This is not a traditional English trifle. There is no dense pound cake, crème anglaise, and whipped cream inside. My trifle is assembled from light chocolate génoise soaked in Grand Marnier syrup, freshly made cranberry sauce, chocolate pastry cream, and tangy cream cheese-sour cream mousse. The whipped cream is only a topping here.

If you haven’t decided what dessert to make for the New Year celebration, you might want to consider this trifle. It is absolutely delicious, it can be made well in advance and the whole prep can be stretched over several days, so you definitely wouldn’t exhaust yourself preparing it. If you don’t have a large trifle bowl, the dessert can be assembled in individual little bowls or brandy glasses. In this case, you will only need two layers of génoise to fill the glasses.

Makes about 16 servings

For the chocolate génoise (it should be made the day the trifle is assembled, since the génoise sheet is thin and dries out quickly):

  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 185g (6 ½ oz) fine granulated sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 145 g (5 oz) all purpose flour
  • 40 g (1 ½ oz) unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa powder_
  • 5 g (1/4 oz) potato starch (or corn starch)
  • 20 g (3/4 oz) clarified butter, melted
  • ¾ tsp pure vanilla extract

The génoise recipe is adapted from Paul Bugat.

For the soaking syrup:

  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • zest of 1 small orange removed in wide stripes (orange part only) with vegetable peeler
  • 3 tbsp grand Marnier

For the cranberry sauce:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • finely grated zest of 1 small orange
  • 4 cups fresh or frozen (no need to defrost) cranberries
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 tbsp Grand Marnier

For the chocolate pastry cream:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch, sifted
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 6 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp butter, cold, cut into pieces

For the cream cheese mousse:

  • ¾ cup whipping cream, cold
  • 12 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup fine granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup sour cream, cold
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the whipped cream topping:

  • 1 cup whipping cream, cold
  • 1 tbsp fine granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Make the génoise:

Lightly brush a 13X18-inch jelly roll pan with melted butter or spray with oil, line with parchment paper, then butter the paper. Set aside.

Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 375F.

Sift the flour, cocoa, and cornstarch together three times; return to the sifter and set aside.

In a bowl of your electric mixer, using a whisk, combine the eggs, sugar, and salt thoroughly. Place the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Whisking constantly, heat the eggs to lukewarm (about 105F). Remove the bowl from the pan; leave the skillet on the stove but turn off the heat. With an electric mixer, beat the egg mixture at medium-high speed until it has cooled, tripled in volume, thickened and become almost white in colour, about 5 minutes in a heavy-duty mixer or longer with a less powerful mixer.

Meanwhile, place the clarified butter and vanilla extract into a heatproof bowl. Set the bowl in the skillet of hot water, with the burner off, to keep it warm.

Sift about one-third of the flour mixture over the whipped eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the mixture-quickly but gently-until combined. Fold in half the remaining flour, then fold in the rest. Remove the warm butter mixture from the skillet. Scoop about 1 cup of the batter into the bowl with the butter and fold together until completely combined. Use the large rubber spatula to fold the butter mixture completely into the remaining batter. Turn the batter into the prepared pan and spread it into an even layer with a large offset spatula.

Bake until the génoise is set but not crusty, about 12 minutes.

Remove from the oven and loosen the edges of the génoise from the parchment using a paring knife. Slide the génoise off the baking sheet onto a wire rack. Cool slightly, cover the cake with a sheet of parchment paper, place a rack over the parchment and turn the cake upside down. Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use to cover the cake. Place another rack on the cake and turn the cake again, remove the parchment from the top, and cool completely.

Make the syrup:

In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and orange peel. Heat over the medium heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and the syrup comes to the boil. Cool. Remove and discard the peel. Right before using, stir in the liqueur.

Can be made several days in advance.

Make the cranberry sauce:

In a large saucepan combine the sugar and orange zest, rub with your fingers. Add the cranberries and orange juice. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for about 7- 10 minutes, until the berries get soft, most of them pop, and the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the liqueur.

Can be made several days in advance and stored, covered, in the refrigerator.

Make the chocolate pastry cream:

Prepare an ice bath.

In a small saucepan, bring the milk to the boil over the medium heat. In the meantime, combine the eggs, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk together.

Once the milk has reached the boil, temper the eggs by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the egg mixture. Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered egg mixture.

Pour the egg-milk mixture back into the saucepan and place the pan over the medium heat. Whisk vigorously and continuously until the mixture thickens and the cornstarch taste is gone (about 3-4 minutes). Off the heat, whisk in the chocolate until it’s melted, and then immediately strain the pastry cream into a small bowl set into the ice-water bath to stop the cooking process. Whisk in the vanilla extract. Continue stirring the mixture at this point so it remains smooth. Once the cream has reached the temperature of 140F remove it from the ice-water bath and stir in the butter in two additions.

Cool, stirring occasionally, to prevent skin forming. Cover with plastic wrap pressing it directly over the surface of the pastry cream and refrigerate until needed.

Can be made up to 2 days in advance.

Make the cream cheese mousse, assemble the trifle:

Before making the mousse, cut out 3 circles from the génoise sheet. You should be able to cut out 2 whole circles and make the third one (the smallest bottom one) from two halves. Fit the smallest circle into the bottom of the trifle bowl, brush generously with the syrup. Spread half of the cranberry sauce over the génoise, then spread half of the chocolate pastry cream. Set aside while making the cream cheese mousse (it takes basically no time).

In a small bowl, using a hand-held electric mixer, whip the cream until it holds medium peaks. Set aside for a moment.

In another small bowl, using the same hand-held electric mixer with the same attachment (no need to wash the beaters), whip the cream cheese with the granulated sugar until lump-free, smooth and light. Mix in the sour cream, then vanilla extract. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture in two additions until incorporated. Spread half of the cream cheese mousse over the chocolate pastry cream layer. Cover with the second génoise circle, brush with the soaking syrup. Spread the remaining cranberry sauce over the génoise, then spread the remaining pastry cream, followed by the remaining cream cheese mousse. Place the third (last one) génoise circle over the top, saturate with the syrup. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving day.

Can be made up to 3 days in advance.

Make the whipped cream topping:

Close to the serving, combine the cream, sugar, and vanilla extract in a chilled bowl. Whip until medium peaks form. Spread a thin layer over the soaked génoise layer. Transfer the remaining cream into a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe a border.

Decorate with candied cranberries and rosemary, if you wish.

To serve, spoon into individual bowls or glasses. Make sure to scoop through all different layers.