Modern classic puddings – Trifle

The trifle is reputed to have appeared in England in Tudor times. It started out as a flavoured thick cream rather like a fruit fool and over the years has developed into a layered pudding comprising of cake or biscuits usually soaked with alcohol, an egg custard either soft or set and topped off with whipped cream. Fruit, nuts and anything else you fancy can be added too.

Each person has their own favourite. My memories of trifle at school included a layer of jelly and fruit, usually tinned fruit cocktail and red jelly either strawberry or raspberry. The top was sprinkled with hundreds and thousands. Custard was set firm and you could bounce it round the room, not that I ever did 😉

The cake can be anything you like. In my family we used to use sliced up jam swiss roll but these days I use bought trifle sponges. I have used a ginger cake with chopped up stem ginger and whisky and leftover lemon drizzle cake with limoncello as well so really the choice is yours.

Fruit is often tinned mandarin segments for a sherry trifle, fresh raspberries for my syllabub trifle or banana for my chocolate and rum one.

Tiramisu is an Italian trifle that uses boudoir (sponge) biscuits soaked in espresso topped with a thick cream made from mascarpone cream cheese mixed with sugar and egg yolks. The cream layer is not meant to be set like custard. You can lighten this mixture with lightly whisked egg white or cream. The alcohol can be dark rum, Amaretto, or something unusual like Frangelico which is a hazelnut liqueur from northern Italy. Topping can be either cocoa powder or grated chocolate. There are so many different versions you can make the one you prefer.

I make 2 other versions of a trifle. One is a syllabub trifle. Put some trifle sponges in the bottom of a bowl or individual dishes. Soak with some dessert wine. Cover with fresh raspberries. Whip up some double cream and sugar to a soft peak and slowly add more of the wine until the consistency of thick pouring cream. Pour over the sponge and fruit and chill.

You can use other fruit, like strawberries, and either Madeira, Marsala or a sweet cream sherry instead of the dessert wine. My favourite sweet sherry is by Pedro Ximinez but I prefer to drink it with the pud rather than put it in it. A white port could be an option and I think there is now a pink port so you can play around with whatever you have hidden at the back of the drinks cupboard. And don’t blame me for the result!

An old family favourite since the 70s is Orange Boodle Fool. Believed to have been made originally in the kitchens at Boodles gentleman’s club in London it is a recipe in regular use in our house. This is a non-alcoholic pud.

Trifle sponges in the bottom of a dish and also line the sides. I slice the sponges “around the world” and alternate the sponge layer with the bit with the sugar coating so everyone gets some. Whip up ½ pint double cream with a couple of tablespoons caster sugar. Grate the zest and also juice 2 oranges and one lemon. Add the zest to the cream and slowly, while whisking the cream, add the juice. It will go very liquid but that’s fine. Pour into the middle of the dish and let it seep through the gaps in the sponges. If you have room it is a good idea to let it overflow the top of the sponge that lines the dish. Chill in the fridge for at least 6-8 hours preferably overnight.

The juice will seep into the sponge creating a very citrussy flavour and the cream will “set” thick. Very moreish and rarely is there any leftover when this pud is on the menu.

5 comments for “Modern classic puddings – Trifle

  1. December 20, 2010 at 12:10

    Think I’m in a state of perma-drool. By the way, I adore tiramisu from my Russian days, at the Italian eatery.

  2. Patrick Harris
    December 20, 2010 at 12:11

    Where’s the jam roly-poly, the treacle suet pudding and the spotted dick?
    Not to mention the thick and lumpy custard with skin.

  3. dearieme
    December 20, 2010 at 13:38

    In the old days it was sometimes called “Scotch Trifle”, suggesting that it has become popular after the introduction of some Caledonian wrinkle. Perhaps the generosity with the sherry?

  4. December 20, 2010 at 16:24

    Woweeeee! It’s spoilt for choce I am! They all sound delicious to the nth degree.

    I always considered that the secret to a good trifle lay in the custard – and the cream – but cream is cream, whereas custard can be anything from the bouncing nastiness of your school-dinner memories (which I share from my own) to the smooth vanilla deliciousness of…..mmmmmmmmmmm

    Thanks for this, Rossa. (Slobber…..)

  5. December 20, 2010 at 17:33


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