Easy Valentine’s Day dessert: Cheesecake Trifle with Rum Berry Sauce


A full month behind me and I am still finding myself brushing off it's invasive dust.

This past year has been an incredibly demanding one of change both professionally and – more profoundly – personally. A re-evaluation of my professional relevance was forced upon me and the very core of my creative spirit was cracked. I have had to fight hard to reconnect with the artist within despite the naysayers over my shoulder.


On a personal level, I've had to fight to come to terms with sudden loss and the pain that nearly a year later is still tethered securely around my heart. It's been a year where just surviving has been accomplishment enough. It's been difficult living with the huge amount of emotions, thoughts, images swirling, bumping, fighting with each other as they inch their way towards becoming voiced, realized, exorcised. I hope, though, that ultimately the result of all of this will be about growth. Even though I can't envision the growth part yet, I'm sure it will come. When I'm ready.


For now, it's all about forward motion.

Keep breathing. Keep believing. This has been my mantra as I navigate my new reality. So far, I'm doing OK. I've made plans and more than that, I've started to put some of them into play.

Whether it's cooking, writing, photography or jewelry designing, I'm ready to take back my creative life and start sharing my journey here again.

Hopefully, while in the process of finding my creative self, I'll start to live again.

Maybe even the kind of life Aunt Sally would be proud of.


Ani’s Cheesecake Trifle with Rum Berry Sauce
Cheesecake is one of my favorite desserts. It also takes a long time. This variation of cheesecake has been a go-to recipe since I created it in my late teens. The cheese portion of this cake doesn’t contain eggs so no baking in water baths needed and the cake part is from a box mix so it really is low-fuss. Normally, I present this as an entire sheet cake with the cheese spread an inch think over it. To make it more special and intimate, I like to dress it up for holiday dinner parties by presenting them in individual mini trifle cups and topping them with a simple berry sauce. 

Serves 8

For the cake: 

Prepare 1 box of white cake mix baking in a 9x13 inch pan according to the box instructions. Set aside to cool in pan.

For the cheese topping:

1 package (8 ounces), cream cheese, room temperature and cut into chunks
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tub (8 ounces) whipped cream (I use Cool Whip)

Place cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium high with the paddle attachment until smooth and lump-free. Pour in milk and add vanilla. Beat on medium for 1 minute. Stop and using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and pull up any cheese stuck to the bottom of the bowl. Beat on medium high for 2-3 minutes or until smooth and lump-free. Remove bowl from mixer. Gently fold in whipped cream with the rubber spatula, careful not to over mix as you’ll deflate the cream. Place in refrigerator while you make the sauce.

For the sauce:

2 cups frozen mixed berries
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons dark rum
2 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon cornstarch

Put berries in a strainer and rinse under cold water just long enough to remove any ice crystals. Place berries into a saucepan and add sugar. Boil, stirring occasionally, on medium heat until sugar melts and berries began to break down, about 3-5 minutes. Add zest and rum. Let simmer, stirring for 1 minute. While simmering, use a fork to whisk together the water and cornstarch in a small bowl. Add to simmering berries, lower heat and allow to thicken, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Note: Up to this point, everything can be made a day ahead of time with the cheese and berry sauce (once cooled) being kept in the refrigerator until 15 minutes before you’re ready to assemble.

To assemble:

Place one to two tablespoons of sauce in the bottom of a trifle cup. Cut the cake into small squares and pack a single layer of it in the bottom of the cup over the sauce. Drizzle a tablespoon or two of sauce over the cake. Next, add cheese topping to just below the rim. Repeat the steps for remaining cups. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Right before serving, drizzle more berry sauce over the tops.



Until next time...