Proper trifle – citrussy

I have discovered that it is quite hard to take a good photo of a trifle. All that cream on top is boring to look at.  But this trifle was not boring to eat.  I am not an inveterate trifle maker, I think I made one for Christmas about 7 years ago, but I do love a good trifle.  It was my Dad’s birthday and I felt the need to make a trifle to act as one of the many desserts we had that day (the list also included chocolate roulade, Christmas pudding, apple pie, syrup steamed pudding, baked apple and chocolate fudge cake – well there were twenty people to feed and we like to put on a spread.)

A trifle is a fairly easy thing to make but it does take quite a bit of time to assemble all the parts and there does need to be time to allow each layer to settle. I started mine on the Friday to serve on the Sunday. On friday I made the madeira cake, on saturday morning I soaked the cake with sherry, placed the tinned orange segments on top and made the jelly.  On saturday evening I made the custard and on Sunday morning I whisked the cream for the top, and then just before serving I sprinkled generously with hundreds and thousands because a trifle isn’t a trifle without this addition.

If you are a proper foodiephile then the notion of putting jelly and tinned fruit into a trifle and then topping it with hundreds and thousands may send you a little frantic with worry, but this is my trifle and I like it this way (and it tastes delicious and brings back memories of childhood Christmases. Although I am pretty sure that it would have been Rowntree jelly and Bird’s custard back then, but feel free to use these if you want to take the even easier route towards trifle perfection).

This time I used a lemon flavoured madeira cake, tinned orange segments and made a jelly from orange juice to lend a citrus theme to my jelly, but you could spread raspberry jam thickly over the sponge before drowning in sherry and make a berry flavoured jelly.  Or, if you must be sophisticated, then you could spread the jam, and miss out the tinned fruit and jelly altogether – it will be trifle, just not as I know it.

For the lemony madeira cake (adapted from Jill Brand’s Best Kept Secrets of The Women’s Institute Cakes and Biscuits):

For a 15cm square tin or an 18cm round tin, greased and lined with baking parchment.

115g (40z) softened butter
115g (40z) caster sugar
2 eggs
165g (6oz) plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

Cream the butter and the sugar together until really light and fluffy.  Beat the eggs into the mixture one at a time. Sieve the flour and the baking powder together into the bowl and gently fold in with the zest and juice of the lemon.

Pour the mixture into the tin and cook in a preheated oven at 160°c or gas mark 3, or on the grid shelf placed on the floor of the baking oven of the four-oven Aga for about 1 hour.  It is ready when a skewer comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

When the cake is completely cool, cut it into slices that will fit neatly into the bottom of your trifle dish and the cover liberally with a good sherry. I used 150ml over my sponge.

Once the sherry has had time to soak in, drain a tin of mandarin segments and place these on top of the sponge.  It’s a good idea to place some against the sides of the bowl so that they can be seen when all is assembled.

For the orange jelly (taken from The River Cottage Family Cookbook):

The juice of about 6 oranges – enough to make just below 600ml.
the juice of 1 lemon
50g icing sugar
4 leaves of gelatine ( but check pack instructions as they can differ, you need enough to set 600ml of liquid)
half mug of just boiled water


Combine the juice of the lemon and the oranges with the icing sugar.  Place the gelatine leaves in the half mug of just boiled water and stir until dissolved.  Pour the gelatine water into the orange juice and stir well.  It should now make 600ml of liquid.  Pour this jelly over the sponge and oranges and place in the fridge for several hours or overnight until set.

For the custard (recipe taken from Delia Smith’s How to Cook, Book One):

570ml (1 pint) double cream
1 vanilla pod
6 egg yolks
1 dessertspoon cornflour
50g (2oz) caster sugar


Pour the cream into a small saucepan. Split the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds and place these into the cream, along with the pod.  Heat the cream over a gentle heat until just below simmering point.  Whilst that is happening whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and cornflour in a large bowl.  Pour the hot cream over the egg mixture whisking all the time to prevent the eggs from scrambling. Pour the whole lot back into the pan and back onto the gentle heat stirring all the time.  The custard will thicken and it should coat the back of a spoon, so that when you run your finger down the spoon the line where you did this is clear.  Pour the custard into a bowl and stir for a minute or so until cool, sprinkle a little sugar over the top  to prevent a skin from forming and leave to cool completely.

