Strawberry Champagne Trifles with Champagne “Caviar”. These layered desserts feature strawberry jam, crushed ladyfingers, champagne-soaked strawberries, an easy mascarpone cream, and gelatin strawberry-champagne spheres that are just as fun to make as they are to eat. All together, the trifles make for the perfect New Years Eve or Valentines’ Day dessert.
We’re a few days past Christmas, and I’m still a human antipasto platter. Between James’ family’s celebration and mine, I am pretty sure I ate 4 whole blocks worth of cheese, 6 sleeves of crackers, and enough pepperoni to win some sort of world record. I have the self control of a Golden Retriever when you put a plate of snacks in front of me. I’m powerless against the appeal of the salty, cheesy, and cured.
And even though all of us were bursting at the seams after the appetizers had been thoroughly picked through on Christmas Eve, I decided to wish against hope and bring out the Strawberry Champagne Trifles with Champagne “Caviar” that I’d made the night before. Maybe someone in my family would try them, despite the facts that our stomachs were already full past the point of I-need-to-unbutton-my-jeans-and-breathe-deeply-for-a-bit.
But they didn’t eat them. They freakin’ INHALED them.
I created the Strawberry Champagne Trifles with Champagne “Caviar” because my brother has been having problems swallowing lately– he had a loaner wheelchair while his was being fixed, and because it wasn’t sized completely correctly, it was putting a lot of pressure on his neck that really damaged his ability to eat. I figured that a creamier dessert like this one, with the fluffy mascarpone cream, would be easier for him to get down while the rest of us binged on cookies. (It was, and Mark is very slowly but surely doing better now, by the way.)
What I didn’t expect, is that this would be the hit dessert of the night, even with a bunch of our family-favorite cookies and almond brittle for the taking. My grandpa must have told me 20 times, “Girl, this is good. This is real good.” That’s high praise from Grandpa Jim. He made sure to claim dibs on the few leftover trifles, too, and took them home with him.
James and I still have one in our fridge though, from the testing phase. Even though we’ve eaten what feels like a million of them by now, each of us is not-so-secretly hoping the other will let us eat the last trifle. I think I might have to go sneak it before he does.
WHAT’S A TRIFLE AND WHAT’S IN IT?
Trifles originated in 18th century England, and traditionally consisted of three to four layers of fruit, jelly, alcohol-soaked sponge cake, and custard. However, in the time since, trifles have expanded to include all sorts of varieties, using crumbled cakes, brownies, candies, puddings, whipped creams, nuts, and more.
Trifles are no-bake desserts (unless of course, you’re making the cake layers from scratch) and they’re almost always served in giant glass bowls to display their layers. For these trifles, I decided to replace the cake with ladyfingers and serve them in smaller champagne and wine glasses so each person could grab one and walk around with it instead of having the look of the trifle ruined with the first person’s big scoop.
If you’re unfamiliar with ladyfingers, they are the biscuit layers in tiramisu. They’re usually soaked in coffee, but for the Strawberry Champagne Trifles with Champagne “Caviar”, I decided to simply layer them in-between the mascarpone cream and some strawberry jelly and champagne-soaked strawberries. As the trifles sit, the ladyfingers absorb some of the moisture and become soft and flavorful. And like I said, there’s no baking necessary! You can find a package of ladyfingers at pretty much any major grocery store.
The cream layer is also inspired by tiramisu, as its main ingredient is mascarpone cheese. Mascarpone cheese is like cream cheese’s Italian cousin, with a higher fat content and richer, creamier flavor. I combine the mascarpone cheese with sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract, and whipped cream, and layer it up in the glasses before sprinkling all around it (and over it) with the Champagne “Caviar”.
WHAT IS CHAMPANGE “CAVIAR”?
Don’t worry, I’m not advising that anyone put actual caviar on a dessert. I’m not crazy rich… and I’m also not crazy in general. That would not taste good. Instead, these little spheres that look like caviar are made with gelatin and have a texture similar to tiny, perfectly round gummy bears. Sometimes spheres like these, made through molecular gastronomy, will pop in your mouth to reveal liquid inside. These ones don’t, which is both preferable in my mind, and much easier to make.
