Chefs' Recipes

Peter Gilmore's quince, pecan and crème caramel trifle with Gretchen's honey cream

A showstopping dessert from the Quay and Bennelong executive chef.

By Peter Gilmore
  • 1 hr 30 mins preparation
  • 4 hrs 40 mins cooking plus resting, cooling, chilling
  • Serves 8 - 10
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Quince, pecan and crème caramel trifle with Gretchen's honey cream
"A centrepiece dessert that you serve to your guests at the table is a wonderful gesture of hospitality and generosity," says Gilmore. "Trifle is a classic and served in a beautiful glass bowl it gives the lunch a sense of occasion." This recipe calls for eight individual metal pudding moulds for making the crème caramels, the custard element in this trifle. Start a day ahead to prepare the crèmes and the quince and jelly, and to soak the currants. The honey cream is named for the late Gretchen Wheen, a well-known beekeeper who used to own the farm.


  • 50 gm couverture white chocolate (such as Callebaut or Valrhona), cut into 4 pieces
  • 150 gm (1¼ cups) pecans
  • 50 gm currants, soaked in 150ml Pedro Ximénez sherry or Port overnight
Crème caramel
  • Grapeseed oil, for brushing
  • 380 gm (⅔ cup) caster sugar
  • 180 gm egg yolks (about 10 yolks)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 litre (4 cups) milk
Poached quince and jelly
  • 150 gm caster sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
  • 2 large quince
  • 2 titanium-strength gelatine leaves, softened in cold water for 3 minutes
Sponge cake
  • 150 gm caster sugar (2/3 cup)
  • 6 eggs
  • 150 gm plain flour, sieved (1 cup)
Gretchen’s honey cream
  • 375 ml pouring cream (1½ cups)
  • 1½ tbsp honey, such as Australian bush honey or thyme-flower honey


  • 1
    For crème caramel, preheat oven to 160C and lightly oil eight 220ml metal pudding moulds. Stir 200gm sugar with 100ml water in a saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves, then cook without stirring until dark golden (6-8 minutes). Pour enough caramel into each mould to just cover the base and stand until set (10-15 minutes). Whisk yolks, eggs, and remaining sugar in a bowl until just pale (1-2 minutes). Meanwhile, bring milk close to boiling in a saucepan over medium-high heat, then, while whisking, pour milk onto eggs and sugar and whisk to combine. Strain mixture through a fine sieve into a jug. Place moulds in a deep roasting pan lined with a tea towel (to prevent moulds sliding), divide custard evenly among moulds, then fill pan with hot water to come halfway up the sides of moulds. Cover with foil and bake until caramels are set and barely wobble in the centre when gently shaken (40 minutes to 1 hour). Remove from oven and leave in the water bath to cool for 10 minutes. Refrigerate overnight to chill. Dip moulds in hot water, then turn out and cut each into quarters.
  • 2
    For poached quince and jelly, whisk sugar, vanilla bean and seeds, and 500ml water in a flameproof casserole and bring to a simmer, stirring until sugar dissolves. Meanwhile, peel quince, cut in half, add to casserole, cover and poach in oven until tender and pink (2-3 hours). Remove quince from syrup, cover and refrigerate until required. Bring 200ml syrup (discard remainder) and 200ml water to the boil in a saucepan, squeeze excess water from gelatine and, off the heat, stir into syrup until dissolved. Strain syrup into a 500ml container and refrigerate until set (2-3 hours).
  • 3
    Meanwhile, for sponge cake, preheat oven to 160C and line a 10cm-deep, 23cm-square cake tin with baking paper. Whisk sugar and eggs in an electric mixer until thick and pale with a fine, firm foam (8-9 minutes). Sift in flour and fold to combine, then pour into prepared tin, spreading evenly. Bake until a skewer inserted withdraws with dry crumbs (20-25 minutes). Turn sponge out onto a rack to cool (20-30 minutes). Cake is best made on the day, but can be made a day ahead and wrapped in plastic wrap to keep fresh.
  • 4
    Increase oven to 170C. Bake white chocolate pieces on an oven tray lined with baking or a silicone oven tray until chocolate is light caramel in colour (6-8 minutes). Cool completely, place in an airtight container, and refrigerate until required.
  • 5
    Roast pecans on an oven tray until crisp (7-8 minutes). Set aside to cool, then break with your hands, leaving some whole to decorate the top.
  • 6
    For honey cream, whisk cream and honey in a bowl until soft peaks form.
  • 7
    Core and thickly slice the quince, and cut or tear the sponge into 5cm pieces. To assemble the trifle, layer a 5-litre trifle bowl with half of the following: pieces of sponge, currants and soaking liquid, quince jelly, crème caramel, sliced quince, crumbled pecans and honey cream. Repeat with remaining ingredients, then cover trifle and refrigerate to chill and set (2-3 hours).
  • 8
    To serve, coarsely grate caramelised white chocolate over the top and garnish with pecans.


Drink Suggestion: 2010 Crawford River "Nektar" Henty, Vic, or 2012 Lowe Botrytis Sémillon, Mudgee, NSW. (Drink suggestion by Russ Mills & Amanda Yallop.*