English Trifle

This recipe was given to me by a Brit friend. That makes it authentic, right?

Although you can make this in any container you like, a glass one is nice because you can admire the layers. Bowls are available made especially for trifle. They're on a thick pedestal.

I guess I need not mention that this trifle is very good. Many times, the morning after a dinner party, I have sat in bed and eaten the leftover trifle (trifling amount that it was!) for breakfast.

pound cake or lady fingers
1/2 c sherry
large package of frozen strawberries (my choice) or raspberries (about 15 oz.)
1 package Jello red gelatin (strawberry or raspberry)
1 package Bird's Custard
1 large can evaporated milk for custard (you may have some left)
1 pt. whipping cream
sliced almonds (optional)


Thaw in fruit in a sieve set over another container to retain the juice. When completely thawed, taste the juice. You may need a little sugar. Start with 2 t. Pour the juice into 2-c measuring cup. Set fruit aside.


The purpose of the Jello is to stabilize the "walls" of cake/lady fingers on the sides of the bowl.

Use reserved strawberry juice, adding water to make 2 c of liquid. Let Jello cool to room temp. It won't be thick but will set up when you refrigerate the trifle after putting it together. Do not refrigerate the Jello now!

Begin to assemble the trifle:


Line a 2-quart bowl with either commercial jellyroll (sliced 1/2" thick), pound cake (ditto), or lady fingers (these are usually about 1/2" thick.)

The cake should cover the bottom and sides of the bowl. Push edges aside to allow you to put more in so the bottom will be firm for serving success.

I use lady fingers, but I don't bother to make them for this purpose. The brand I buy means I need 1 1/2 packages, but I take any leftovers and put them in the bottom of the bowl after I've lined the bottom and sides.

You'll have to wing it the first time. The bottom and sides of the bowl must be covered.

You could use angelfood cake in a pinch, but I think the result will not be as good because the cake will be falling-apart soggy. Same with a "regular cake." Nonetheless, there's a lot of room here for improvisation.


Substitute orange juice or another juice which compliments your choice of fruit if you cannot or will not serve alcohol. Really, though, the sherry is a wonderful choice, so do use it if you can. The trifle won't taste "alcoholic." The sherry just gives it a subtle taste that no one will recognize.

You will be appalled to read that I don't use fancy sherry. Just stuff in a jug from the grocery store.

Pour the sherry onto the cake. Use a funnel to direct the sherry to the cake on the sides of the bowl first. Work slowly so "wall" stays up, rather than gets so soggy it sags. Saturate as much of the cake as you can. You may need a bit more sherry if some sides of the cake are still dry. Don't dump a glug in the bottom of the bowl, but a judicious amount is nice.


Put reserved fruit in bottom of bowl on top of cake. If you like, add more fruit.

Pour on Jello. Use a funnel again to direct it slowly to the lady fingers on the sides of the bowl first. The cake must be entirely saturated with Jello.

Refrigerate several hours until the Jello sets.


Bird's Custard is an English brand but usually can be found in US grocery stores. Follow package directions for amount of milk, but substituting evaporated milk.

Substitute cooked-type vanilla pudding. Instant pudding is too gritty, in my opinion.

Make up the custard and allow it to cool before proceeding. Lay a piece or SaranWrap on the top to keep a skin from forming.

Final Construction:

Pour the custard onto the chilled cake-fruit-gelatin. It will just sit in the bottom of the bowl. Don't try to spread it or anything.

If you like, layer the custard with more fruit.

Refrigerate to chill well.

Just before serving, whip the cream just until thick - - it should be a bit gloppy - - and pour onto trifle. (Cool Whip works in a pinch, but it's a shame to take this shortcut since the Bird's is so lovely and rich!)

If desired, garnish with sliced almonds.

Keep chilled until ready to serve.

Chocolate Home Page | Non- and Low-Fat Recipes

Other Good Stuff | Chocolate Links | Home Page