Compassion is defined as: a deep awareness of and sympathy for another’s suffering; the humane quality of understanding the suffering of others and wanting to do something about it.
For me, 2009 will be the year of compassion. Someone once said to me that the greatest thing that you can ever do as a person is to show compassion. To feel for another human being, to understand what the other is feeling… It’s phenomenal and it’s what sets us apart as individuals. Without compassion, we are lost, hopeless, and alone. Last weekend, Sally, a woman who has shown me great compassion, passed away. She was only 49, and leaves behind a daughter, stepson, and husband whom she loved with her whole heart.
Anyone who knows Sally can’t help but smile. She reminded me of a firecracker, bursting with energy. When I first met her, I wasn’t the most pleasant person to work with, due to personal reasons. I was frustrated, negative, and judgmental. I regret every moment of that period and looking back, but she always remained upbeat and happy around me. I eventually turned my ‘tude around, but she deserved much more respect than I ever gave her. I think Sally’s death has taught me the most important thing: your compassion for others will be your lasting legacy.
One thing that I loved about Sally was her voracious appetite for my baked goods. I’d bring in cookies and cakes and her eyes would light up. She’d rant and rave about how good they were, and then proceed to tell everyone on our floor that I had made some cookies worth dying for. You could say that she was my biggest fan and the sight of my baked goods would perk her up .
Yesterday, I attended her celebration and the sheer amount of people who came to honor her astounded me. She would have been so proud and happy to see all of her loved ones under one roof, drinking and eating. Arranged on all the kitchen countertops were piles of foods. You name it, and it was was there. Cookies, casseroles, breads, dips. I think it’s safe to say that nothing consoles grief and goodbyes like food. Strangely, I didn’t bring anything in. You could say I lost my zest, but mainly I felt like I had nothing to offer. No amount of cookies or cake could bring her laugh bake and the mere thought of bringing in a tray of something she wouldn’t be able to savor broke my heart.
Instead of making something in her honor, I wanted to share with you a dessert I made for Christmas Day, a day Sally spent with her loved ones. Trifles have become a tradition for our Christmas day spread, and it’s one that I plan on taking with me when I have my own family. First of all, it’s easy and can be made ahead. Second, it can appease most guests with all its possible flavor combinations. This Chocolate Frangelico Trifle with Whipped Cream is the epitome of decadence, and is a dish I know Sally would’ve loved to sink her teeth in to. Layers of sweet and smooth custard, whipped cream, and light angel food cake, it’s a dish made for celebrations.
As a big fan of texture, this trifle was the dessert of my dreams. I adapted it from Jill O’Connor’s delicious book but instead of making it mocha flavored like her original one, I made mine more almond-flavored based. Also, the directions for assembling the trifle are different from hers. Her trifle was more of a big bowl of custard with a cake lining; I like layers upon layers of cake and cream.
The custard on its own was good enough to devour greedily by myself, but don’t worry, I abstained. Instead of making my own angel food cake, I bought one from my grocery store. I know, lazy me, but I actually like my grocery store’s angel food cake so it worked in my favor. But forget storebought whipped cream; it won’t stand a chance in this dish. Make your own and save yourself the grief of eating processed foods. And, let me fill you in on a secret: the recipe below will make an ABUNDANCE of whipped cream, so I give you permission to dip the remaining angel food cake in to the cream and nibble away. I was thinking about adding the chopped bittersweet chocolate in to the trifle’s layers but I left it out. Looking back, if you want more crunch and more pronounced layers, add chopped chocolate in between the custard and whipped cream.
I dedicate this recipe to my friend, a lady who could make you smile. Sally, you will be deeply missed. I hope that you know that I appreciate everything you ever did for me. All the strings you tried to pull, all the people you called… I will never forget your kindness and laughter. Thanks for reminding me that good people exist in this world. You may be gone, but you will never be forgotten.
Chocolate Frangelico Trifle
Adapted from: Sticky Chewy Messy Gooey by Jill O’Connor
Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 5 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 3 hours, or overnight
● 1/2 cup Frangelico liqueur
● 1/2 storebought Angel Food Cake, chopped in to 1-inch cubes
● 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate with almonds, chopped finely (I used Trader Joe’s Pound of chocolate)
● Frangelico Custard, recipe below
● Frangelico whipped cream, recipe below
● 1 tsp almond extract
In a separate dish, stir together Frangelico and almond extract.
In a large shallow glass bowl or trifle dish, arrange cubes of angel food cake over the bottom of the dish, flattening the cake with your fingertips. Sprinkle 1/2 of the Frangelico mixture over the cake cubes. Carefully spoon half of the cooled custard over the cake, smoothing the top of the custard with the back of a spoon.
Using small offset spatula, spread 1/2 of whipped cream over custard, making a slightly thick layer around outer edges of the dish to better show the trifle’s layers.
Repeat layering of cake, syrup, custard, and whipped cream one more time.
Garnish with chopped bittersweet chocolate.
Refrigerate the trifle until ready to serve, at least 3 hours but preferable overnight. Letting the trifle cool allows the cake to absorb all the flavors in the dish so don’t forget this cooling period.
● 2 cups heavy cream
● 1 1/2 cups whole milk
● 1 cup sugar
● 9 egg yolks
● 6 tbsp all-purpose flour
● pinch salt
● 2 tsp vanilla
● 3 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
● 4 tbsp Frangelico liqueur
Combine the cream and milk with 1/2 cup sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Heat just until the mixture is about to boil (when bubbles start to form around the edges of the pan.) Remove from the heat.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks together with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar until light and creamy. Whisk the flour into the egg yolks until smooth.
Whisk the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, to temper it. Strain the mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the custard thickens, and comes to a slow boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking, whisking continuously, for 1 minute. Remove form the heat and pour the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl.
Stir in the salt, vanilla, butter, and Frangelico until smooth. Place the bowl in the freezer and cool, stirring ocassionally, for 10 to 15 minutes. The custard should no longer be steaming. At this point, the custard is ready to be used for the trifle.
Custard can be made ahead of time. Press a large piece of plastic wrap over the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until assembling the trifle.
Frangelico Whipped Cream
Origin: Sticky Chewy Messy Gooey by Jill O’Connor
Cooking Time: 5 minutes
● 2 cups heavy cream
● 1 tsp almond extract
● 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
● 2 to 4 tbsp Frangelico liqueur
Right before assembling the trifle, make the whipped cream.
Combine the cream, extract, sugar, and Frangelico in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer set at medium speed until soft peaks form. Taste the cream, and if a more pronounced flavor is desired, fold in up to 2 more tablespoons of Frangelico. Spread the cream over the cooled custard.
Looking for a printable recipe? I bundled all three recipes for you. Enjoy!