Traditional English Trifle

English trifle

Elaine Lemm

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Chill Time: 60 mins
Total: 80 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
265 Calories
7g Fat
30g Carbs
21g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 265
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 7g 9%
Saturated Fat 4g 20%
Cholesterol 92mg 31%
Sodium 184mg 8%
Total Carbohydrate 30g 11%
Dietary Fiber 2g 9%
Protein 21g
Calcium 125mg 10%
*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.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

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 often made with alcohol, some with jelly and some not, while the fruit is a must-have for some and a turn-off to others.

Essentially, an English trifle needs sponge fingers or pound cake, perhaps soaked in sherry but this is optional only if children are not involved, Jelly (Jello in the US), 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 might be more appealing to children and many adults love it too. as it soaks into the cake and gives it more texture. 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 sponge fingers
  • or
  • 6 ounces sponge cake (or pound cake; halved horizontally and cut into thick slices)
  • 2 cups of jelly or Jello made to packet instructions (or make your own)
  • 2 cups fresh raspberries or strawberries (do not use frozen)
  • 2 cups/ thick homemade custard (or canned)
  • 2 cups whipped cream (softly whipped)
  • Garnish: whole raspberries or strawberries
  • Garnish: toasted flaked almonds or grated chocolate (optional)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    English trifle ingredients

    Elaine Lemm

  2. Line the bottom of the trifle bowl or glasses with the sponge fingers or cake in a nice even layer.If you want to use sherry now is the time, 2 tablespoons should more than enough, leave to soak for 5 minutes.

    line the bowl with sponge fingers or cake

    Elaine Lemm

  3. Cover the fingers with a thick layer of raspberries or strawberries. Slowly and gently pour over one-third of the liquid jelly and put into the fridge - doing this will set the sponge and fruit into the bottom of the bowl. Once this layer is set, pour over the remaining jelly and leave to set

    add a layer of fruit

    Elaine Lemm

  4. Once set, spoon a thick layer of custard on top.

    custard forifler an English t

    Elaine Lemm

  5. Finish with a thick layer of whipped cream either spooned over or piped using a piping bag.

    Whipped cream for English trifle

    Elaine Lemm

  6. The trifle should look like this and then all it needed is decorating as you wish, with fresh fruit, maybe almonds or chocolate, that is up to you.

    English trifle layers

    Elaine Lemm

  7. Serve and enjoy!

    Serve the English trifle

    Elaine Lemm


  • If you don't have sponge cake, you can use 6 ounces/160 g packages trifle sponges or sponge fingers instead.
  • 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 jelly, 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.

Recipe Variations

This traditional British trifle recipe is just the beginning, and you can take it anywhere you like.