked in liquor, fruit preserves or jam, an egg-based custard, topped with sweet cream.

Fun Fact: The Tudors believed that raw fruits and vegetables could make people ill, so desserts featured cooked, stewed, preserved and candied fruits instead.

This week, we explore yet another variation on the classic, as Chef Jon Ashton prepares his take on the summer berry trifle. This decidedly elegant version skips the alcohol-soaked cake in favor of a simple combination of rich pastry cream, fresh strawberry, blackberry and raspberry preserve filling and vanilla whipped cream. The “cherry on top” is actually your choice of toasted almonds or coconut (or both!), and it is served in a stemmed glass that recalls stylishly sweet moments aboard Crystal ships more than the heavy metal chalices of centuries past.

So, gather your patience and prep your pantry with the detailed recipe below and plan to join us LIVE for Sunday Cooking with Chef Jon Ashton on Sunday, August 23 on the Crystal Cruises Facebook page. We’ll see you in the kitchen.

Summer Berry Trifle 
By Chef Jon Ashton


Pastry Cream:
1 3/4 cups (420 ml) whole milk; divided
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar 
3 tablespoons (28 grams) cornstarch 
Small pinch salt 
3 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons (30 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml) orange zest 

Summer Berry Filling:
10 ounces (300 ml) raspberry jam
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract 
1/2 pound (227 grams) strawberries, hulled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces, 
6 ounces (170 grams) blackberries, large berries halved crosswise
6 ounces (170 grams) raspberries

Vanilla Whipped Cream
1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream 
1 tablespoon (13 grams) confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (20 ml) vanilla extract 
1 Pound cake, diced into small squares (your favorite recipe or store bought)

Optional garnish: Toasted coconut or toasted sliced almonds


For Pastry Cream: 
Heat 1 ¼ cups (300 ml) milk in medium saucepan over medium heat until just simmering. While milk is heating up, whisk sugar, cornstarch, and salt together in medium bowl. Whisk remaining ½ cup (125 ml) milk and egg yolks into sugar mixture until smooth. Remove milk from heat. Whisking constantly, slowly add hot milk to sugar mixture to temper. Return saucepan to medium heat and cook, whisking constantly.  The mixture will start to become very thick after 4 to 7 minutes. Remove pan from heat; whisk in butter, vanilla, and orange zest until butter is melted and incorporated. Strain pastry cream through fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl. Press lightly greased parchment paper directly on surface and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours. Mixture can be made the night before. 

For Berry Filling: 
Place jam in small saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Add vanilla and mix in. Let cool. Place prepared fruits in a bowl and pour cooled jam mixture over and gently fold to mix. 

For Vanilla Whipped Cream: 
Using stand mixer fitted with whisk, combine heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract on medium-low speed until foamy (about 1 minute). Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form (1 to 2 minutes).

Trifle Assembly

When it comes to assembling, you can use a large trifle bowl or individual glasses (as pictured above). Start assembly with a layer of fruit, top with a layer of pastry cream, then a layer of cake. Repeat. Finish with a layer of the vanilla whipped cream. Garnish with toasted coconut or toasted sliced almonds.

Serves 6-8

Crystal’s Crystal@Home: A Virtual Cruise Experience program brings several elements of the renowned Crystal Experience directly to guests, wherever in the world they are. “Sunday Cooking with Chef Jon Ashton” represents the culinary excellence found aboard Crystal ships, as some of the greatest travel memories are created over the greatest meals.

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Posted on November 18, 2020