A trifle is a wonderfully indulgent dessert. Sweet, creamy, with the added textures of fruit and sponge, it is an ideal finish to a meal when you really want to push the boat out. And if you like a little extra zing in your dessert, trifles will happily accommodate a dash of sherry or a liqueur.
One of the great things about a trifle is that it’s easy to make. You don’t have to worry about that Cointreau and chocolate soufflé collapsing in the oven or the Bombe Alaska melting before it hits the table. Trifles are a sturdy dessert that can be made successfully by even the most inexperienced cook. They keep well and can be made ahead of time, leaving you free to concentrate on the more demanding elements of your meal.
Traditionally, trifles are served in glass bowls to display the colourful layers that make up this dessert. The specific bowl is known, unsurprisingly, as a trifle bowl, but punch bowls are also used – a practice which has given the dessert the alternative name of “punch bowl cake”.
While there are many different trifle recipes, most trifles conform to the basic structure of sponge, jelly, fruit, custard, whipped cream and, optionally, some form of alcohol. Variation among trifles comes most often in the choice of fruit, the flavour of the jelly and the type of alcohol used.
Traditional Trifle Recipe
The trifle recipe below is for a traditional trifle.
- A packet of trifle sponges or a sponge cake cut into strips 2.5 cm thick, 2.5 cm wide and of a length to fit the bowl you are using for your trifle. If you use sponge cake try to find one with a dense consistency as it will hold together better and give a more pleasing texture when soaked in jelly.
- 1 packet of raspberry or strawberry jelly.
- Fruit – traditional choices are tinned peach slices and fresh strawberries and raspberries.
- 500 ml custard.
- 250 ml cream.
- 250 ml sherry.
- Almond slivers.
- Grated chocolate.
- Make up your custard according to the manufacturer’s instructions and allow it to cool.
- Make up the jelly and allow it to cool so that it is just stating to set. Using jelly that is beginning to thicken will protect the sponge from becoming overly soggy.
- Place a layer of trifle sponges or sponge-cake strips so that they cover the base of a large glass bowl.
- If you are using sherry in your trifle tip half of it over the sponge. Sherry is an individual choice, children, particularly, will prefer a trifle without this ingredient.
- Place a layer of fruit on top of the sponge.
- Pour your semi-liquid jelly into the bowl so that it soaks the sponge and just submerges the fruit.
- Place the bowl in the fridge until the jelly has set.
- Remove from the fridge and add a layer of custard about 3 cm deep.
- If your bowl is deep enough you can repeat steps 3 – 8 to make a double-decker trifle.
- Whip the cream until it is stiff and standing in peaks and spread evenly over the top of your trifle.
- Decorate with almond slivers and grated chocolate.
Some alternatives to consider if you’re feeling adventurous:
In the sponge layer try substituting angel food cake, muffin slices, waffles, chocolate cake.
Swap the sherry for an aromatic liqueur like Cointreau, Kahlua, Amaretto etc.
Use any sort of creamy mousse-like pudding instead of custard.
And, of course, play with your choice of fruit – kiwi fruit and feijoas would make a distinctive New Zealand trifle.
A Trifle Delicious
Whether you use the trifle recipe above, or create one of your own, you’re almost certain to end up with a dessert that your friends and family will judge more than a trifle delicious!
To see a demonstration of one way to make a trifle, check out this video.
Tags: traditional desserts