Mascarpone, cherry and grappa trifle

I use a fairly generous measure of grappa for this - most people don't seem to complain when the dessert is slightly boozy. But if you're not sure, when you're assembling the trifle you could always dip some of the sponge trimmings in the syrup, then the cream, and decide if the strength does it for you or not. If you like, the cherries can be prepared in advance and left in the fridge for the flavours to intensify.

8 people

Serving size


For the sponge:
125g butter
125g sugar
½ tsp salt
Zest of ½ lemon
2 eggs, beaten
125g plain white flour

For the poached cherries:
250g sugar
500g pitted cherries
½ vanilla pod, split, seeds scraped out, or ½ tsp vanilla paste

For the soaking syrup:
100ml cherry cooking liquids
100ml grappa
30ml water

For the cream:
350g mascarpone cheese
200ml double cream
½ vanilla pod, split, seeds scraped out, or ½ tsp vanilla paste
Zest of ½ lemon
3 tbsp icing sugar

To serve:
3-4 largish meringues, broken into pieces
2 whole cherries with stems
Creme fraiche


  1. Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/gas mark 3. Line a 22cm cake tin with greaseproof paper. In a mixer, cream the butter, sugar, salt and lemon zest until light. Slowly add the eggs and then fold in the flour. Pour into the cake tin, level with a spatula and bake for about 30 minutes. To check if it's done, insert a skewer - it should come out clean. Remove from the oven. Cool.
  2. In the meantime, pour the sugar into a saucepan, add 3 tbsp of water and place over a medium heat. Bring to the boil and allow to bubble, occasionally brushing the inside of the pan with cold water, just above the bubbling syrup (this prevents the sugar from crystallising). Keep a close eye on it until you get a semi-dark caramel colour, then remove from the heat and, keeping your face at a safe distance from the pan (the syrup may spit), pour in the cherries and vanilla seeds. Mix with a wooden spoon and return to the heat. Simmer for about 8 minutes or until the cherries are soft. Remove from the heat, allow to cool, then strain, keeping the fruit and liquid separate. Now make the soaking syrup by mixing 100ml of your cherry poaching liquids with the grappa and 30ml water.
  3. Whisk together all the cream ingredients until they begin to thicken, then take the cake out of the tin and carefully cut it into 2-3 thin discs.
  4. To assemble the trifle, place one sponge disc on the bottom of a 2.5l glass bowl (you might need to trim it to fit). Brush the sponge with the syrup using a pastry brush, making sure it's well soaked. Then spread a generous layer of cream on top and cover with the cherries. Repeat the process once or twice more, finishing with a layer of cream. Scatter over the meringue pieces and garnish in the centre with the whole cherries. Chill, then serve with a dollop of creme fraiche on the side.