The idea for this trifle came about because yesterday was my brother-in-law Pat’s birthday, and so my nephew Leo (who I teach cooking classes to) and I wanted to make him a special birthday dessert. Pat LOVES pistachios, so I definitely wanted to incorporated them into his dessert somehow, and he’s also rather fond of raspberries. We could have done a pistachio cake with raspberry frosting, but that didn’t seem quite what we wanted. Plus, Leo sometimes has a hard time with focusing - we're working on that in class - so maybe the cake making/cooling part wasn’t such a good idea with him…
I eventually decided on this yummy trifle, after seeing a recipe somewhere for a biscotti with the same flavors. It sounded delicious to me! As it turns out, Chrissy and Pat were planning to take the boys to see a St. Patrick’s Day parade, so cooking class was limited to only 1 hour this time. Because of the time restraint, I made the cakes and pudding ahead of time and then Leo helped me assemble the masterpiece. (Of course, I always let Chef Leo take all of the credit, though!)
The recipe for the cake came from a blog post that sounded wonderful to me. The recipe was passed down through a couple of generations, so I figured it had to be good! I always love recipes that have stories… I had seen a few other recipes for pistachio cake, but some of the ingredients sounded a little strange or they didn’t get good reviews. I was also opposed to adding any more artificial coloring than necessary, so the two packages of pudding mix would definitely help alleviate that particular problem. This cake turned out so wonderfully moist and delicious, I couldn’t help eating the outside edges while I was cutting it into cubes for the trifle! I followed the instructions in the recipe, for the most part, when it came to the ingredients, but I wanted a thinner cake in the end so that I wouldn’t have to worry about cutting it in half and then into bite-size pieces. So, I made the recipe, adding some pistachio extract that I just happen to have, and separated the batter between two 9x13-inch cakes pans. Because I was baking such small cakes, I didn’t want them to brown too fast and adjusted the oven temperature accordingly.
The great thing about making trifles for special occasions is that they look like you put a lot of time and effort into making them. And, if you so desired, you really could do just that! However, they can also be made with help from prepackaged mixes, which works well if you’re short on time and/or if you have children helping you. Focusing on the task at hand can be a little difficult for young minds, when there are 500 other things going on in their brains… (During cooking class, I hear at least 10 different thoughts that are going through Leo’s mind during that time! Angry Birds was a common subject, as I’m the only one in the family with an iPhone which means I “need” to hear all of the relevant news, so I eventually had to ban that topic from cooking class time… Did you know that Angry Birds Space is coming out in the App Store on March 22nd?! No? I’ve been hearing about it for probably a month now!)
In the end, Chef Leo’s masterpiece turned out beautifully, tasted divine, and he received lots of praise and gratitude! He’s such a good little chef!! ;-)
1 box white cake mix
2 (3.4 oz.) pkg. pistachio instant pudding
5 large eggs
½ c. milk
½ c. water
½ c. oil
2 tsp. pistachio extract
3 (3.3 oz.) pkg. white chocolate instant pudding
6 c. milk
2 (6 oz.) pkg. fresh raspberries
½ c. shelled pistachios, gently rubbed to remove skins
For the cake: Preheat your oven to 300° and prepare two 9x13-inch cake pans with cooking spray on the bottoms and sides. In a large mixing bowl, combine the white cake mix and pistachio pudding mixes and stir with a spoon or fork until combined. Make a well in the dry mix and add all of the wet ingredients. With an electric mixer, combine all of the ingredients on low speed for 1 minute; increase the speed to medium and mix for 2 minutes. Divide the cake batter evenly between the two prepared pans, smoothing the batter until even, and place both pans in the preheated oven. Cook the cakes for approximately 35-40 minutes, or until the middle springs back when you touch it lightly, being sure to rotate the pans halfway through to ensure even baking. Allow the cakes to cool completely, and then cut them into 1-inch cubes.
While the cake is cooling, prepare the white chocolate pudding according to the package directions. Place in the refrigerator and allow it to sit while the cake finishes cooling.
To arrange the trifle, place a generous layer of the pistachio cake in the bottom of a trifle bowl, using as much or as little cake as you like. Follow the cake layer with a white chocolate pudding layer, then a generous layer of raspberries (be sure to save some to garnish the top of the trifle), and then a final layer of each of the cake and the pudding. Garnish the trifle with the reserved raspberries and shelled pistachios.