Layers of pound cake, port-steeped prunes, mascarpone whipped cream, and crunchy toasted almonds served in a glass trifle bowl: It’s a beautiful, easy, and delicious dessert. And festive!

Special equipment: You’ll need a 3-quart (roughly 8 inch in diameter) trifle dish. If you don’t have one, use any 3-quart dish. Or prepare individual servings by laying a slice of pound cake on a plate, then topping it with prunes, whipped cream, and almonds.

Game plan: The prunes can be made up to a week in advance. The pound cake can be made a day in advance. You can also make this with sponge cake or chiffon cake. In a pinch, store-bought cake or ladyfingers will do. The day of, prepare the mascarpone whipped cream and refrigerate until ready to use. Just before serving, layer the pound cake, prunes, whipped cream, and almonds in a trifle dish.

This recipe was featured as part of our story on The Last Kodachrome Christmas.

  • Yields: 8 servings
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Total: 2 hrs, plus cake baking/cooling time

Ingredients (13)

For the prunes:

  • 60 pitted prunes (about 18 ounces)
  • 2 1/4 cups dry red wine
  • 1 1/2 cups tawny port
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped, seeds and pod reserved
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt

To assemble:

  • 1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 1 medium lemon
  • 1 Amaretto Pound Cake (made with cake flour if possible, and without the glaze or almonds)
  • 3/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted


For the prunes:

  1. Place all ingredients in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to medium low and keep the mixture at a gentle boil until the liquid is syrupy and reduced by almost half, about 45 minutes. Let cool at least 1 hour. Discard the cinnamon sticks and vanilla pod.

To assemble:

  1. Place the cream and mascarpone in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk on low speed until just incorporated. Increase the speed to high, add the sugar and lemon zest, and whisk until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes.
  2. Drain the cooled prunes through a colander set over a large bowl, gently stirring to let the syrup drain through. Roughly chop the prunes in batches (chopping all of the prunes at once will leave a syrupy mess on the cutting board). Return the chopped prunes and any syrup on the board to the bowl of syrup; set aside.
  3. Thinly slice off the pound cake ends and discard. Cut the remaining cake crosswise into 8 (roughly 1-inch-thick) slices. Lay 4 of the slices flat in a 3-quart trifle dish, trimming them as needed to fill any gaps in the bottom of the dish for an even layer.
  4. Pour half of the prunes and syrup evenly over the layer of pound cake. Top with half of the whipped cream, spreading it to the edges of the dish in an even layer. Evenly sprinkle half of the almonds over the whipped cream. Repeat, layering the remaining pound cake, prunes, whipped cream, and almonds. Serve immediately.