This recipe might look a little complicated but in fact it's incredibly easy. If you're very short of time use shop-bought brownies, a carton of readymade custard that you stir the melted chocolate into and a couple of posh jars of cherries in kirsch. Whatever way you decide to do it always use the best quality dark chocolate you can afford. It's best to leave the final part of the assembly to the last minute for the most spectacular impact.

Ingredients

  • For the Brownies:
  • 225g dark chocolate, broken into squares
  • 225g butter
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • For the Chocolate Custard:
  • 600ml cream
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g dark chocolate, broken into squares
  • For the Cherry Syrup:
  • 3 x 400g can black cherries in syrup
  • 2 tblsp kirsch or brandy
  • For the Cream Topping:
  • 300ml cream
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tblsp sifted icing sugar
  • 200ml tub crème fraîche
  • For the Decoration:
  • Handful edible gold stars
  • Good sprinkling edible gold sprinkles
  • 100g dark chocolate, in large thick shavings
  • 100g white chocolate, in large thick shavings
  • 100g fresh cherries (optional)

Method

  • Preheat oven to 180C (350F) Gas Mark 4.
  • To make the brownies, line a 22 x 30cm baking tin with baking parchment. Place the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl does not touch the water. Stir constantly until melted and smooth.
  • With a hand-held electric mixer, whisk the sugar and eggs together for 2-3 minutes until pale and fluffy. Slowly add the melted chocolate and butter then add the vanilla extract and continue to whisk until thickened. Lastly, sift in the flour and baking powder and fold in gently.
  • Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the middle shelf of the oven for 25 minutes until the top is firm and the cake has come away slightly from the sides of the tin. Leave to cool.
  • To make the chocolate custard, pour the cream into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Beat together the sugar, egg yolks and vanilla extract. Pour over two tablespoons of the cream into the egg yolk mixture, whisking to combine, then add back into the rest of the cream. Lower the heat and cook for a few minutes, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon until the custard coats the back of a spoon.
  • Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in the microwave on high for 1 minute or do it in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Remove the thickened custard from the heat and stir in the melted chocolate. Cover with cling film and leave to cool.
  • To make the cherry sauce, drain the cherries, reserving the liquid, then set aside. Place the liquid in a pan with the kirsch or brandy and simmer for about 5 minutes or until syrupy - it should be about 100ml in total. Stir in the cherries and leave to cool.
  • Cut the brownies into small squares and use to cover the base of a trifle bowl. Spoon over the cherries along with their syrup. Spoon over the chocolate custard, then cover with cling film and chill while you finish making the topping.
  • Lightly whip the cream with the vanilla extract and icing sugar until soft peaks form, then gently fold in the crème fraîche. Cover with cling film and chill until you are ready to assemble.
  • To serve, pile large dollops of the cream mixture on top of the custard and decorate with the gold starts, sprinkles, chocolate shavings and some fresh cherries, if you like.