Tipsy Parson Is an Unfussy, Easy Dessert That Deserves a Comeback
Fruit, cake, custard, and booze—what's not to like?
Sometimes there is nothing better than a long day of baking for a dinner party. The meditative nature of pie crust, your hands in the flour. Beating egg whites to fabulous clouds of meringue. Slathering cakes in thick swaths of homemade buttercream, whisking custards to velvety smoothness, whipping cream and watching your caramel turn to shimmering amber. The creating of a dessert that will hit the table worthy of a spotlight, and with all of your efforts obvious. Tipsy Parson is not that dessert.
Tipsy Parson is a magical combination of cake, custard, fruit and booze. It's related to the traditional English trifle but is much easier to make. And which is even better, the components can all be store-bought, so it only requires some imagination and assembly.
You can make Tipsy Parson in individual servings or one large dish. And while a lot of the traditional recipes call for lady fingers as the cake portion, you can also use pound cake or a purchased unfrosted Bundt cake. I don’t recommend angel food cakes for this because they don’t stand up to the moisture. Whatever base you plan to use, if not ladyfingers, cut into cubes for easy serving, and layer into your serving dish or dishes. Sprinkle with an adult beverage like sherry, madeira, marsala, port, cassis, or even whiskey or a sweet dessert wine. You don’t want your cake to be squishy, just moistened, and if you are using lady fingers, you want them to soften. Need to make it kid-friendly? Try a juice like white grape or white cranberry or pomegranate.
Then you want some seasonally appropriate fruit. Berries in season, stone fruits, tropicals like mango or pineapple or passionfruit. You can use one fruit or a mix. Cut the fruit up into small pieces and stir in a couple of tablespoons of sugar to get the juices flowing. Macerate for about ten to fifteen minutes before layering into the dish or dishes on top of the soaked cake.
Now you need custard or pudding. There is no shame in going Kozy Shack here: their large tubs of vanilla pudding are really good for this. But you can also make a boxed mix, or if you have a pudding or custard recipe you love, make that. Choose a flavor that will complement the cake and fruit, vanilla is traditional, but sometimes chocolate or butterscotch will work as well. Layer the custard on top of the fruit. If you are feeling super fancy, whip some cream to soft peaks and top with that. I’ve done combinations like date cake with cherries and madeira and vanilla custard, chocolate with Chambord and raspberries and chocolate custard, and gingerbread with sherry and mango and coconut custard. Once you know the technique, the combos are endles
Essentially you are going for two-parts soaked cake or ladyfingers to one-part fruit and one-part custard. The whipped cream, if you use it, is a garnish. And if you are really feeling yourself, make the cake and custard from scratch.