Trifle is one of those old-timey desserts, easy enough for a weeknight splurge, yet elegant enough for a special dinner. It’s a perfect showcase for our local strawberries coming into the market. (Far easier and quicker than making a pie!)

The traditional version uses layers of Port-soaked sponge cake, fresh berries, egg custard and whipped cream. It’s a rich, boozy, soggy glory, presented in an impressive glass bowl.

In this recipe, the custard is replaced with mascarpone and whipped cream. The mascarpone helps replace the dense richness of the custard, and it’s easier and less fussy to make. Instead of the sponge cake, this version calls for packaged ladyfingers or biscotti, but you could use pound cake or sugar cookies, as well, and the orange zest adds a note of astringency. It’s best refrigerated for a few hours or overnight, to allow the flavors to meld.

At the farmers markets, look for locally grown strawberries, especially the alpine varieties that do especially well in backyard gardens; they often produce into late summer. These are quite different from the large berries, grown in California and shipped in. Our fresh local berries are brilliant red and intensely tart sweet, as well as thin-skinned. Enjoy them as soon as possible.

To store strawberries, remove them from their container, and place them in a bowl or basket that has been lined with a cloth or paper towel. They can be refrigerated for up to five days. Do not cover them with plastic, as that traps moisture and hastens decay. Also, do not wash them or remove their caps until right when you are ready to use them.

Fresh strawberries lose much of their complex flavors, color and texture when baked. In simple pairings, like a trifle, they really shine.

 

Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.

 

Strawberry Maple Trifle

Serves 4.

Note: Make this a day ahead so the layers have a chance to meld and the flavors mingle. It’s best served cold. Vary the fruit as different berries arrive at markets. Substitute orange juice for the Port for a non-alcohol version. From Beth Dooley.

• 12 to 16 oz. fresh strawberries, tops removed, sliced into 1/4-in. pieces.

• 6 tbsp. maple syrup, divided

• 1/4 c. Port or fresh orange juice

• 1 tbsp. fresh orange juice

• 1 c. heavy cream

• 1/4 c. mascarpone or whipped cream cheese

• 12 ladyfingers or biscotti, broken into large pieces

• 1 to 2 tbsp. grated orange rind

Directions

In a medium bowl, toss together the strawberries, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, Port and orange juice, and set aside.

Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks, then whip in the mascarpone.

To the bottom of 4 wide 12-ounce glasses, add 2 tablespoons of the strawberry mixture. Layer in half of the whipped cream mixture, then the ladyfinger pieces. Repeat layers and top with the remaining strawberries.

Spoon 1 tablespoon of the maple syrup over each trifle, sprinkle with the orange zest, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 460

Fat 28 g

Sodium 70 mg

Carbohydrates 46 g

Saturated fat 16 g

Added sugars 24 g

Protein 5 g

Cholesterol 140 mg

Dietary fiber 2 g

Exchanges per serving: ½ fruit, 1 starch, 1 ½ carb, 5 ½ fat.