Traditional Trifle

This week I was asked to make a trifle for a friends christening. I absolutely LOVE trifle but I don’t get to make it very often so I jumped at the chance.


Everyone has their own idea of what makes the perfect trifle, some people like more custard, some people like less cream, others prefer jelly in the bottom and some people (if you can believe it), don’t like trifle. Below is my version of the traditional English trifle. It’s a fairly simple recipe but has lots of scope for changing things to your own taste.

Ingredients for the Trifle:

  • 2 tins of Fruit cocktail
  • 1 tin of mandarin orange segments
  • 2 sachets of Quick Gel
  • Custard Powder
  • 2 pints of milk
  • 600ml pot of Double Cream
  • Swiss roll

Firstly, a few notes on the ingredients. For the spongy base, I like to use a swiss roll as the jam and cream add a bit more flavour. Instead of swiss roll, you can use Trifle Sponges or Trifle sponge fingers (also known as ladyfingers). If you have some left over sponge cake you can also use that – it doesn’t matter if it’s going a bit stale as it will be soaked in fruit juice.

I like to use use orange quick jell in the bottom. If you can’t get hold of any you can use normal jelly instead.

For the fruit, I use 2 tins of “Fruit cocktail” and some goldfish (mandarin orange segments). You can substitute these for whatever fruit you want.

For the custard, I find it best to use custard powder with milk. I’ve never tried it with ready made tinned custard, but you need to make sure it will “set” when cold otherwise it will cause problems.

To Make the trifle:

  1. Get a trifle bowl (this recipe fits into a big 9″ diameter bowl)
  2. Cut the swiss roll into 2-3cm thick pieces and lay them in the bottom and a little way up the sides to create a sponge bottom
  3. Drain off the juice from the fruit cocktail and orange segments into a jug and pour the fruit on top of your sponge base.
  4. Follow the instructions on the quick gel packet for making the gel. I use 2 packets so double the mixture.
  5. If you are using jelly instead, make up your jelly.
  6. Pour your quick gel or jelly mixture over the fruit
  7. Place the trifle in the fridge to set the gel or jelly.
  8. Next, once the base has set, make up 2 pints of custard following the instructions on the custard powder tin.
  9. Pour the custard into the bowl. Set aside to cool and then place in the fridge to set
  10. Once the custard has set, you need to make the cream topping.
  11. Pour the cream into a bowl and whisk until the cream stiffens up and starts to hold it’s shape. You can use an electric hand whisk or mixer for this but keep an eye on it and be careful not to whisk it too much. It very quickly turns and you don’t want the cream to be too stiff.
  12. Spoon the cream onto the top of the trifle and smooth out (or make swirly patterns!).
  13. Lastly decorate the top with whatever you have in the cupboard – cherries, chocolate sprinkles, hundreds and thousands etc.

That’s it, you’re done!

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