The wave of nostalgia washes over you, through your fingertips, down to your heart, and shivers traveling up your spine, because it’s such a special treat and you know you won’t get it again for a while. But you enjoy the moments leading up to it- it’s your fifteenth birthday, and it’s family tradition.
The salt air of the Maritimes is blowing your hair into your face and your brother is making fun of you for it, and you can hear the screen door creaking open and closed as your grandfather brings in the crystal bowl covered with Saran wrap from his car- “I hope the whipped cream didn’t melt.” You smile and the faint scent of raspberries and custard wafts up your nose, mixed with the familiar beach fragrance. Everything is right in this instant, and the world is your oyster- you’re practically almost an adult. What better way to celebrate than trifle?
When my grandmother Audrey was six years old, the second world war had just begun. In her little house in Enfield, England, she recounts sitting under the staircase with her big sister waiting for all the noise to go away, and later, hungrily delving into the rations during a raid sitting in the bomb shelter. Birds Custard is a typical English dessert, and her mother Alice would save little packets of the powder for Christmastime. During the war, there were very few delicacies, so when the trifle was made during the holidays, it was something to look forward to. Even though the pound cake would be stale and dense because of the butter rationing, and the compote a mix of whatever was available, if you were having trifle for dessert, it was a good day. Her father, my great-grandfather, would sit her on his knee and tell stories about how the soldiers in the previous war were actually provided with Birds Custard as meals in the trenches. It’s a multi-day process but it’s filled with little surprises, secret ingredients, and even maybe some hidden treasures by the end. To me, this dessert represents making the best of a situation- and finding little pockets of light in an otherwise dark space.
The custard recipe on the container is for “pouring” custard, for example, over apple pie instead of ice cream. Read carefully to see how this recipe differs from what you'll find on the container.
Trifle needs a custard that is thicker and will set solidly on the trifle.
The recipe on the container also calls for too much sugar for trifle as the cake on the first layer provides the sweetness.
The recipe on the container says, “Stove Top: Mix one quarter cup custard powder with three tablespoons sugar in a large saucepan. Gradually add two and one half cups of whole milk, stirring constantly with a WHISK until blended.” and "Bring to a boil on medium heat.”
This is changed to:
You will need:
Instructions (according to my grandmother)
For pound cake: