English Trifle Recipe

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Trifle is a dessert dish made from thick custard, fruit, sponge cake, fruit juice or jelly, and whipped cream. These ingredients are usually arranged in layers.

The earliest use of the name trifle was for a thick cream flavoured with sugar, ginger and rosewater, the recipe for which was published in Glasgow in Scotland, 1596, in a book called “The good huswife’s Jewell” by Thomas Dawson. Sixty years later eggs were added and the custard was poured over alcohol soaked bread.

Some trifles contain a small (or very large) 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.

One popular trifle variant has the sponge soaked in jelly when the trifle is made, which sets when refrigerated. The cake and jelly bind together and produce a pleasant texture if made in the correct proportions.

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English Trifle Recipe
 
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Ingredients
  • Preparation Time: 40 minutes plus time for the jelly to set.
  • Cooking Time: none
  • Ingredients for 6 to 8 Servings
  • Layer 1: The Cake and Jelly Base
  • 400gr / 14 oz. strawberries chopped roughly
  • 3 or 4 x tbsp Marsala wine
  • 2 x tsp icing sugar
  • 500ml / 1 pt. (roughly) of strawberry jelly
  • 300gr / 10.5 oz. of a shop bought Swiss roll style cake cut into 1.5cm / 0.6 in. slices
  • Layer 2: Crème Patissiere
  • 6 x large egg yolks
  • 120gr / 4 oz. caster sugar
  • 50gr / 1.7 oz. plain flour
  • 500ml / 1 pt. of whole milk
  • 4 or 5 drops of vanilla extract
  • A little icing sugar
  • Layer 3: Cream and Decorations
  • 300ml / 10 fl. oz. cream for whipping
  • Optional - 1 x tbsp Marsala wine to mix into the cream
  • You can decorate as you wish, but some of my favourite decorations are chopped strawberries, pomegranate seeds or other berries.
  • Method
  • The Cake and Jelly Base
  • 1. To start, the base. Place the strawberries in a bowl with the icing sugar and 2 x tbsp of the Marsala wine, mix through and set side to macerate for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • 2. Place your Swiss roll slices evenly and tightly into the bottom of your trifle serving bowl, drizzle over the other 1 or 2 tbsps of Marsala wine.
  • 3. Make the strawberry jelly as per the instructions on the packet.
  • 4. Cover the cake with the chopped strawberries, spreading them as evenly as you can. Pour the jelly over carefully, not too quickly, allowing it to get down into all the nooks and crannies and soak into your cake.
  • 5. Place the base in the fridge to allow the jelly to set. Normally this takes about 4 hours. I very often make the base the day before I plan to serve the trifle.
  • The Crème Patissiere
  • 6. I tend to make crème patissiere rather than custard as it gives a thicker, stiffer finish. Custard tends to stay a bit runny, and the trifle collapses after the first spoonful is served. To start the crème patissiere take an electric whisk and beat the egg yolks in a bowl with about a third of the sugar until the mix becomes pale yellow.
  • 7. Add the flour and whisk until everything is incorporated evenly, no lumps, and the it has thickened a little.
  • 8. Heat the milk in a pan (not a non-stick pan) with the rest of the sugar and the vanilla. Just as it comes to the boil, remove your pan from the heat and pour about two thirds of the hot milk into your bowl containing the egg and sugar mix. Stir quickly with a metal hand whisk for a minute then add the rest of the milk and continue stirring quite firmly until everything is smooth and evenly incorporated.
  • 9. Put the pan back on a medium heat and pour your crème patissiere into the pan. Stir continuously with your metal whisk. As it thickens you may have to stir quite vigorously. Let it bubble gently for 2 minutes and then remove from the heat.
  • 10. Sprinkle over a very thin layer of icing sugar and allow your crème patissiere to cool. The layer of icing sugar prevents the formation of a 'skin'.
  • 11. Once completely cool it will be quite thick. Spread it over your set jelly base. Be a bit gentle as you do not want to break the top of your jelly.
  • Cream Topping and Decorations
  • 12. Whip your cream with the icing sugar until it becomes stiff and holds its shape. You can fold through the Marsala at this stage should you wish to use it.
  • 13. Spread the cream over the crème patissiere layer. I like to do this very roughly, not smooth, lots of peaks and bumps makes it look attractive.
  • 14. Sprinkle over your berries and decorations.
  • Tips and Variations
  • • You can of course make your own jelly using gelatin sheets, and add fresh flavours.
  • • I like to keep it simple by using shop bought Swiss Roll, but of course you can make your own cake. Simple ones work best, like Madeira cake. It's also a great idea to add some of the flavour you are using through your trifle in the cake base.
  • • Once you have practiced this a few times you can play around with the fruit flavours to keep it seasonal.
  • • If the crème patissiere is cooled, but not as thick as you would like it, put it on your jelly base and then return it to the fridge for a couple of hours to set it stiffer.