Teenage me made boxed trifle with sachets of custard mix, cream topping, and a tiny see-through packet of chocolate sprinkles. I’ve since learnt that proper homemade trifle takes a bit more work but preparing each stage is just as doable and equally as joyful.
What’s in a trifle?
A trifle is a layered dessert made of syrup-soaked cake, juicily-ripe fruit, wobbly jelly, vanilla-scented custard and dollops of whipped cream.
What’s on the bottom layer?
Sponge fingers (or ladyfinger biscuits), sometimes sandwiched together with jam and doused in liqueur or fruit juice, form the bottom layer of a trifle. These trifle sponges have a naturally dry texture so they become chubby and swollen with flavour when introduced to a liquid. Madeira cake, panettone, brioche or even slices of Swiss roll make brilliant alternatives.
Which fruit is best in a trifle?
Summer fruits, like strawberries and raspberries, are traditional options but anything goes from fresh mango and blueberries to mandarin, pineapple or even passion fruit scooped over the final layer of cream. Strew the fruit over your sponge or use it as a topping at the very end as a decorative flourish.
Does trifle have to include a layer of jelly?
Not every trifle includes jelly but it does lend it a classic wobbly texture. It’s also easier to pour custard over a level layer of set jelly and super-satisfying to see each distinctive strata of your trifle come to life through your transparent trifle bowl.
Make your own jelly with gelatine leaves and fruit syrup or use ready-made jelly crystals or cubes. Once cooled but still liquid, pour it directly over the sponge base and chill.
Does the custard for trifle need to be thick?
Powdered custard is ideal for trifles because it has a thick texture that sets firmly and makes a stable base for piles of whipped cream to be dolloped on top.
To make your own custard, combine caster sugar, egg yolks and cornflour in a bowl before whisking in a pan of vanilla-infused hot milk. Return the mixture to the pan on low heat and allow it to thicken as you stir. Think closer to crème patisserie than a delicate crème anglaise here; it needs to have lots of body. Cover the surface with cling film to prevent a skin forming and chill it before spreading thickly over the jelly and sponge finger layer.
Sweeten your double cream with a touch of icing sugar and whip it until the soft peak stage. Pile it high on top of the set custard so it peeks over of the top of your serving bowl or pipe it on for a fancier finish. Abundance is the name of the game!
Sprinkles and toppings
Anything from shavings of milk chocolate and fresh raspberries to sour cherries, candied peel, crushed biscuits and flaked almonds works as a trifle topping. But multicoloured birthday cake sprinkles are still my all-time favourite!