Traditional British Trifle

Nothing says Christmas more than a trifle. It has been gracing our tables for more than 400 years, exciting and delighting generations of British families.

Custard, whipped cream, sherry soaked sponge and raspberries. Each luscious layer more delicious and decadent than the last, all combined together in a beautiful cut glass dish (this really is the time to get out Granny’s crystal).

Every family creates its own masterpiece. Variations include: fruit jelly, bananas or omit the booze if young children will be eating it. Whatever you do it will be a showstopper and in my house, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without a big, blousey trifle.

The following is my recipe. I always use shop bought sponge fingers (ladies’ fingers) – homemade plain sponge is great but I find it can go soggy.

Cover the bottom of the dish with the sponge and liberally sprinkle with dry sherry (I like to use sweet sherry or Madeira wine) you need to do this until the sponges are thoroughly soaked with the booze.

Next spread raspberry jam over the sponges. I use a jam that is only fruit and sugar no additives, Bonne Maman is a favourite.

Then I make the custard. You can use ready made if you really have to but when it comes to custard homemade is far and away superior and it’s not difficult to master.

For the custard

4 large egg yolks
25g caster sugar
1 level dessert spoon of cornflour
1 tsp vanilla extract


Place the cream in a pan over a gentle heat and heat it to just below simmering point, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.

While the cream is heating, use a balloon whisk to whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour mixture and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a cloth underneath to steady it. Then, whisking the egg mixture all the time with one hand, gradually pour the hot cream into the bowl.

When it’s all in, immediately return the whole lot back to the saucepan using a rubber spatula. Now back it goes on to the same gentle heat as you continue whisking until the custard is thick and smooth, which will happen as soon as it reaches simmering point.

If you do overheat it and it looks grainy, don’t worry, just transfer it to a jug or bowl and continue to whisk until it becomes smooth again.pour into a bowl and cover with clingfilm until it is cool.

To assemble

Scatter fresh raspberries all over the sponges, pressing them down slightly so that all the juices are absorbed. Frozen or fresh raspberries will do.

Then pour the cooled custard over the fruit to form a thick layer.

Whip 275/300ml of fresh double cream (I always whisk a little caster sugar or icing sugar into my cream to sweeten it). Then dollop it over the custard and smooth the surface off or make swirls or do whatever you feel like.

The final flourish I will leave to you and your imagination however, my trifle has to have glacé cherries and a liberal sprinkling of tiny, silver balls (edible cake decorations) otherwise it just wouldn’t be Christmas!!

ps. Keep well away from the family cat – one Christmas ours was found knee deep in the trifle licking the cream off as fast as he could!

Traditional British Trifle was last modified: March 28th, 2017 by nday_aw