Tuesday, 24 April 2012


The trifle I made for Hubby's birthday last year

Ahhh the great British trifle!  My whole family love a trifle, it’s a real family institution!  For us the distinction between ‘family gathering’ and ‘family celebration’ is made by the absence or presence of a trifle.   

Over the years we’ve served them for birthday parties, our engagement party, our wedding party after we eloped (!) and on one stirling occasion in memory of our beloved Grandmother’s 100th birthday party. Sadly she had died 19 years earlier but we never have a get-together without raising a glass to her and it seemed churlish to let something so small stop us celebrating on her behalf.  She would have approved, wholeheartedly!! 

There are as many variations in recipe and method as there are families, and even within families there are slight differences in how we make it.  The method I give below is how I make it – and I make a pretty good trifle by all accounts! 

It is usual to add a good measure of Sherry to the sponge layer, but my hubby doesn’t like it so I tend to leave it out.  You can add Limoncello if you are so inclined, it would go very well with fresh raspberries. 

The base of the trifle was traditionally made with leftover sponge cake, but in my family it is always made with a jam-only swiss roll; it does need to be jam only, jam and cream won’t work at all!  You could of course use sponge cake, or trifle sponges sandwiched together with jam instead. 

The fruit I use depends on whether fresh raspberries are available, and don’t need a mortgage to buy!  Out of season I’ll use a small tin of mandarin oranges – in juice, never ever in syrup. 

The custard layer I make is custard powder, milk, and double cream.  If you can’t get custard powder, or don’t like custard then just make up a packet of blancmange as per packet directions and use that instead. 
Side view, showing the layers

Trifles are all about the layering.  Precise quantities are difficult to give because it depends on the size of your bowl, but to give you a guide, these are the quantities that I’ve always used and suit the bowl pictured.

1 small jam only swiss roll
1 or 2 packets (depending on size) fresh raspberries
1 x 135g pack of raspberry jelly
1 pint of custard made up as described below
1 pint of double or whipping cream
1 Cadbury’s Flake

You really need to begin the trifle the morning of the day before you want to serve it as the jelly layer and the custard layer both need time to set before proceeding with the subsequent layers. 

To start, prepare the jelly according to the packet directions and leave to cool.  Wash and pick over the raspberries and leave to drain.  Slice up the swiss roll and arrange the slices over the bottom of your trifle bowl.  Scatter the raspberries over the top; don’t even bother with pretty arrangements as I once did as the jelly will disarrange everything!  Once the jelly is cool, pour gently over the sponge and raspberry layer and pop into the fridge for several hours until it has set.   

To make the creamy custard I use 3tb of custard powder, 1½ tb sugar and half a pint of milk, and proceed as per the directions on the tin.  Plunge the pan/bowl of custard into a sink of cold water to cool it and stir frequently to stop a skin from forming.  While the custard is setting whip half a pint of cream to the thickly set, but not completely firm stage.  As soon as the custard is cool enough, fold the whipped cream into it and stir gently until the cream and the custard are thoroughly combined.  When it is completely cold, add to the jelly layer of the trifle and put back into the fridge to set overnight. 

The following morning simply whip the remaining half pint of cream as thick as you like it to be – I like it quite thick.  Finally, crumble over the Flake and your trifle is ready to serve!

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