Black Forest Brownie Trifles

I’ll tell you up front: this isn’t a story about chicken wings. When we were in college, TK’s American Cafe, now long gone, was a sports bar in the ash world of lower New Haven, near the entrance to I-95. They sold beer and chicken wings that were scrawny but good. Some would say very good. They came in at least two dozen flavors, including “Jamaican Jerk” and “Pterodactyl.” And on Tuesday nights, they cost just ten cents apiece. On your birthday, you were entitled to as many free wings as your years, as well as a bottle of $2 “champagne” that accounted for at least 2/3 of the day-after hangover.

Our group of friends would leave the safety of our embowered college campus and start walking down the hill toward downtown in a loose knot of boys and girls, almost all of us at least twenty-one. We were not a particularly sporty gang. We ran the literary magazine and did debate team and art projects and web sites. On Tuedays, though, we rolled into that towny dive as if we owned the night. Each table boasted a tiny TV, ostensibly for watching the game, possibly The Big Game; instead, we would change the channel to History or Charlie Rose. We were loud and skinny and funny and drunk. Malcolm was always teasing me. We went for my birthday. We went for his. One year we all wore “Malcolm” masks and sang “99 Luftballons” in his honor. On another occasion, we went home to our dorm and ran past security up to the roof of the former psychiatric facility and proceeded to throw off pressboard furniture and other disposable items. This act was cathartic and out of character.

This year promises to be a somewhat quieter birthday. Dinner and a big, explody movie. A slow drive around by ourselves, and sneaking pulls from a flask of whiskey in the darkened theater. A night out, just for us. We’ve been together for at least a dozen birthdays. Year after year, so many things have changed, won’t stop moving, but our love, this friendship that started fast and steady and grew into family following romance, has remained the same. It is the best thing in my life. He is a marvel to me, still. Wish him a happy birthday, if you get the chance. And make these trifles, because they are awesome, and based on his favorite birthday cake.

Black Forest Brownie Trifles
Serves 4 [sc:ziplist]


For the brownies:

  •  1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into large pieces
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons coffee
  • 1 2/3 cup granulates sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the cherry filling:

  • 2 cups fresh cherries, pitted
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

For the whipped cream:

  • 8 oz mascarpone cheese
  • 2/3 cup cold heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar


For the brownies:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.

Combine butter, cocoa powder and coffee in a small bowl and place over a pot of simmering water. Stir until melted. Remove from the heat.

In a large bowl whisk together sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Slowly pour in the liquid chocolate. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan. Bake 18-25 minutes. Let brownies cool completely before turning them out of the pan. Chop into smallish squares.

For the cherry filling:

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine cherries and orange juice and cook down, about 5 minutes. Stir in cornstarch, turn down the heat and cook mixture another 5 minutes. Cool cherry filling in the refrigerator, at least 1 hour.

For the whipped cream:

Using an electric mixer, whisk together mascarpone, whipping cream, and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form.

Putting together the trifles:

In a large wine glass or jam jar, layer brownie pieces, cherry filling, and mascarpone whipped cream. Top with a cherry. Pop them in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.

Black Forest Brownie Trifles

Jillian Bedell

Jillian Bedell is a writer and mother living in a farmhouse in Cushing, Maine. She is very good at talking about herself in the third person. She is co-author of Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.