Today is Robbie Burns Day and in honor of this occasion I’m serving up trifle Scottish-style. Now, this particular breed of trifle is called Tipsy Laird. It is similar to the British trifle in terms of structure but it uses different, more patriotic ingredients. Instead of sherry, Tipsy Laird uses Drambuie and for the fruit, only Scotland’s finest raspberries need apply. Now I will go into detail about both of these ingredients and their importance but I think we should start at the beginning and first discuss the reason for the trifle – Robbie Burns Day.
What is Robbie Burns Day?
Robbie Burns Day marks the birthday of one of Scotland’s favorite sons – Robert Burns. He was born on January 25th, 1759 and was known for his poetry, Auld Lange Syne being his most notable work. A typical Robbie Bruns Day celebration begins with Selkirk Grace followed by the soup course. The haggis is then paraded into the room to a chorus of bagpipes. The host recites Burns’ poem Address to a Haggis before cutting the haggis in two. Then everyone tucks into their respective plates of haggis, tatties, and neeps. The evening finishes with the tipsy laird, oatcakes and cheese, and more than a few drams of Scotch whisky.
Most trifles made outside of Scotland feature a layer or layers of cake, usually chunks of Madiera cake, soaked in sherry. Now, Scotland is not known for its sherry consumption, it is, however, known for its long-running and extremely healthy Scotch whisky industry. So, it only makes sense to soak the cake for a Scottish trifle in something whisky-based and Drambuie fits that bill perfectly.
Now, sherry is typically on the sweet side, which makes it the ideal alcohol for desserts. A fine single malt whisky or even a blended whisky is a little too powerful for cake soaking. Both would take over any trifle they touched. Enter Drambuie. Drambuie is a liqueur made from Scotch whisky sweetened with honey and flavored with herbs and spices. Perfectly sweet and perfectly Scottish for a Tipsy Laird.
Raspberries have a home in Tipsy Laird because they have the reputation of being the most Scottish of all fruits. Due to the berry’s inclination towards cooler temperatures and copious amounts of rain, Scotland produces some of the best raspberries in the world. A fact Scots are extremely proud of.
Now, it is worth mentioning, although it is fairly obvious, that raspberries are not in season throughout the month of January. But due to the number of berries the country produces throughout July and August, good locally made raspberry jam is never far from hand. I used fresh raspberries as well as jam in today’s Tipsy Laird, but it should be noted that my raspberries came from California, so perhaps, my Tipsy Laird is not the most patriotic of trifles.
Let’s Talk Tipsy Laird – Madeira Cake
Okay, like any good trifle, let’s start with a good cake. Now, there are several schools of thought on the topic of trifle cake. Some are team ladyfinger while others subscribe to storebought trifle sponges. And then there are those who believe scraps of homemade cake are the only way to go. I tend to side with the latter. Making a simple snacking cake is not too much to ask when the rest of the dessert simply calls for stacking and squishing.
I opted for a Madiera cake even though it is more commonly served in England and Ireland rather than Scotland. I chose Madiera cake because, throughout my trifle-related research, it was often mentioned as the ideal cake for a trifle. Who am I to argue with trifle experts? Incidentally, there is no Madiera in a Madiera cake. It’s called a Madiera cake because it was frequently served alongside the Portuguese wine. Today, it is much more commonly served with tea but it retains the moniker.
From there we move on to custard. Now, I made a simple straight-ahead vanilla custard but I stayed true to the trifle’s Scottish side by kissing it with a bit of Drambuie. I added the Drambuie at the end contrary to best practices. You’re supposed to add it earlier in the cooking process to eliminate the burn from the alcohol. But since we’re celebrating one of Scotland’s brightest sons, a little burn of Burn’s Day makes a lot of sense.
Putting it Together
With the custard and cake taken care of, you mostly have a fun bit of arts and crafts before you. All the fun of making a trifle comes from the layering. And no one can really tell you the proper way to layer a trifle, you simply have to go by eye and listen to your heart. But for the sake of providing rules for those who require them, the preferred sequence is cake and jam, followed by custard, followed by whipped cream. You can make three layers or you can repeat a series of smaller layers and make upwards of six. It’s really up to you.
