Benjamina Ebuehi’s recipe for cherry, sesame and bay trifle

After years of declaring my dislike for trifle, I’ve finally come around to this layered pudding, appreciating that the beauty lies in the flexibility to make it exactly to your liking. For me, jelly is out, but there’s an easy yet interesting sponge layer, a herb-infused custard, seasonal fruit cooked gently until soft and syrupy, and a generous dollop of cream to finish. There are a few elements going on here, but they can all be made a day or two in advance, with the cream being whipped right before assembling.

Cherry, sesame and bay trifle
Prep 20 min
Chill 2+ hr
Cook 1 hr
Makes 6

For the sesame cake
200g plain flour
200g caster sugar
1½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
150g unsalted butter, melted
50g tahini
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
2 large eggs
50ml milk
1 tbsp sesame seeds, plus extra to toast

For the bay custard
300ml milk
150ml double cream
7 fresh bay leaves
4 egg yolks
40g caster sugar
30g cornflour

For the sauce
250g cherries, pitted and halved
2½ tbsp sugar
Juice of ½ lemon

To assemble
350ml double cream
½ tbsp icing sugar

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4 and grease and line a 20cm square cake tin.

Put the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. In a second bowl, mix the melted butter, tahini, vanilla and eggs until smooth. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, stir to combine, then stir in the milk. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, give it a good stir to combine, then stir in the milk. Pour the batter into the lined tin, top with the sesame seeds and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove and leave to cool completely.

To make the custard, gently heat the milk, cream and bay leaves in a saucepan until steaming. Take off the heat, cover (this will help prevent a skin forming) and set aside to infuse for 20-30 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour. Strain the cooled milk, then pour it back into the saucepan. Reheat the milk almost until it’s boiling, then slowly pour a quarter of it into the egg mix, whisking as you go. Pour in the rest of the milk a little at a time, whisking all the time, until it has all been incorporated, then pour back into the milk pan and heat gently until the custard thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Keep stirring as it heats up, and make sure the spoon gets into the corners of the pan. Once thickened, pour the custard through a sieve, cover with clingfilm or reusable wrap, leave to cool to room temperature, then chill in the fridge for two to three hours.

Meanwhile, make the cherry sauce. Put the cherries, sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan set over a medium heat, simmer for four to six minutes, until the fruit is softened and syrupy, then take off the heat and leave to cool.

To assemble the trifle, toast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan, stirring frequently, for two or three minutes, until well browned. Whip the cream and icing sugar to soft peaks. Cut the cake into small chunks and put these in the base of your trifle glasses. Layer with custard and cherries, top with a dollop of cream and a sprinkling of sesame seeds, and serve.