This Berry Pudding Is the Perfect Midsummer Dessert

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This lighter, simpler version of a trifle is among the best ways to showcase summer berries. Cooking them into a quick compote brings out their sweetness and natural juices, which soak every bite of the cake. (The cake is easy to vary, too: Pound cake is dense enough to hold its own, and any of its variations work well here, but you can substitute any plain cake, or even thick slices of bread with crusts removed.)

Summer Berry Pudding
Makes: 4 to 6 servings
Time: 20 minutes, plus time to chill

3 pounds fresh or frozen raspberries
1/2 cup sugar, or to taste
1 recipe Classic Pound Cake (or 2 pounds of store-bought pound cake)
Lightly sweetened whipped cream, sour cream, or creme fraîche, for serving

1. Rinse the berries, then combine in a saucepan with the sugar and 1/4 cup water. Cook gently, stirring occasionally, just until the berries soften and yield their liquid, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool.

2. Meanwhile, cut the pound cake into roughly 1/2-inch-thick slices. Line a medium bowl with just over half the slices of pound cake so they come about 4 inches up the sides of the bowl; pack the slices so they leave no (significant) gaps. When the berries are cool, drain them, reserving the liquid. Spoon the berries on top of the pound cake and drizzle with about half of the liquid.

3. Cover with the remaining slices of pound cake, again packing them close together. Drizzle with all of the remaining juice from the berries.

4. Find a plate that will just fit into the bowl and press it down on top of the pudding. Weight it with a few cans (or whatever you can find that will do the trick) and refrigerate overnight.

5. To serve, run a knife around the edge of the pudding and invert onto a plate and cut slices, or just scoop servings right from the bowl.

Classic Pound Cake
Makes: At least 8 servings
Time: About 1 1/2 hours

Pound cake usually calls for a pound each of butter, flour, sugar, and eggs. I’m forsaking tradition and cutting the recipe by roughly half to fit into a manageable-size loaf pan instead. This simple cake is a showcase for butter, so go ahead and splurge on something lovely.

2 sticks butter, softened, plus more for greasing
2 cups cake or all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
5 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

2. Use an electric mixer to cream the butter in a large bowl until it’s smooth. Add 3/4 cup of the sugar and beat until it’s well blended, then add the remaining sugar; beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla and beat until blended.

3. Stir in the dry ingredients by hand just until the mixture is smooth and everything is incorporated; don’t mix it too much and don’t use the electric mixer.

4. Transfer the batter to the loaf pan and smooth out the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let the cake rest in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes before gently running a knife around the edges and removing the cake from the pan. Set upright on a rack to finish cooling. Serve warm or at room temperature. When completely cool, store at room temperature wrapped in plastic for 3 days.

Mark Bittman is the author of How to Cook Everything.

Recipe: Berry Pudding Is the Perfect Midsummer Dessert