Summer Desserts to try: English Rhubarb-Ginger Trifle with a Classic Sponge

We have all had our share of heavy, sickly sweet pies, cakes and cookies while this summer has lagged on. I wanted to make something light and airy, but at the same time satisfying and sweet with just a touch of tartness. When you need tart- you have to go with rhubarb & ginger.

First of all, do not be intimidated by the long list of ingredients or cooking instructions. This trifle is relatively simple to pull together and is perfect for a make ahead show stopper dessert. The jam filling takes about 5 minutes to cook in a sauce pan. It is very easy and well worth the time. Most of the cake ingredients you probably have on hand in your pantry.

At first I wanted to make an angel food cake, but decided to wait another month for something with a chocolate component. More on that in a few weeks. Having watched endless episodes of The Great British Bake Off, I decided a Genoise Sponge Cake would be perfect. Its light and just barely sweet. But, being a purest, I also know not many people want to whip eggs over boiling water, so I opted for a simpler sponge based on The Silver Palates New Basics Cookbook. If you do not have this cookbook in your collection, I urge you to buy a copy.

After deciding on a cake base, I then decied to up the flavor component of the rhubarb by adding fresh ginger- and lots of it. I made a jammy filling with the rhubarb, let it cool and whipped up heavy cream with a scant amount of sugar.

Cutting the sponge in half, I then made little chunks of cake and alternated with layers of the rhubarb “jam” and whipped cream. The result- a light, refreshing and oh so summery dessert.

If making a sponge cake is too time consuming, I recommend using a store bought or local bakery angel food cake or sponge. A pound cake, like Sara Lee, will be too sweet and heavy.

Rhubarb freezes beautifully so you can enjoy it all year.
Chop the stalks into 1-2 inch pieces


  • For the Rhubarb Filling
  • 6-7 cups of chopped rhubarb

  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

  • 1/3 cup sugar

  • 2 heaping TBSP fresh ginger, chopped fine

  • For the Whipped Cream
  • 1 pint of heavy cream

  • 1 tsp vanilla

  • 1 TBSP sugar

  • For the Sponge Cake
  • 4 large eggs, separated

  • 3/4 cup plus 2 TBSP sugar

  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

  • Pinch of Kosher Salt

  • 3/4 cup All Purpose Flour

  • 4 TBSP butter, melted and cooled to room temp

  • 1 TBSP lime juice

Finely chop 2 heaping tablespoons of fresh ginger.

Method- Total Time 1 1/2 hours- overnight, Serves 8-10

  • Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9″ cake pan. Set aside.
  • In a heavy sauce pan, combine rhubarb, ginger, lemon juice and sugar. Stir on medium high until mixture comes to a boil. Mix well. Cover and reduce heat to low. Stir every minute or so to prevent sticking. After 5 minutes, the rhubarb will break down into a “jam”. Scrape jam filling into a bowl and chill until ready to assemble the trifle.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the heavy cream on medium low speed until frothy. Add in vanilla and sugar. Increase speed to high and whip another 2-3 minutes until cream is thick. Scrape into a bowl and chill until ready to assemble the trifle. Wash & dry the bowl of stand mixer throughly.
  • To make the sponge-
    Combine the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl and whisk until smooth and thick. Stir in vanilla. Rub a small amount of the yolk mixture between your fingers to insure all the sugar is dissolved completely. It should not feel gritty.
  • Beat the egg whites and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer until they form soft peaks. Add in remaining 2 TBSP of sugar and beat until the whites are stiff and glossy.
  • Fold in one third of the beaten egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. Then sift 1/4 cup of flour over the egg yolk batter and fold into the mixture. Repeat folding in egg whites and flour until fully incorporated. Pour in the butter and lime juice taking care not to deflate the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake at 350 for 30 minutes until the top is golden brown. Do not over bake or the cake will be dry. The cake is done when it pulls away from the sides of the pan. Carefully turn it out onto a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. With a serated knife, slice the cake in half- cross-wise. Cut the cake into 2″ pieces.
  • To assemble the trifle:
    In the bottom of a glass trifle dish, place a layer of the cake pieces covering the bottom and sides of the dish.
    Spoon half of the rhubarb filling over the cake. Next spoon half of the whipped cream over the jam. Next top with more cake, jam filling and finish with a layer of whipped cream. Decorate the top with berries or mint. Chill at least 1 hour. Best if chilled overnight.
Cook with sugar and lemon juice. “Jam” will be ready in 5 minutes.
My airy sponge cake incorporates sifted flour and whipped egg whites, yolks and sugar.
Gently fold in the egg whites
Slice the cake in half, cut into pieces to fit the trifle dish and layer with rhubarb jam and whipped cream.
Light, airy and summery- Rhubarb Trifle

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