Introducing the Village Baker….

By on June 23, 2013

The Village Baker


Village bakeryWhen I went off to the Culinary Institute not so long ago, it wasn’t long before my father, something of an Anglophile (I recall watching all the Basil Rathbone-Nigel Bruce-Sherlock Holmes movies at home with him) requested an English trifle at Christmas. This is an old. old dish which I’ve seen in many variations. It is not hard to make — the Ambassador Cream is the trickiest part — and it is awfully good going down. It doesn’t keep for long so make sure all your guests leave the table after  putting generous seconds and thirds under their belts.

Trifle Recipe

(serves 6)

2 packs of Lady Fingers

½ cup Raspberry Jam

¼ cup Chambord

¼  cup of brandy or cognac

¼ cup of sherry

½ cup of simple syrup

2 cups of mixed fresh berries

Ambassador Cream


  1. Line the bottom and sides of a decorative dish 3 to 4 “’ deep with lady fingers. You can use small slices of sponge cake for this purpose. Originally this was a way to recycle cake sitting in the pantry that was in danger of getting stale if not used quickly.
  2. Whisk jam and Chambord together in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Combine brandy and half of the simple syrup together in a bowl and soak the bottom layer of ladyfingers with a pastry brush.
  4. Take half of the jam mixture and spread thinly over the bottom layer of lady fingers


Ambassador Cream

This is a variation of pastry cream I learned during my training. It differs from pastry cream in the amount of whipping cream involved which gives it a lighter smoother texture. There are many variations on this basic recipe. I like this one, which has no flour and no butter and a touch of kirschwasser which I think adds to the holiday ambience. The Brits like their custards. This one is smooth and silky, la crème de la crème. See if you don’t agree.

16 oz. whole milk

4 oz. sugar

1 ¼ oz. cornstarch

5 egg yolks

½ vanilla bean

1 tsp kirschwasser


  • Combine 12 oz. of whole milk in with 2 oz. of the sugar and the vanilla bean (I prefer the bean to vanilla extract because it holds its flavor better) split in half and scraped in a medium saucepan and set aside
  • Combine the remaining 4 oz. of milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl and whisk together
  • In another bowl (you can never have too many) whisk together the remaining sugar and egg yolks until the color has lightened considerably
  • Bring milk and sugar and vanilla to a simmer over medium heat and turn off heat
  • Temper half of the the milk mixture into the egg yolks  by streaming milk into eggs while whisking vigorously
  • Pour tempered egg mixture and cornstarch mixture back into sauce pan, this needs to be done quickly, and bring to a boil over medium heat for about a minute or until the contents pull away easily from the sides of the pan.
  • Stir in kirschwasser
  • Immediately pour into a shallow container or bowl with plastic wrap in contact with the ambassador cream and cool down completely
  • Remove vanilla bean from cooled ‘cream’ and place ‘cream’ into a kitchen aid mixture fitted with a paddle attachment and whip at medium setting until smooth. Remove and set aside in chilled bowl.


1 cup of heavy whipping cream

1/8 cup powdered sugar

½ tsp vanilla extract


  • Whip all three ingredients at high speed until forms stiff peaks that don’t collapse
  • Gently fold whipped cream mixture into pastry cream in 3 additions
  • The ambassador cream is complete
  1. Using a pastry bag, spread ½ of the ambassador cream evenly across the bottom layer of trifle
  2. Place ½ of the berries onto the layer of ambassador cream
  3. Layer another level of ladyfingers on top of this
  4. Combine sherry with rest of simple syrup and drizzle over layer until soaked
  5. Spread remaining jam mixture over this layer

10. Pour remaining ambassador cream over this and cover with remaining berries

11. Allow this to sit briefly.


1 cup of heavy whipping cream

1/8 cup powdered sugar

½ tsp vanilla extract


Whip at high speed until forms stiff peaks that don’t collapse. Too much whipping and you get butter.


12. Fold whipped cream onto berries and ambassador cream gently until you have a smooth thick layer covering the berries. You may make as many layers as your enthusiasm dictates and your dish will hold. Don’t get too carried away. This is not supposed to be Trump Tower.

13. You can decorate with candied fruit, fresh fruit or lightly toasted slivered almonds to suit your taste,

14. Don’t over do this or it will all eventually sink into the whipped cream which settles out slowly over time

15. Once whipped cream added, it should be served forth posthaste, as they say in England


  • Use the freshest berries you can find at the market. Tired berries or (worse) frozen berries won’t do
  • Feel free to experiment with the jam and the liqueurs. Over time, I’ve gravitated to what is in the recipe because that’s what everyone seems to like best, although strawberry jam runs a close second
  • You can refrigerate a short amount of time but this dish tends to settle out rapidly so be careful. After a day or two the whipped cream looks like putty, and the bottom gets soggy and mushy and loses its fresh mixture of tastes
  • The idea is to make it as light as possible. I’ve seen recipes with instant pudding substituted or large amounts of jam slobbered on. One recipe even used chocolate pudding and shavings! Others plop in all kinds of inappropriate fruits. I’m sure Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce would have notified Scotland Yard if they encountered any of these cheap fakes. An arrest would soon follow, understandably.



‘Uncle Sam’-in-the-kitchen, your Village Baker

About Tom Godfrey

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