So that’s all you need to know about this patriotic bit of trifle. I am fully aware I’m posting this far too late into this year’s Robbie Burns Day for you to actually make this Tipsy Laird for the occasion. But I hope the trifle’s association with the celebration won’t stop you from making it any old night you feel like celebrating. Because this Tipsy Laird is delicious even outside of January. Have a great Burns night and drink a few drams for me.
- Large Trifle Bowl
- ¾ cup unsalted butter softened
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 lemon zested
- 3 large eggs
- 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 3 tbsp whipping cream
Drambuie Vanilla Custard
- 2 cups half and half
- 2 cups whole milk
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 vanilla bean split lengthwise, caviar removed
- 8 large egg yolks
- 5 tbsp cornstarch
- ½ cup unsalted butter cut into cubes
- 60 ml (2 fl oz) Drambuie
- 340 g (12 oz) fresh raspberries
- 1 Madiera cake see above
- 250 ml (8.5 fl oz) seedless raspberry jam
- ½ cup Drambuie
- 1 batch Drambuie Vanilla Custard see above
- 3 ½ cups whipping cream
- 2 tbsp icing sugar
- 1 lemon zest cut into ribbons
For the Madiera Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8×8 baking pan and line the base with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment place the butter, sugar and lemon zest. Beat on medium until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides.
- Beat the eggs in one at a time, waiting for each to be fully integrated before adding the next.
- Using a fine-mesh strainer, sift the flour, salt and baking powder together in a large bowl. Whisk to fully incorporate. Sift the flour mixture over the egg/butter mixture and, using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture until no streaks remain.
- Stir the cream into the batter and pour it into the prepared pan. Using an offset spatula, smooth out the surface of the batter. Dust the cake with additional granulated sugar, then transfer to the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, rotating once.
- Take the cake out of the oven and let cool for 10 minutes in the pan before transferring to a cooling rack. Let cool completely.
For the Custard
- While the cake is cooling, make the custard. Whisk to combine the milk, half and half, sugar, salt and vanilla caviar in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the vanilla bean pod to the pot and place over medium-low heat. Heat the milk mixture until steam begins to gather on the surface.
- While you're waiting for the milk mixture to heat up, whisk the cornstarch into the egg yolks until fully incorporated. Set aside.
- Remove the vanilla pod from the milk mixture and discard it. Pour two ladlesful of the hot milk mixture into the yolk mixture while whisking constantly to temper the eggs. Pour the yolk mixture into the saucepan and heat the custard until it comes up to a gentle simmer and thickens considerably.
- Take the custard off of the heat and stir in the butter and Drambuie. Stir until the butter melts and is fully incorporated.
- Pour the custard into an 8×8 baking pan and cover with plastic wrap. Make sure the wrap touches the surface of the custard to keep it from forming a skin. Transfer to the fridge and let chill for 3 hours or overnight.
For the Trifle
- Slice a few raspberries in half and line the base of the trifle dish with the halves, cut-side facing out. Slice the domed top of the Madiera Cake off and cut it into cubes. Place the cubes in the center of the trifle dish and press them into an even layer. Pour half of the Drambuie over the cake cubes and set the trifle dish aside to let the cake soak.
- Cut the remaining Madiera cake in half and pour the remaining Drambuie over each half. Cover both halves with raspberry jam and sandwich the two together. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and transfer to the freezer. Let chill for 15 minutes.
- Slice the cake jam sandwich into 1-inch slices. Cut those slices in half and use them to line the outside of the trifle dish on top of the raspberries you placed earlier. This should use about half of the slices depending on the dimensions of your trifle dish. Arrange another layer of raspberry halves on top of the cake slices the same way you arranged the first layer.
- Spoon the remaining jam over the cake cubes in the center and pour in half of the custard. Place the remaining jam cake sandwiches on top and pour the remaining custard on top. Cover the trifle tightly with plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge. Let chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.
- When ready to serve, pour the whipping cream into a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Add the icing sugar and whip on high until stiff peaks form. Spoon the whipping cream in a mound on top of the chilled trifle. Decorate the cream with ribbons of lemon zest and fresh raspberries. Serve immediately.