This delicious English trifle is the perfect party dessert. Loved by all, this trifle is made up of a layer of cake soaked in Sherry or orange juice, a delicious, juicy berry compote, thick vanilla custard, and fresh whipped cream. Easily made ahead of time this English trifle recipe is fantastic!
There are many ways to go about a trifle, you can really customize it to whatever you like. A trifle is made up of a layer of cake soaked in Sherry or orange juice, fruit, custard, and whipped cream.
Usually, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries are common fruit to use in a trifle. Some use sliced bananas as well!
Some make trifles with berries and cake topped with jelly also known as jello. My nan uses a pink blancmange, a type of strawberry custard. Some use just fruit at the bottom, in this recipe, our favorite we make berry compote. And that's just to do with the fruit!
For the sponge, you can use a pound cake, yellow sponge cake, jam swiss roll, ladyfingers, or sponge fingers. I like to spread a thin layer of jam on the cake. You can use whatever jam you like, we used boysenberry jam this time!
I grew up with Bird's custard powder as the custard base for trifles, some use vanilla pudding, but today I made my own English-style custard. Very thick and vanilla-y!
And for the whipped cream, I just make simple whipped cream that is lightly sweetened.
And finally to decorate I like to use fresh raspberries and grated chocolate. And since this is an English trifle it would be rude not to use Cadbury's Dairymilk! Some people love to sprinkle flaked almonds on top, which adds a nice crunch!
Whatever you do, don't do like Rachel did in that Thanksgiving episode of Friends, when she added ground beef! She mixed shepherd's pie and trifle together!
These days there have been many trifle varieties made, some make a chocolate trifle with chocolate cake, brownies, or chocolate pudding! Adding peppermint for a Christmas chocolate trifle or adding crushed Oreos on top would be a great crunch! Adding mandarin oranges would be beautiful with chocolate or even black cherries to make sort of a Black forest gateaux one. For a strawberry one, you could use angel food cake. Or do a yellow cake trifle with lemon curd!
Although there are 4 main components (cake, fruit, custard, and cream) to making a trifle you can make 3 of them ahead of time.
You can make the cake ahead of time, use a store-bought pound cake loaf (we do this all the time), or make the cake and cool it that day.
The custard can be made the night before you need it so it has plenty of time to chill.
The berry compote can be made up to a week ahead of time and stored in the fridge.
- Cake. You can use pound cake, yellow cake, lady fingers, or swiss roll. Make the cake from scratch if you want or use store-bought! This is my yellow cake recipe.
- Berry Jam. The jam will be spread on the cake layers you can use whatever jam you have on hand. We often use strawberry, boysenberry, or raspberry jam.
- Soaking Liquid. Sherry is most frequently used but you can also use brandy, Madeira, or triple sec. For a non-alcohol version use orange juice.
- Berry Compote. This is easy to make in a saucepan. You can use just fruit at the bottom of your trifle but we prefer the berry compote, Marks and Spencers does their very special trifle with a berry compote! If you like a really soaked berry layer then you could use 1.25-1.5X the berry compote recipe.
- Diced Strawberries. We like to fold in some fresh diced strawberries into the berry compote for an added texture as well as the flavor of juicy strawberries!
- Custard. You can make Homemade Custard or Bird's Custard, or in a pinch, you can use a vanilla pudding mix. Just make sure you prepare it and let it properly cool before assembling the trifle. Homemade custard is made of sugar, egg yolks, cream, milk, cornstarch, and a vanilla bean.
- Whipped Cream. Make your own! Don't use store-bought.
- Topping. My mom always grated a Cadburys Dairymilk chocolate bar on top and then we like to add fresh berries on top too!
A footed trifle bowl is traditionally used to show off the glorious layers but if you don't have one just use a glass bowl and layer away! For parties, I love to use the plastic clear cups most often used for wine to make individual trifles. They are always a hit!
In the bowl of an electric mixer with a whisk attachment add the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, and dry milk powder. Whisk on medium to low speed until medium peaks form, for a few minutes. If you prefer you could beat until soft peaks form but then the cream won't pipe as well. Store in the fridge while you prepare the trifle.
The dry milk powder helps stabilize the whipped cream so when it is piped it holds its shape. If you want to learn more check out my post on how to make stabilized whipped cream.
Slice your cake into thin-ish slices and spread the jam on top. Then cut the cake into smallish cubes, bite-size.
