Lemon Curd, Strawberry, and Basil Sponge Cake Trifle

Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser Yield:  6 servings
Prep Time:  30 minutes Chilling Time:  2 hours Cook Time:  1 hour 10 minutes

Lemon Curd, Strawberry, and Basil Sponge Cake Trifle

A luscious twist on the traditional Passover sponge cake, this trifle or parfait is so darned good, you'll make it year round. It's vividly colorful and showy. Yet it can—in fact should—be made in advance. Yes, it is custom-designed for after the Passover Seder.


Tart Lemon Curd:

6 large egg yolks

1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar

⅔ cup fresh lemon juice

6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted, nonhydrogenated, nondairy margarine, diced and chilled


Strawberry Basil Sauce:

3 pounds strawberries, hulled and cut in half (about 6 cups), reserving 6 for garnish

¾ cup white grape juice

1 cup granulated sugar

15 large basil leaves, cut in thin chiffonade, plus another few leaves for garnish


Sponge Cake:

1¾ cup (75 grams) granulated sugar

9 eggs, separated

¾ cup (14 grams) potato starch

⅛ teaspoon kosher salt

Zest of 1 lemon


To prepare the lemon curd:

  1. Combine the egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk until thickened and pale in color. Slowly whisk in the lemon juice. Transfer to a 3-quart nonreactive saucepan and set it over low heat. Cook, whisking constantly, for  8 to 10 minutes, until the mixture thickens and takes on the consistency of a pudding. Be careful not to let the mixture come to a boil or it will curdle.
  2. Remove from the heat and quickly whisk in the margarine until it is melted and completely incorporated. Transfer the lemon curd to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap that is pressed against the curd and set in the refrigerator to chill for about 1 hour.  This can be made up to three days in advance. Stir in the fresh basil chiffonade before serving.

To prepare the strawberry and basil sauce:

  1. Combine the strawberry halves, grape juice, and sugar in a saucepan and set it over high heat. Cook, uncovered, for about 2 minutes, until the liquid begins to boil rapidly.
  2. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the strawberries are soft but not mushy. Remove from the heat and let cool. Refrigerate in a covered container until chilled. This can be made up to 3 days in advance.

To prepare the sponge cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a bundt cake pan with nonstick vegetable oil spray and set aside.
  2. Pour the sugar into a food processor and pulse for 1½ to 2 minutes, until it has the consistency of very fine sand,  but not powder.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, combine the egg yolks and sugar and mix at  medium-high speed until fluffy.
  4. Meanwhile,  pour the egg whites into a large, perfectly clean mixing bowl, and whisk vigorously until they hold stiff peaks (see Kitchen Tips).
  5. Add the potato starch, salt, and lemon zest to the egg yolk mixture and mix at high speed until fully combined. Add one-third of the egg whites to the egg yolk mixture. Remove the bowl and its contents from the mixer stand, and with a wide spatula, fold in the remaining egg whites.
  6. Gently pour the mixture into the prepared bundt pan and place it in the oven. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is a pale golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, but it is not overly dry. Remember that the cake will continue to cook in the pan after it has been removed from  the oven. Allow to cool completely in the pan.

To assemble and serve:

  1. Assemble six (4- to 5-inch) tall glasses, or dessert serving dishes. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the lemon curd into each.
  2. With a sharp knife, cut the cake into slices, and then trim as necessary into circles that are the diameter of your serving glass, about 1-inch deep.
  3. In each glass, top the lemon curd with a piece of cake, spoon 2 tablespoons of strawberry over it, top with another layer of cake, 2 more tablespoons of the lemon curd, a strawberry, and a garnish of basil leaves.
  4. Serve immediately, or refrigerate, covered, for about 5 hours (the sponge cake will absorb the strawberry and basil sauce and it will have pudding-like quality). You can choose whichever version you like best. This can also be served in a large trifle bowl, family style.

Kitchen Tips

  1. When beating egg whites, an impeccably clean bowl is a must; even a bit of grease can decrease their volume and stability.
  2. Egg whites at the soft peak stage will be glossy and foamy, retain their basic shape but will droop a bit, and won’t entirely cling to the bowl. Egg whites at the stiff peak stage will be glossy and very firm, will retain their shape and cling to the bowl.  They will stand straight up from the overturned beater. Yet they will still be creamy and flexible enough to fold in with other ingredients.

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