|Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 7g||9%|
|Saturated Fat 4g||20%|
|Total Carbohydrate 30g||11%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||9%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|
An English trifle is a quintessential dessert that has graced British tables for more than four centuries. This decadent-looking treat is simply luscious and when made with alcohol, it's called a "tipsy cake." Trifle variations abound—some with jelly and some not, while the fruit is a must-have for some and a turn-off to others.
Essentially, a trifle needs a sponge cake soaked in sherry (for adults) or fruit juice (for a nonalcoholic version), a thick layer of creamy custard, and a deep layer of lightly whipped fresh cream. The rest is all about personal preference.
A trifle made with jelly (the U.K. name for gelatin) might be more appealing to children (leave out the sherry, too). If you prefer a trifle without jelly, simply proceed without it—this will be quicker to make because it doesn't need to set up in the fridge. Both are equally delicious.
A footed trifle bowl is traditional and makes an elegant presentation for the famous British dessert. If you don't have one, make it in any large glass dish, or assemble it in individual glasses.
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- 6 ounces/160 g sponge cake (or pound cake; halved and cut into thick slices)
- 3 tablespoons sweet sherry
- 1/2 cup/135 g unflavored English gelatin (see the kitchen notes)
- 10 ounces/300 g fresh strawberries (or raspberries; if frozen, defrosted)
- 2 cups/500 mL thick homemade custard (or canned)
- 2 cups/500 mL whipping cream (softly whipped)
- Garnish: sliced strawberries or whole raspberries
- Garnish: toasted flaked almonds
Gather the ingredients.
Line the bottom of the trifle bowl or glasses with the cake slices. Sprinkle with the sherry and leave to soak for 5 minutes.
If using fresh strawberries, slice thickly (reserve a few for decoration), if using previously frozen, leave whole. Lay the fruit evenly over the cake. Press down lightly with a fork to release the juices.
Place the jelly slab into a microwavable measuring cup and cover with 3.4 ounces/100 mL cold water and heat for 1 minute in a 750-watt microwave. Stir well and add enough additional cold water to make 1 pint/570 mL. Pour this liquid gelatin over the fruit and sponge to cover. Place the dish into the refrigerator and leave until the gelatin is set.
Once set, spoon a thick layer of custard on top.
Finish with a thick layer of whipped cream either spooned over or piped using a piping bag.
Decorate with strawberry slices or raspberries and toasted flaked almonds, if using.
Serve and enjoy!
- If you don't have sponge cake, you can use 6 ounces/160 g packages trifle sponges or sponge fingers instead.
- Jelly in the UK is gelatin. 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 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.
- If you have some trifle leftover, cover the dish and store it in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to 3 days. The sponge will soak up the layers and it will not look as beautiful, but it will remain delicious.
Can a Trifle Be Made in Advance?
Over time, a trifle will settle to the bottom and lose its layers, so you don't want to make it too early. If using gelatin, prepare the bottom layers with enough time for it to set up. You can also prepare all of the ingredients and have them ready in the refrigerator. It's generally best to finish assembling a trifle no more than an hour in advance.
This traditional British trifle recipe is just the beginning, and you can take it anywhere you like.
- Some people add multiple layers of fruit and custard.
- Though berries tend to be preferred, switch to any seasonal fruit.
- Brandy, Madeira, or a sweet white wine can replace the sherry.
- Any flavor of fruit juice can be used to soak the cake; choose one that complements the strawberries or fruit of your choice.
- Switch to whiskey and raspberries for a Scottish tipsy laird trifle.
- Explore other trifle recipes such as a decadent chocolate trifle, a rum-infused panettone trifle featuring the Italian fruitcake, or enjoy the seasonal taste of a pumpkin and gingerbread trifle.
- The trifle is so popular that other desserts have been adapted to this form. For instance, there's a red velvet trifle, a banana split trifle, and a black forest brownie trifle that happens to be gluten-free.
Why Is It Called a Trifle?
The word "trifle" is defined as "a thing of little value or importance." No one really knows why this dessert took on that name: Maybe it's because a variety of ingredients seem to be tossed in a bowl. Like its layered counterpart, the fool, it is a fun and whimsical dessert with a rich history that dates to the late 1500s. It evolved over the centuries and gained great fame, appearing everywhere from royal banquet tables to humble family dinners, and is a favorite Christmas dessert. Though its origin is unclear, the trifle is definitely special, sophisticated, and a joy to share.