or scroll for handy tips and a little nostalgia.
Fa la la la la… la la la laaaaaa.
This Old Fashioned Trifle Recipe is inspired by the wonderful trifles I’ve enjoyed on Christmas Day for as far back as I can remember.
A Traditional Trifle looks so festive on the Christmas Table, and when you dig in you realise why so many people make this dessert year after year. It’s just layers of lovely festive flavours.
A trifle recipe from my family to yours
If you don’t have a family recipe for this fabulous layered dessert, well I reckon you might like mine.
It’s based on decades of trifle-making by the experts: my Nan Mac and Mum.
So, let’s run through all the things you need to make and enjoy your own perfect Christmas Trifle.
First things first.
Presentation is everything when it comes to this colourful dessert, and a sparkling trifle dish is a must.
You can buy a trifle bowl new from a department or kitchenware store. Alternatively, head to a local op shop to find one for a fraction of the cost of a new bowl.
Another option is to simply use a glass bowl.
Ingredients for Trifle
My Nan made a wonderful trifle, always decorated with fresh strawberries and cream. My mum says she always insisted on two flavours of jelly rather than just one.
Now with Mum at the helm as chief trifle maker at Christmas, I have to say her trifles may be even better than Nan’s!
Mum’s tips are to use a sponge jam roll (from the supermarket – no baking required!), only sliced tinned peaches in addition to the strawberries (make sure you use fresh berries) and custard – made from powder rather than using custard from the carton.
That’s right, good old custard. Forget trifles with fancy lemon curd or caramel cream or chocolate mousse. This one uses creamy custard.
And while some people substitute the similar pound cake, I say it’s similar but not the same. Use sponge cake!
By making up your own custard, you can make it a little thicker so your trifle holds together nicely. And the sponge cake roll looks amazing when sliced into rounds and arranged in the trifle bowl.
So I’ve included all of these ingredients and, of course, Sherry (now called Apera in Australia) which is generally the preferred alcohol for trifles. And you’ll need plenty of it.
Forget the tablespoon measure you use with other recipes. Forget the sprinkling of alcohol. You’ll need a cup measure here so you can absolutely soak the sponge with alcohol.
Yes, there is a whole cup of Sherry in this Trifle recipe.
I thought Mum may have been drinking something a little strong when she told me how much Sherry she adds to her trifles. I went a little light on the Sherry. But Mum was right. It just tastes better with the extra Sherry.
All of the ingredients, along with precise measurements, can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of the post.
Putting it all together: how to make a classic trifle
It’s really quite easy to put the trifle together. The most important thing is to read through the instructions here and in the recipe card so you can plan it all out.
The first thing to keep in mind is that trifle tastes better the next day, so making it up the day before is ideal.
You’ll also need to keep in mind that you’ll have to allow time for the jelly to set.
Okay, so let’s go layer by layer.
Layer 1: Jelly and Strawberries
Make up up both jellies according to the packet instructions but using about 30ml less cold water than instructed.
Slice a few of the strawberries and then add these, along with half of the unset passionfruit jelly, into the bottom of the trifle bowl. Place in the fridge to set.
Place the remaining passionfruit jelly and raspberry jelly into separate containers and place both in the fridge to set.
Layer 2: Sponge and Sherry
Slice your strawberry or raspberry jam sponge roll into rounds of about 1 1/2cm in thickness.
Once layer 1 has set, arrange the rounds around the edge of the bowl so you can see the swirl pattern. Fill the centre with remaining rounds to create an even sponge layer and then pour the Sherry over all of the sponge.
Layer 3: Peaches and Vanilla Custard
Make up the custard according to the directions in the recipe card below (you add a little extra custard powder than the packet advises).
Layer 3 consists of the custard (once cooled) and the sliced peaches (which have had the juice drained away).
Layer 4: Jelly
Once the jelly is set, cut it into cubes and place over the custard and peaches layer to create the next layer of your trifle.
Layer 5: Strawberries and Whipped Cream
The final layer! Beat the thickened cream and icing sugar until stiff. Then use a piping tube to decorate the trifle with cream stars.