You can make this kind of “caviar” out of almost any liquid– fruit juice, soda, coffee, or alcohol, but I decided to flavor mine with champange and strawberry jam. The strawberry jam is optional, but it gives a boost to the flavor of the jellies and helps with the color (which otherwise turns out to be a bit beige).
You can use any sort of champagne or sparkling wine you like, but I used rose champagne because it’s my favorite, and to play off of the strawberries and the pink color.
HOW TO MAKE CHAMPAGNE CAVIAR
There’s no fancy molecular gastronomy kits needed to make them– no hard-to-find gelling agents like sodium alginate or calcium lactate– they’re made completely with simple ingredients that you can find at any grocery store. This Champagne Caviar involves the simplest method of spherification in molecular gastronomy. All you have to do is make the gelatin mixture and then use a squeeze bottle to drip it into cold oil.
The cold oil will help the gelatin mixture to solidify, so you will wind up with caviar-like spheres of strawberry champagne flavor. It’s important to make sure that the oil is very cold, or the gelatin won’t set. Refrigerating the oil overnight is your best bet, or you can refrigerate it as long as possible and then pop in the freezer for a few more minutes of quick chilling. If you’re still not sure if it’s cold enough, place the glass filled with oil into an ice bath and it will do the trick!
After all of the Champagne “Caviar” has been formed, strain into a fine mesh sieve and rinse in cold water until they’re no longer oily. They won’t taste oily at all as long as you rinse well, and they’ll be ready for serving over ice cream, cheesecake, or these Strawberry Champagne Trifles!
CHAMPAGNE CAVIAR VIDEO
- 1 pound strawberries, divided
- 1 bottle rosé champagne, or champagne of choice, divided
- 3 tablespoons cold water
- 2 packets (4 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
- 1 1/2 cups strawberry jam, divided
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 2–3 cups very cold vegetable oil, chilled in the refigerator
- 1 pound (454 grams) mascarpone cheese
- 1 can (397 grams) sweetened condensed milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 package ladyfinger biscuits, lightly crushed
- Stem and chop the strawberries, saving 8 whole strawberries for topping. Place the chopped strawberries in a large bowl and pour over just enough champagne to fully cover the strawberries. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
- Meanwhile, make the Champagne Caviar. Sprinkle the gelatin over 3 tablespoons of cold water in a small bowl. Mix until pasty and beginning to solidify. Set aside.
- Pour 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons of the champagne into a measuring cup. Microwave until hot but not boiling, about 45 seconds. Immediately mix in 2 tablespoons of the strawberry jam, the granulated sugar, and the bloomed gelatin from earlier. Mix until completely smooth and let sit to cool for 5 minutes. Pour the mixture into a plastic squeeze bottle.
- Take the oil out of the refrigerator. Pour it into a tall glass, leaving a few inches of space at the top for the oil to rise as the “caviar” piles up.
- Dribble the strawberry champagne gelatin mixture into the cold oil to create spherical droplets. The spheres should hold their shape as they settle on the bottom of the cup.
- Pour the oil and champagne caviar over a fine mesh sieve set over a large bowl to catch the oil. Rinse the caviar in cold water, using your hands to gently separate any that have stuck together and to help rinse off the oil. Transfer the champagne caviar to a bowl or container and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- After the strawberries have soaked for at least 3 hours, prepare the cream. In a large bowl, mix together the mascarpone, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla until well-combined. In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream until fluffy, stiff peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture until fully combined. Set aside.
- Spoon a bit of strawberry jam into the bottom of a champagne or wine glass. If your jam is thick, consider microwaving it for 15 seconds to loosen it up and make it easier to settle in. Sprinkle over a thin layer of the crushed ladyfingers, then top with some of the soaked, chopped strawberries.
- Pipe or spoon in a dollop of the mascarpone cream, building up more height in the center and leaving space around the edges. Use a spoon to sprinkle some of the champagne caviar around the edges so they are visible from the outside of the glass.
- Top with another layer of the crushed ladyfingers, then jam, then strawberries, then mascarpone cream and champagne caviar. Continue with the layers as necessary to fill the glass.
- Repeat for additional glasses until the mascarpone cream has been used up.
- Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. To serve, top each glass with a whole strawberry and set out with spoons for everyone to dig in.