It’s difficult not to be swept up in the romance of Autumn; quinces, pumpkins, leaves, sunsets and the crackling embers of a warming fire all synchronised in a symphony of orange, red and gold. Thoughts turn from picnics and beach outings to cosier, warmer things, taking advantage of the waning bounty from the garden and preparing ourselves for the winter chill ahead.
This seasonal trifle, perfect for Mother’s Day, takes the essence of Autumn and layers it in a celebration of not only flavour, but texture and colour too. Spongey rolls of cake concealing swirls of apricot jam, quinces simmered gently with lemon juice until tender and zingy, thick vanilla custard and lashings of maple syrup-spiked cream make every mouthful of this indulgent dessert an adventure.
The secret, as with all our favourite desserts, is to utilise the best quality ingredients you can find. Those picture-perfect in-season quinces deserve to be paired with the best apricot jam (hand-made in Australia from Australian apricots), the highest quality vanilla beans and proper A-grade maple syrup.
To make the sponge (‘Swiss’) rolls, line two 24 x 30cm slice trays with baking paper, making sure to cover the sides as well as the base. Preheat oven to 170C.
Beat the egg yolks, caster sugar and vanilla extract together in a stand mixer on high until pale and until no sugar grains are visible (about 3 minutes). Transfer the mix to another bowl and clean the stand mixer bowl and whisk attachment well.
Beat the egg whites on high until very stiff. Fold a large spoonful of the egg whites into the egg yolks to loosen the mix, then transfer all of the egg yolk mix back into the egg whites. Fold gently, sifting the flour into the bowl half-way through, and keep folding until well combined.
Divide the mix evenly between the two trays (or use one tray for two consecutive batches), and bake for 15 minutes.
Remove trays from oven and dust the tops of the sponge with icing sugar. Working with one tray at a time, cover with a clean, thin tea towel, then a wooden board, and invert the tray. Carefully remove the tray (it will still be hot) and peel away the baking paper. Gently roll the tea towel and sponge as tightly as possible without breaking it, and leave it wrapped in the towel for 15 minutes. This will ‘train’ the sponge to roll up once cooled and filled, and prevent cracking.
Slowly unroll the sponge, and leave to cool completely. Then spread each sponge with half the jam, leaving a 2cm gap at all edges but the one at the start of the roll. Roll again slowly, cut into 2cm-thick slices and place them upright in concentric circles inside the trifle bowl until the entire base of the bowl is covered with upright slices of cake.
Place the quinces with the sugar and lemon juice into a large saucepan, and add just enough water to cover. Cut a circle of baking paper and lay it over the fruit, to help keep it below the water line (this is known as a ‘cartouche’).
Bring to a light simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until just tender. Remove from heat and leave to cool in the syrup.
Cut quince quarters into thinner slices and layer over the sponge rolls, spooning over a little of the syrup to moisten the cake.
To make the custard, warm the milk, the seeds scraped from the vanilla pods and the pods themselves over a low-medium heat along with half the caster sugar (1/4 cup) until just beginning to simmer. Remove the pan from the heat before the milk starts to boil.
In a seperate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, corn flour and the remaining caster sugar (1/4 cup). While whisking, pour roughly half a cup of the hot vanilla-infused milk into the egg yolk mix (this will help temper the mix and prevent the eggs from scrambling), then pour the egg yolk mix into the pan of milk. Whisk well over a low heat for about 2 minutes until mix starts to thicken, then quickly remove from heat. Extract the vanilla pods and discard. Leave the mix to cool a little and thicken for about 30 minutes.
Gently pour or spoon the (still slightly warm) custard over the quinces, then refrigerate the bowl to set everything.
Combine the cream and maple syrup and beat together until thick with a whisk, a hand mixer or a stand mixer. Spoon the cream over the custard, pushing it gently to the edges of the bowl. Drizzle over a little extra maple syrup or dust with freeze-dried maple flakes, and serve.