Looking for a quick, easy and elegant dessert?  An English Trifle is set to impress!  This dessert is great for tea time or for after dinner.  You can make it in a large trifle dish or in individual servings.  Ok, you say.  You like the idea but what exactly is trifle?

Here’s the scoop:

Trifle is a dessert dish made from thick custard, fruit, sponge cake, fruit juice or gelatin, and whipped cream. These ingredients are usually arranged in alternating layers. The earliest known use of the name trifle was for a thick cream flavoured with sugar, ginger and rosewater, the recipe for which was published in England, 1596, in a book called “The good huswife’s Jewell” by Thomas Dawson.  Sixty years later milk was added and custard was poured over alcohol soaked bread to “update” this classic dessert.

Research indicates trifle evolved from a similar dessert known as a fool or foole.   While some people consider the inclusion of gelatin to be a recent variation, the earliest known recipe to include jelly dates from 1747, and the poet Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote of trifles containing jelly in 1861. Trifles contain a small amount of alcohol such as port, or, most commonly, sweet sherry or madeira wine. Non-alcoholic versions may use sweet juices or soft drinks such as ginger ale instead, as the liquid is necessary to moisten the cake layers.   One popular trifle variant has the sponge soaked in jelly (liquid-gelatin dessert) when the trifle is made, which sets when refrigerated. The egg and jelly bind together and produce a pleasant texture if made in the correct proportions.  In the Southern US, a variant of trifle is known as tipsy cake.

Layers of a trifle dessert. A trifle is often used for decoration as well as taste, incorporating the bright, layered colours of the fruit, jelly, egg custard, and the contrast of the cream.   Trifles are often served at Christmas time, sometimes as a lighter alternative to the much denser Christmas pudding.



Simple English Trifle Recipe

What you will need:

1 packet of yellow cake mix

3 cups milk

1 cup raspberry or peach jam, divided

1 large can sliced peaches, drained (reserve juice)

2 cups sweetened whipping cream

1/2 cup sherry, or brandy, divided (optional and can be ommitted)

1 (6-serving size) vanilla pudding mix (not instant)

Sliced toasted almonds (optional)


How To Make It:

Make the yellow cake according to package directions using a 9-inch cake pan (reserve one layer for another use). Slice one baked cake layer horizontally into two equal layers.

Place one sliced layer into a trifle dish or a large glass bowl with straight sides; cover with 1/2 cup jam and half of the sliced peaches. Pour approximately half of the reserved peach juice over the cake or until it is moist but not sloppy. Pour 1/4 cup sherry or brandy over the top, as evenly as possible. Place the second sliced cake layer on top and cover with remaining jam and peaches; pour remaining peach juice and sherry or brandy over the top.

Prepare the vanilla pudding according to package directions, using the 3 cups of milk. Pour hot pudding over the top of the cake; let cool. When cool, spread with whipped cream. Decorate with toasted sliced almonds. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.


Serve With:

The sweet taste of trifle should be paired with a hearty black tea.  Consider a Keemun, Nilgiri or an Assam.  Loose leaf tea is always prefered but if you must serve tea bags chose a pyramid style available from companies like Harney and Sons or Teas Etc.

Trifle can be accompanied with cheese and crackers or assorted nuts such as raw almonds.  The addition of protein will help balance the sweet servings and add to the truly English offering.


Tea Party Girl asks: Do you make trifle?  If so, how?