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Traditional English Recipe - Sherry Trifle

A trifle is a typically British dessert made with thick custard, fruit, sponge cake, fruit juice or alcohol, and whipped cream. Interestingly it was always made so as to use up, stale, left over sponge cake, which is then softened with either fruit juices or a sweet alcohol like sherry. It really is best not to use fresh sponge as it just goes very soggy and mushy. In the UK you can buy "sponge fingers" which are perfect, or if you have an Italian shop nearby, try ready made tiramisu sponge.

It's really easy to make and the ingredients are usually arranged in layers with the fruit and sponge on the bottom, and the custard and cream on top.

The best trifles contain a small amount of alcohol such as port, or, most commonly, sweet sherry or madeira wine. If you can't drink alcohol, you can use fruit juice instead, the liquid is necessary to moisten the cake. Trifle containing sherry is sometimes called 'sherry trifle' or referred to as being 'High Church'.

On mainland Europe you can sometimes buy a dessert similar to trifle called zuppa inglese (English soup).


A packet or two of sponge fingers or a stale victoria sponge.
Fresh fruit to your taste (pears, bananas, peaches, strawberries)
1-1/2 oz custard powder
3/4 pt milk
2 oz castor sugar
1/4 pt double cream
1/2 pt whipping cream
Angelica, almond flakes and glacé cherries to decorate


  1. Cut the sponges into pieces and place into a glass bowl.

  2. Soak the sponges with the fruit juice or alchohol. They should be moist, but not soggy.

  3. Cut the fruit into small pieces and add to the soaked sponge, reserve some for decoration (squeeze lemon juice over them to prevent discolouration).

  4. Prepare the custard powder according to the manufacturer's instructions (alternatively make your own custard).

  5. Allow the custard to cool, stirring continuously to ensure a creamy custard and to prevent a skin forming

  6. Fold in the double cream.

  7. Pour mixture on to the sponge.

  8. Leave to cool in fridge.

  9. Whisk the cream with the castor sugar. Spread the whipped cream carefully onto the trifle.

  10. Decorate the trifle angelica, cherries, sliced bananas and strawberries.


Fold: Usually egg whites or whipped cream are folded into a heavier mixture, for a souffle, cake, or pie filling. The lighter mixture is placed on top of the heavier mixture, then the two are combined by passing a spatula down through the mixture, across the bottom, and up over the top. This process continues until the mixtures are combined. This traps air into bubbles in the product, allowing baked goods to rise.

To mix: To beat or stir foods together until they are combined.

To pour: To transfer a liquid from one container to another.

To soak: To immerse a solid in a liquid.

To squeeze: To apply pressure to fruit or vegetables to obtain their juice.

To whisk: To beat a mixture vigorously with a whisk.

!Note - A trifle is also a matter or item of little value or importance.

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