Follow chef Ashley Christensen’s journey from 18-year-old cook to owner at Raleigh’s renowned Poole’s Diner. Her eponymous cookbook pays homage to her simple, hearty, Southern-focused New American cuisine. Whip up all the favorite dishes Poole’s chalkboard has ever sported right at home, and put that restaurant on your bucket list. This devil’s food trifle is about as good as a chocolate dessert gets.
Pudding is such a simple yet brilliant way to showcase chocolate. To me, it has the elegance of mousse or pot de crème without the formality — like a debutante kicking off her heels at the end of the night. The pudding in this trifle will only be as good as the chocolate you buy, so use it as an excuse to pick your favorite (and snack on any extra). We use Videri chocolate, which is made in a bean-to-bar factory just on the other side of the railroad tracks from Poole’s.
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 3 cups milk
- 1 pound milk chocolate, chopped
- 2 vanilla beans, split, scraped and pod coarsely chopped
- 12 large egg yolks
- 4 cups heavy cream
- 6 tablespoons cornstarch
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup milk
- 4 ounces espresso or brewed coffee, warm
- 4 large eggs
- 2 1/4 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 cups olive oil
- 4 cups heavy cream, whipped to stiff peaks
For the trifle
To make the pudding, in a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar, salt, milk, chocolate, and vanilla seeds and pod. Heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture reaches 180°F on an instant thermometer, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and heavy cream together. Whisking constantly, add 1 cup of the hot chocolate mixture 1 tablespoon at a time; this tempers the eggs and keeps them from curdling. Whisk in the remaining chocolate mixture until fully combined.
In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch and 1 ⁄2 cup water to form a slurry, whisking well to make sure no lumps form. Add to the chocolate custard mixture and whisk well to combine.
Return the chocolate custard mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until it reaches 180°F on an instant thermometer. Strain the pudding through a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface to keep a film from forming. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours and ideally overnight.
To make the cake, preheat a convection oven to 325°F (or a regular oven to 350°F). Spray two 13-by-9-inch baking dishes with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom of each baking dish with parchment.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, stir together the milk and espresso.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the eggs and sugar on medium speed until the mixture turns a pale yellow and the paddle forms ribbons when you raise it from the surface of the mixture. With the mixer running, add the olive oil in a slow stream until thoroughly incorporated. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
With the mixer on low speed, add one-third of the flour mixture; when it’s almost combined, add half of the espresso mixture. Repeat with the second third of the flour mixture and the rest of the espresso mixture. Add the last of the flour mixture and stop the mixer when it’s almost (but not completely) incorporated.
Divide the cake batter evenly between the prepared baking dishes and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the dishes 180 degrees halfway through cooking. Let the cakes cool to room temperature. Break up each cake into bite-size crumbles and set aside.
To assemble the trifle, spoon half of the pudding into a 4-quart trifle dish in an even layer. Follow with one-third of the whipped cream, spreading it in an even layer. Top with half the cake crumbles, pressing them into a flat, even layer. Repeat with the second half of the pudding, followed by the second one-third of the whipped cream, followed by the remaining cake crumbles. Top with the final third of the whipped cream. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour (and up to 6 hours) before serving. To serve, spoon heaping dollops of the trifle onto plates, making sure to get some of each layer.