Traditional English Trifle

Individual portions of traditional English trifle in stemmed portions with sliced strawberries and raspberries on top
Traditional English Trifle. The Spruce
  • Total: 40 mins
  • Prep: 20 mins
  • Cook: 20 mins
  • Yield: 8 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
265 Calories
7g Fat
30g Carbs
21g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8 servings
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. Variations abound—some with jelly and some not, while fruit is a must-have for some and a turn-off to others.

Essentially, a trifle needs a sponge soaked in sherry (for adults) or fruit juice (for teetotalers or children), 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; 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. Both are equally delicious.

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

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Ingredients

  • 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
  • Optional: toasted flaked almonds

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    English trifle ingredients
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  2. Line the bottom of the trifle bowl or glasses with the cake slices or trifle sponges. Sprinkle with the sherry and leave to soak for 5 minutes.

    Line the bottle of glass or dish with cake slices
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  3. 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.

    Add fruit evenly over cake slices
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  4. 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.

    Pour liquid jelly over fruit slices and cake. Refrigerate
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  5. Once set, spoon over the custard, again in a thick layer.

    Add custard on top of fruit slices and cake
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  6. Finally, finish with a thick layer of whipped cream either spooned over or piped using a piping bag.

    Add whipped cream over custard
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  7. Decorate with strawberry slices or raspberries and toasted flaked almonds if using.

    Finished English trifle
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  8. Serve and enjoy!

Kitchen Notes

  • 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.