The Perfect Traditional English Trifle Recipe

Traditional English Trifle
The Spruce
  • 40 mins
  • Prep: 20 mins,
  • Cook: 20 mins
  • Yield: 8 Portions (8 Servings)
Ratings (159)

An English trifle is a quintessential pudding that has graced British tables for more than four centuries. The blousey looking, decadent, rich dessert is simply luscious. There are so many variations in the traditional recipe; some will boast jelly in their trifle, some not; fruit is a must-have for some, for others, no way. This recipe is one that we have been making for many years.

Essentially a trifle needs a sponge soaked (if for adults) in sherry, a thick layer of creamy custard and a deep layer of lightly whipped fresh cream. The rest is all about personal preference.

Our favorite trifle recipe is made with jelly as it is even more appealing to children though if so, do leave out the sherry. If you prefer a trifle without jelly, simply omit and proceed without, this will be quicker to make as it will not require setting in the fridge.

You choose, they are all delicious.

Make note that when making this dessert, the trifle can be made in one large glass dish or into individual glasses.

What You'll Need

  • 6 oz. /160 g. Madeira, sponge or pound cake (halved and cut into thick slices)* 
  • 3 tbsp. sweet Sherry
  • 1/2 cup /135 g. jelly block (made up to 1 pint / 570 mL) **
  • 10 oz. /300 g. fresh strawberries (or raspberries; if frozen, defrost)
  • 2 cups / 500 mL thick homemade custard (or canned)
  • 2 cups / 500 mL whipping cream (softly whipped)

How to Make It

  1. Line the bottom of the dish or glasses with the cake slices or trifle sponges. Sprinkle with the sherry and leave to soak for 5 minutes.
  2. If using fresh strawberries, slice thickly (reserve a few for decoration), if using previously frozen leave whole. Otherwise, lay the fruit evenly over the cake. Press lightly with a fork to release the juices.
  3. Pour over the liquid jelly making sure it covers the sponge. Place the dish into the refrigerator and leave until the jelly is set.
  1. Once set, spoon over the custard, again in a thick layer.
  2. Finally, finish with a thick layer of whipped cream either spooned over or piped using a piping bag.
  3. Decorate with strawberry slices or raspberries and toasted, flaked, almonds if using. Omit the sherry if serving to children.

Kitchen Notes on Making British Jelly

* If you don't have Madeira sponge cake, you can use 6 ounces (160 grams) packages trifle sponges or sponge fingers instead.

**Jelly in the UK is Jello. The jelly can be bought in tablet form and made up following the packet instructions. A 135 g. slab will make 1 pint (570 mL)  of liquid jelly. Place the jelly slab into in a microwavable jug, cover with 100 mL cold water and heat for 1 minute in a 750 watt microwave. Stir well and make up to 1 pint (570 mL) with cold water and use in the recipe as above.

Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
Calories 265
Total Fat 7 g
Saturated Fat 4 g
Unsaturated Fat 1 g
Cholesterol 92 mg
Sodium 184 mg
Carbohydrates 30 g
Dietary Fiber 2 g
Protein 21 g
(The nutrition information on our recipes is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. Individual results may vary.)