Add remaining strawberries, sliced or chopped, to the top of the trifle.
When to make the trifle
The best time to make your trifle is 12-24 hours before you’re planning to serve it. This gives the trifle time to macerate and the flavours to blend and combine.
Store the trifle in the fridge covered in plastic wrap before serving.
Any leftovers can also be kept in the fridge and enjoyed for up to 2-3 days.
Some final trifle-making tips
I’ll say it again. This is not a difficult recipe but planning ahead is essential. It’s best made the day before and you’ll need to allow for setting time for the jelly.
And, again, I’ll emphasise that presentation is everything here.
Make sure your trifle bowl is sparkling clean.
Wipe away any smudges that happen when you’re adding the layers.
Make sure the layers are even and arrange the ingredients so they look wonderful from the outside of the bowl. You want a neat, clean division between each layer. Not a colourful mush. Though it will still taste great!
Finally, here are some additions and substitutions you can consider to make this trifle your own family favourite:
- the Sherry version is seriously good, but you can substitute the Sherry for any type of fruit juice if you want to make it alcohol-free or kid friendly
- you could also experiment with different types of cake (butter cake or fruit cake, for exmaple,) and different types of alcohol
- you could use tinned fruit salad instead of the sliced peaches
- use your own favourite flavours of jelly
- many older Trifle recipes from the early 1900s include chopped blanched almonds in the trifle
- more modern recipes sometimes include grated chocolate over the top layer
- you could also garnish with a few sprigs of mint for added festive colour, or add a few raspberries and blueberries for an extra berry trifle .
A final tip.
Trifles are sometimes known as tipsy cakes, and this Trifle has some serious levels of alcohol.
You might need a designated driver if you plan to enjoy this one!
More Classic Christmas recipes
You can find more classics for the festive season in the Cooking with Nana Ling Christmas collection, including:
- Brandy Custard
- Choc Cherry Log
- Christmas Pavlova
- Scottish Tablet
- White Christmas
- Florentine Slice
- Chocolate Trifle
- Christmas Balls
- Christmas Cake
- Rum Balls
- Boiled Christmas Pudding
- Mini Trifles.
Classic Trifle Recipe
- Trifle bowl
- 1 packet raspberry jelly (85 grams makes 500 grams)
- 1 packet passionfruit jelly (85 grams makes 500 grams)
- 250 grams fresh strawberries
- 700 grams tinned sliced peaches in juice
- 400 gram jam sponge roll
- 1 cup sherry (apera) (or any type of fruit juice)
- 3 tablespoons custard powder
- 1 tablespoon caster sugar
- 2 cups milk
- 300 ml thickened cream (heavy cream)
- 2 tablespoons icing sugar
- Make up both jellies according to the packet instructions but using about 30ml less cold water than instructed.
- Pour half of the passionfruit jelly into the bottom of the trifle bowl and add 3-4 sliced strawberries to the jelly. Place in the fridge to set.
- Place remaining passionfruit jelly into a small container that will allow you to cut the jelly into cubes once set. Place the raspberry jelly into a separate container and place both jellies in the fridge to set.
- Make up the custard by combining the custard powder and sugar with a little of the milk to make a paste. Heat the remaining milk in a saucepan. Once steam starts to rise from the milk and small bubbles form on the surface, add the custard powder paste and whisk the mixture until it thickens. Set aside to cool.
- Slice jam sponge roll into rounds that are about 1 1/2cm thick. Once the passionfruit jelly has set in the bottom of the trifle bowl, place rounds around the edge of the bowl so you can see the swirl pattern and then place remaining rounds in the centre to create an even sponge layer. Pour the Sherry over all of the sponge.
- For the next layer, spoon over your cooled custard and sliced peaches (draining the juice from the peaches first).
- Once the jelly is set, cut into cubes and place over custard and peaches to create the next layer of your trifle.
- Beat thickened cream and icing sugar until stiff. Use a piping tube to decorate the trifle with cream stars and then add remaining strawberries, sliced or chopped, to the top of the trifle.