Cranberry Orange Trifle With Candied Walnuts

Photo by Lynda Balslev for Tastefood

This festive trifle will carry you through the holidays — it’s a great do-ahead dessert with show-stopping results.

Buttermilk pound cake is blanketed with layers of cranberry compote, orange-infused mascarpone cream and candied walnuts. Each bite is light and airy with the pop of sweet-tart cranberries and the crunch of cinnamon-dusted nuts, so be sure to get a little bit of everything in every spoonful.

Don’t let the length of this recipe deter you. It’s composed of several separate short recipes for each component that can (and should) be prepared well in advance of assembling the trifle, and the trifle can also be assembled in advance of serving. This will leave you with plenty of time to wrestle with that turkey.

Cranberry Orange Trifle With Candied Walnuts

Assembly Time: 20 minutes

Yield: Makes one large trifle, serving 8 to 10; or 8 individual trifles

1 buttermilk pound cake loaf (recipe follows or store-bought)

Cranberry Compote (recipe follows)

Orange Mascarpone Cream (recipe follows)

Candied Walnuts (recipe follows)

Finely grated orange zest, for garnish

Cut the pound cake into 3/4-inch cubes. Set aside a few whole cranberries from the compote for garnish.

Pour a thin layer of cranberry compote into the bottom of the trifle dish or individual serving glasses. Arrange a layer of pound cake over the compote. Top with a layer of cream. Sprinkle a few of the nuts over the cream.

Repeat the layering process, finishing with a layer of cream and nuts. Garnish with the reserved cranberries and finely grated orange zest.

Serve immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 6 hours before serving.

(Optional: Brush each layer of pound cake with Cointreau or Gran Marnier for an adult version of this dessert.)

Buttermilk Pound Cake

Active Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes

Yield: Makes 1 loaf

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

3 large eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment and butter the parchment.

Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl and set aside.

Cream the sugar and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla.

Add half of the flour, then the buttermilk, and then the remaining flour, mixing to combine after each addition.

Pour into the loaf pan. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes clean, about 55 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool 10 minutes. Invert the cake onto a rack and cool completely.

(The pound cake may be prepared up to 2 days in advance. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate until use.)

Cranberry Compote

Active Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Yield: Makes about 1 3/4 cups

12 ounces cranberries, fresh or frozen

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of salt

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the cranberries pop and release their juices, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and cool completely.

(The compote may be prepared up to 2 days in advance. Refrigerate until use.)

Candied Walnuts

Active Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 1/2 cups walnut halves

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking tray with parchment. Spread the walnuts on a separate baking tray and bake 10 minutes.

Heat the sugar over medium heat in a small saucepan. As soon as it begins to dissolve, stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar liquefies and is amber in color.

Immediately add the walnuts, salt and cinnamon and stir to coat. Remove from the heat and spread the walnuts on the parchment-lined baking tray. Cool completely, and then break into coarse pieces.

(The nuts may be prepared up to 1 week in advance. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.)

Orange Mascarpone Cream

Active Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Yield: Makes about 3 cups

8 ounces mascarpone cheese, chilled

1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled

1/4 cup sifted powdered sugar

1 tablespoon orange-flavored liqueur, such as Cointreau (optional)

1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest, plus extra for garnish

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Add the mascarpone to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a wire attachment and mix on medium-low speed to soften.

With the machine running, slowly add the heavy cream and mix to combine. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form.

Add the sugar, liqueur (if using), orange zest and vanilla, and beat until stiff peaks form.

(The cream may be prepared up to 6 hours in advance of assembling the trifle. Cover and refrigerate.)

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