This is truly a spring-celebrating dessert. Light lemon génoise cake is soaked in tangy, Limoncello-spiked syrup, layered with fragrant basil strawberry salad and white chocolate crème Chantilly. White chocolate doesn’t just add interest to the whole flavour palette, it also stabilizes the cream, so the dessert can be completely assembled a day before. I roasted half of the strawberries to boost the flavour, but if you are lucky to get well-ripened ones, you can skip this step.

Here the dessert is shown in individual (they were surely advertised like individual) bowls, but frankly, these particular bowls are too big for a single serving (the recipe makes 6 of those). I recommend assembling a trifle in a big bowl, only making it from three layers of cake. You will be able to feed a crowd then – at least 16. From the other hand, you could choose smaller glasses for these trifles and make real individual desserts.

Should feed about 16

For the lemon génoise:

  • 185g (6 ½ oz) fine granulated sugar
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • Pinch salt
  • 160 g (5 ¾ oz) all purpose flour
  • 10 g (1/3 oz) potato starch (or corn starch)
  • 20 g (3/4 oz) clarified butter, melted
  • 1 tsp pure lemon extract

For the syrup:

  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • Lemon peel of 1 small lemon, removed in wide strips with a vegetable peeler
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp Limoncello

For the basil strawberry salad:

  • 2 lbs strawberries, divided
  • 2 tbsp corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup fine granulated sugar
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup finely chopped basil

For the white chocolate crème Chantilly:

  • 3 cups whipping cream
  • 9 oz good quality white chocolate, finely chopped

Make the lemon génoise:

Lightly brush a 13×18 inch jelly roll pan with melted butter, line it with parchment paper, then butter the paper. Set aside.

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

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

In a bowl of your electric mixer, combine the sugar and lemon zest, rub with your fingers to release fragrant lemon oil from the zest. Add the eggs and salt. Using a whisk, combine everything 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 color, about 5 minutes in a heavy-duty mixer or longer with a less powerful mixer.

Meanwhile, place the clarified butter and lemon 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 lightly browned 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.

It’s the best to bake the génoise the same day you plan to assemble the dessert; the sheet is thin and will dry out quickly.

Make the syrup:

In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and lemon peel. Heat over the medium heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and the syrup comes to the boil. Remove from the heat; add the lemon juice and Limoncello. Cool before using.

Make the basil strawberry salad:

Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 300F.

Cut 1 lb of the strawberries in half or into quarters if the berries are very large. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the strawberries with the corn syrup. Roast, stirring occasionally, until the color of the berries intensifies and darkens, and the syrup thickens, about 45 minutes to 1 hr. Remove from the oven, cool slightly and transfer to the bowl of the food processor. Add the sugar, zest, and lemon juice. Process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and cool. Finely chop the remaining 1 lb of the strawberries and add to the roasted strawberry puree, add the basil, stir to combine.

Make the white chocolate crème Chantilly:

Place the cream into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often to prevent the cream from scorching. Put the chopped chocolate into a large bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let it sit for a minute, then whisk until the chocolate is melted and combined completely with the cream. Cool, then cover and refrigerate overnight before whipping. The day you plan to serve the dessert, whip the cream-chocolate mixture until medium peaks form.

Assemble the trifle:

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 strawberry salad over the génoise, then spread one third of the white chocolate crème Chantilly. Cover with the second génoise circle, brush with the soaking syrup. Spread the remaining strawberry salad over the génoise, then spread the second third of the whipped cream. Place the third (last one) génoise circle over the top, saturate with the syrup. Spread or pipe the remaining crème Chantilly, refrigerate until ready to serve. Can be made a day in advance.