Layer the cake into the trifle dish in an even layer, I like to add about 1 ½ layers not a quite full two layers of cake. Then use a pastry brush to add the liquid to the cake; the orange juice or sherry. You can also carefully, and evenly pour it on top, a squeezy bottle is also a great way to do this! You want the liquid to really soak into the cake.
In a large bowl stir your diced strawberries with the berry compote.
Then pour the mixture all over the cake making sure it goes into an even layer.
Next, you'll add the custard, make sure you've whisked it again so it's nice and smooth.
If you are going to serve the trifle within a few hours then add the whipped cream now, I add most of it then save the last ⅓ of the whipped cream to pipe on top for a pretty design, if you didn't whip it long enough to stiff peaks then it won't hold its shape well. If you are not going to serve the trifle until later then take a piece of plastic wrap and press it directly onto the custard to keep it from forming a skin.
When ready pipe the whipped cream on top and use a zester to grate the chocolate on top and add berries. You could also use the back of a spoon to create swirls instead of piping the cream.
Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days, keep in mind the longer it sits the more the cake will break down and the layers combine. Kind of like tiramisu.
Trifle benefits from time for the flavors to meld together so making it the morning before the nighttime party is ideal. Or make it the night before but not sooner. I would add the whipped cream just before serving. You don't want to make it too far in advance because all of the weight and liquid will break the cake down too much.
Instead of using the berry compote use fresh chopped fruit. Once you place the fruit on top of the cake prepare the jello once it is all mixed together pour it on top of the fruit and let it sit in the fridge to set up before proceeding with the custard layer. Strawberry jello is delicious jello to use!
Sherry is most often used but you can also use Brandy, Madeira, or Triple Sec of Cointreau.
More British dessert recipes
Bread and butter pudding is a great way to use up leftover bread and it's absolutely delicious! I make mine with some brown butter for a fantastic flavor bomb!
My childhood friends always remember my mom for making Sticky Toffee Pudding, it's the bomb, trust me!
We love to make a few batches of Scottish Shortbread to share with loved ones at Christmas time.
For another creamy fruit treat check out this Eton Mess Recipe.
★★★★★ Please let me know if you make this recipe by leaving a star rating and comment below!Print
- 2 Cups Heavy Whipping Cream
- 4 Tablespoons Confectioner's Sugar
- 2 Teaspoons of Dry Milk Powder
- Pound Cake or Yellow Cake, baked and cooled ahead of time ( I used 6 thinnish slices of pound cake)
- ¼ Cup Berry Jam, strawberry, boysenberry or raspberry
- Orange Juice, Sherry, Triple Sec, Brandy or Maderia
- 1 Batch of Berry Compote, cooked and cooled ahead of time **
- 1 ½ Cups Diced Strawberries
- 2 Batches of Homemade Custard or 2 Batches Bird's Custard prepared and cooled ahead of time
- Chocolate or Berries for Topping
- In the bowl of an electric mixer with a whisk attachment add the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, and dry milk powder. Whisk on medium to low speed until hard peaks form, a few minutes. Store in the fridge while you prepare the trifle.
- Slice your cake into thin-ish slices and spread the jam on top. Then cut the cake into smallish cubes, bite-size. Layer the cake into the trifle dish in an even layer, I like to add about 1 ½ layers not a quite full two layers of cake. Then use a pastry brush to add the liquid to the cake or just drizzle with a spoon; the orange juice or sherry. I use a few tablespoons of liquid- you don't want to soak it completely.
- In a large bowl mix your diced strawberries with the berry compote. Then pour the mixture all over the cake making sure it goes into an even layer.
- Next, you'll add the custard, make sure you've whisked it so it's nice and smooth.
- If you are going to serve the trifle within a few hours then add the whipped cream now, I add most of it then save the last ⅓ of the whipped cream to pipe on top for a pretty design. If you are not going to serve the trifle until later then take a piece of plastic wrap and press it directly onto the custard to keep it from forming a skin.
- When ready pipe the whipped cream on top and use a zester to grate the chocolate on top and add berries. Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days, keep in mind the longer it sits the more the cake will break down and the layers combine,
* This recipe is for a standard trifle dish about 8-9 inches in diameter and 8-9 inches tall. Adjust accordingly for your dish
** If you like a really soaked berry layer then you could use 1.25-1.5X the Berry Compote Recipe
- Prep Time: 30 Minutes
- Chill Time: 1 Hour
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Assemble
- Cuisine: English
Keywords: english sherry trifle, how to make an english trifle, the best english trifle recipe
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