Thomas Calhoun’s Rich Chocolate Trifle

If you’re looking to up your dessert game this Valentine’s Day, take a few tips and try out this exclusive recipe from Lenoir Pastry Chef, Thomas Calhoun. And if you want to sample even more of Calhoun’s confections, you can still snag an All In Pass for access to Sips & Sweets.

Thomas Calhoun
Pastry Chef, Lenoir

You recently joined the culinary team at Lenoir. Can you tell us a little about your dessert menu and how you designed it?

I’m developing the menu right now to be linear with Lenoir’s concept, hot weather food. It’s what drew me to Lenoir because I love cooking and baking with spices. As far as the desserts, I’ve been putting a lot of focus on seasonality. The sweet potatoes from Boggy Creek Farm are delicious and very sweet right now, so I’m using them in a pot de crème. We have three desserts on the menu: a chocolate, fruit or vegetable, plus a cheese plate. The cheese plate is a composed dish which is really fun to play with. It’s not your usual cheese with accoutrements.

What is the most memorable dessert you’ve ever eaten?

Every Thanksgiving my grandmother would make cherry pie and buttermilk ice cream. I don’t know what she did to make it so incredible, but I still think about that quite frequently. She made it all from scratch and it tasted the same every time. It was a huge inspiration for me to become a pastry chef.

What is your personal can’t-say-no on a dessert menu?

Fried bread. I can’t seem to ever have enough. Something about deep fat frying sweet dough—It’s the ultimate sugar craving for me!

Have you ever had a recipe (whether experimenting or not) go completely wrong, but still managed to salvage it?

Yes! Sometimes things just go wrong, like if you make a mistake or the pilot light on the oven goes out. But part of being a chef is being able to think quickly on how to save it so that you can still use it. We are trained early on to try not to be wasteful. I recently was making brownies at my house for my girlfriend and one thing led to another, and we had some tasty chocolate bars, haha!

Any advice for someone trying to impress their special someone with homemade sweets this Valentine’s Day?

Keep it simple! Just make sure it tastes good, even if it’s only a few components. If it doesn’t turn out the way you want it to, take it to the next level and blend it with ice cream and add some booze!

Rich Chocolate Trifle

Chocolate Cake


  • 3/4c blended oil
  • 1c milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1t vanilla extract
  • 2c cake flour
  • 3T cocoa powder
  • 1t baking powder
  • 1t baking soda
  • 1/2t Salt


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Combine the wet ingredients in a bowl and whisk together.
  3. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl and mix evenly.
  4. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, then pour into a sprayed and parchment lined 8”x8” cake pan.
  5. Bake until the edges are set and a knife comes out clean.

Chocolate Pudding


  • 1c cream
  • 2T sugar
  • 1/4t vanilla extract
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 2T sugar
  • 1c dark chocolate, preferably Valrhona 61%
  • pinch of salt


  1. Combine cream and the first portion of sugar, and heat on medium.
  2. While the cream is heating up, whisk together the second portion of sugar and the egg yolks.
  3. Slowly stream the warm cream into the yolk mixture and pour back into the pot.
  4. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring with a spatula.
  5. Once the mixture starts to thicken, pour over the chocolate and stir.
  6. Let the mixture cool at room temperature while stirring.

Verjus Raisins


  • 1c verjus
  • 1/2c sugar
  • 1/2c golden raisins


  1. Bring the verjus and sugar to a simmer in a small sauce pot, then add raisins.
  2. Calmly simmer the raisins until plump.
  3. Strain and reserve syrup and set raisins aside to cool.

Whipped Cream


  • 1c heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2c sugar


  1. Whisk the cream and sugar together until soft peaks.
  2. Store in the fridge in a bowl.

Honey Crumble


  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • 1/2c honey
  • 2T sugar
  • 1 1/2c All-Purpose Flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4t baking powder


  1. Combine honey, sugar, and butter with a spatula.
  2. Work the mixture into the flour, salt, and baking powder.
  3. With your hands, bring together and break into clumps onto a baking sheet.
  4. Place in fridge to firm up for half an hour.
  5. Preheat oven while the crumble is setting up.
  6. Bake at 325, until golden brown.

Preparation of Rich Chocolate Trifle

  1. Cut the cake into circles with a cookie cutter.
  2. Alternate layers in a glass or a bowl with the chocolate cake soaked in the verjus syrup, pudding, crumble and raisins.
  3. Top with raisins and honey crumble.
  4. Finish with a dollop of whipped cream, garnished with a little chili flake.
  5. Serve immediately or chill for up to 3 hours.