Pour the custard over the jelly layer of the trifle, sprinkle with a  little more sugar and place back in the fridge.

Whisk 600ml (1 pint) of double cream until softly whipped and spread over the custard layer.  Sprinkle over your choice of decorations just before serving.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

19 thoughts on “Proper trifle – citrussy”

  1. Love the 100’s and 1000’s on top (when I was little the concept of 100’s and 1000’s was too much for me so even to this day I call them tons and lots!!!)
    I agree with you, it is nigh on impossible to take a good photo of trifle, you’ve done really well and this creation sounds and looks wonderful. I’ll need to make this for Hubby, he is a trur trifle lover!

    1. Oh yes, peaches with glace cherries sounds like a winner Mandy. Thank you for the birthday wishes, it was a special one so it lasted about a week and he had lots of raised glasses in that time!

    1. Oh Michele, thank you, I have been suffering a bit of blogger’s block – tidying up the house suddenly became more interesting than sitting down to post (weird but true), but hopefully come through it now. You have to try a proper trifle, they are so deliciously decadent and comforting. Hundreds and thousands is a very good term, but now Chele has introduced me to ‘tons and lots’ that will have to be my new term for them.

  2. Nooooo – it’s hundreds and thousands – does it not say so on the packet? Anyway, I think you need a tons and lots more on!

    Good trifling work. If you’re struggling to post new stuff, you could always get to work on that book! 😉

  3. Nice to see you again, Kath! I am going to make some trifle for friends who are coming to dinner (none of who are British) so they get a taste of “English food” … I love the noise a proper trifle makes when you get the spoon in there… that sort of sucking popping noise when you get that first spoonful out!

    1. Hi Wendy, I hope they love your trifle, I’m sure they will. I think there should be a word for that noise. It’s very specific to a trifle isn’t it? Blancmange might make a similar noise but not so satisfying. I am thinking Schloop – should we contact the OED?

  4. I’ve probably said it before, but I’ll say it again – can I come and live with you? I so love the idea of an array of puds AND a trifle – big sigh. But what’s this with the Christmas pud????

    1. Choclette, you would be very welcome! Christmas puddings shouldn’t just be for Christmas you know. My mum makes about five each year and then we enjoy them through the course of the year. I couldn’t wait a whole year for just one Christmas pudding. It’s the same with mince pies in this house. I make them all year round and the girls love them as much as I do.

  5. Oh well, I have to admit, if my mother gave me more than than the one pud she passes over each year, I expect I would be indulging more often too. Does your mother make the best xmas puds ever? Cos mine does.

  6. Your dad is one lucky man with such a stunning spread of goodies for his birthday. I had proper trifle once in my life—many years ago. It was indeed a wondrous dessert, as I am certain is yours. Great inspiration for the holidays—which will be here in no time, really!

  7. Pingback: Chocolate roulade, with a touch of the Black Forest | The Ordinary Cook

  8. Hello, Kath, I would like to tell you that some days ago I made a plum jam trife, which came out very good. I wish I could show you the pictures. I do not have a blog, I have my FB page and there you can see it if you wish or let me know how can I show it to you… Now, today I am trying with peaches. I prepared a bizcochuelo for the bottom and then covered it with slices of fresh peaches. I understand that the jelly is necessary before you put the custard layer, because the custard on top of the peaches wouldn’t work well.. maybe yes, I am not sure… But the problem I have now is that I prepared the jelly and of course when I poured it little by little on top of the peaches, the jelly (which is still liquid) goes down to the bottom, I mean it soaks the cake below… Is that ok? Or should I have to wait until the jelly is sort of thicker so that it stays more or less on top of the peaches and covers them slightly, at least, so that when later on or the next day you pour the custard on top it works well. Thank you for your opinion. I am going on with this trifle, anyway. I am sure it will not be so bad!!!

    1. Hi Susie,
      I am sure it will be very delicious as it is, it certainly sounds good. I pour my jelly in its liquid state and so some will inevitably soak into the cake. This is part of the charm of trifle. Enjoy every mouthful. Do try a trifle without a jelly too if you feel inspired to do so. I like a jelly trifle but there are lots of recipes out there that do not include the jelly. Best wishes

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.