Traditional English Trifle

Traditional English Trifle
The Spruce
  • Total: 40 mins
  • Prep: 20 mins
  • Cook: 20 mins
  • Yield: 8 Portions (8 Servings)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
265 Calories
7g Fat
30g Carbs
21g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8 Portions (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 pudding that has graced British tables for more than four centuries. The blousey looking, decadent 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.

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.

A trifle made with jelly may 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 into individual glasses.


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  • 6 ounces/160 g sponge or pound cake (halved and cut into thick slices)
  • 3 tablespoons sweet Sherry
  • 1/2 cup /135 g jelly block (made up to 1 pint / 570 mL)
  • 10 ounces/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)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    English trifle ingredients
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  2. 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.

    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. Otherwise, lay the fruit evenly over the cake. Press lightly with a fork to release the juices.

    Add fruit evenly over cake slices
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  4. Pour over the liquid jelly making sure it covers the sponge. Place the dish into the refrigerator and leave until the jelly 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. Omit the sherry if serving to children.

    Finished English trifle
     The Spruce
  8. Serve and enjoy!

Kitchen Notes

  • If you don't have Madeira sponge cake, you can use 6 ounces/160 g 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.