Fresh local peaches are perfect for summer dessertsSummer is the perfect time to highlight a bounty of ripe juicy fruit. What better way to celebrate the season than with a trifle?

For those of you who have not been properly introduced, the trifle is a throwback dessert to bygone days of 18th century banquets, when people wore curly wigs, and custard stole the show at dessert tables. Back then, traditional trifles relied on whatever was at hand in the kitchen: leftover sponge cake, sherry, or freshly-whipped cream. If the ingredients weren’t used in the trifle, they’d be thrown out.

As I made my own vegan trifle, my focus shifted to the fruit — specifically, ripe peaches, raspberries, strawberries, and mango — combined with a rich vanilla coconut cream.

While not at all a traditional trifle (I don’t think Elizabeth I knew about vegans), what this trifle lacks in authenticity it makes up for in taste. Let me tell you, this summery dessert delivers. My family shared it last night for my mom’s birthday, and no one passed up seconds.

The main ingredients here are a vegan vanilla sponge cake, a bounty of fresh fruit, preserves, and a hand-whipped coconut milk cream.

A simple sponge cake makes the perfect vanilla base for all of these fruits. I baked one cake, cut it up, and voila:  two layers of my final trifle dish were already done.

1 1/3 cup of non-dairy milk mixed with 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar 

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Mix together the milk and vinegar and set aside for 5 minutes. Together, the milk will curdle a little bit, which will provide leavening for the whole mixture. This is how you get the sponge-cake quality without any eggs.

Mix together the wet ingredients, and then the dry. Combine. I cooked mine in a lightly-greased springform pan at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. You’ll know it’s done by a nice golden yellow color and when a knife stuck in the center comes out clean.

After the cake had cooled for a while, I cut it in half to spread on strawberry and raspberry preserves.

I also cooked and hand whipped the coconut cream with only a few simple ingredients: coconut milk, confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, and cornstarch (it serves as a thickening agent). Although it was rich and delicious, the texture was not quite perfect — I would use the word “drippy.” With that said, I think the coconut milk has a great deal of potential, and I’ll keep experimenting before I post the final recipe.

Assembling the dessert is the best part about the trifle. There are very few rules, especially when you’re breaking them all to begin with.

This particular fruit trifle was a whirlwind of improvisation. My layers went like this: cake, strawberries, peaches, coconut whipped cream…then more cake. Next went some raspberries, scattered with a bowl of mangoes and lemon juice, which were then topped with more raspberries and peaches. As I went, I liberally dolloped on cream.

Get the point? However you throw it all in, I guarantee this trifle will taste delicious. After all, it’s summer, and there’s no use wasting any time you could be enjoying your food.