Photo by: Colin Campbell

Mascarpone, cherry and grappa trifle

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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

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. Serves 8


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.
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.
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.
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.

Perfect with

  1. Malvasia Passito, Vigna del Volta, La Stoppa, Emilia-Romagna, Italy

    Malvasia Passito, Vigna del Volta, La Stoppa, Emilia-Romagna, Italy


{based on 6 reviews}

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  • Recipes One more question!
    (29/04/2015) Thanks so much for your response... one more question though: if I'm using apples instead of cherries (difficult to find black or redcurrants in New Zealand - even frozen), would you do everything else the same (ie cooking method, ingredients)? And would Amaretto work, or would some other liqueur work better do you think? I'm hoping to make this tomorrow night! Thanks :)

    RESPONSE: "An alternative to the grappa would be more along the lines of an apple or pear brandy, cognac or Armagnac. Cooking method is the same whatever fruit you use. Sugar quantities vary so you will need to taste to see if more sugar is needed but otherwise it should all be grand, Best wishes, Ottolenghi"
  • Recipes Gorgeous dessert
    (16/04/2015) I am obsessed with this dessert - so much so that I'm trying to think if there's a winter fruit that would substitute successfully for the cherries (please Yotam, I'd love your advice on this! As I said, I'm obsessed!). As suggested by another reviewer, I used amaretto instead of grappa, and the result was superb.

    RESPONSE: "Good to hear! Apples, red grapes, redcurrants, blackcurrants would all work well instead of the cherries. . . "
  • Recipes Disappointing!
    (29/03/2015) I am an experienced home cook but this recipe did not work for me. It took two goes to do the sponge and the syrup. I thought the individual components were good but as a dish it did not work and the grappa was over powering. I will not be making this again!

    RESPONSE: "Sorry to hear that the trifle was not to your liking. Yotam put a note in the recipe intro that the grappa is fairly dominant - he likes it that way but acknowledges that it is not to everyone's liking and that less should be used if preferred - so I am not sure whether you used the full amount or not? Either way, we hope that you continue to explore other puddings on our website and have better luck next time with the end result.

    With best wishes, Ottolenghi"
  • Recipes delicious
    (26/01/2015) Made this for my birthday party with friends. Used grappa! Fantastic! we used all recipes from three books for our theme. i love your recipes! You strike a chord in me! We are going to cook one day a month using your recipes. So much lovely food to try. We are in Poland but I am Welsh so I can get all ingredients! Thank you so much for beautiful recipes which deliver such a 'wow' factor!,

  • Recipes Ab Fab!
    (25/01/2014) This is so delicious and perfect to impress at dinner parties, the grappa can easily be substituted with other alcohol, I even tried a splash of amaretto which worked beautifully with the cherries.
  • Recipes delicious
    (22/01/2014) It tasted so good that I have decided to make it again. I haven't got grappa, so I used a transylvanian fruit palinka. It is very strong, but it needed that extra kick of booze. I served it with some late harvest wine from Tokaj. It was absolutely great.