Trifle – Junk Food Post #27

A Delicious Berry TrifleWow, only five posts left in unResolution Month and sadly only two calendar days.  That means that I am going to have to do some serious typing and you’re going to have to do some serious eating!  Deal?  Deal!

I know we got off schedule a bit because I was too busy having the type of pure fun that one can only have while snowed in in Tulsa.   To recap, this is actually the sixth post of the dessert portion of unResolution month with tomorrow being the final unResolution month dessert.  After that, we’ll be heading into the portion of unResolution month cheerfully entitled “A month is four weeks, which is 28 days BUT January has 31 days so I need to find 3 more days worth of delicious but unhealthy foods section.”

I’m checking with the marketing department, but I kind of like that title for the last 3 days of unResolution Month.  Anyway, as stated before, I am not a baker, so I’ve really been trying to find some of the best chef’s desserts I can and this has lead me to a deep exploration of


Another TrifleNow I know what you’re thinking.  A trifle is totally different than tripe in every way, shape, and manner possible.  Let’s not go there.

Secondly, you may be thinking “What is a trifle?”  A trifle is a kind of layered dessert made by alternating cake (usually sponge cake), liqueur, custard, whipped cream, and oftentimes fruits or nuts or even chocolate.  Trifles range from simple berry trifles to lemon curd trifles to decadent chocolate trifles.  They are usually  served in one giant cup (called a trifle bowl) or in individual glasses (strangely enough not called a parfait.)

Thirdly, you may be asking what is the difference between the English trifle and the Italian zuppa inglesia which is a layered dessert made by alternating cake (usually sponge cake), liqueur, custard, whipped cream, and oftentimes fruits or nuts or even chocolate.  The general consensus is they’re either cousins or basically the Italians took one look at the trifle, called it English soup and viola! they’re exactly the same thing.

I leave the debate up to you and to history.

Ready for a recipe?  I am!

So anyhow, I am not going to present the definitive trifle recipe here, because frankly, I don’t think there is one single definitive trifle.  Every one seems to have their own trifle recipe.  So instead we’re going to talk about creating your own trifle concoction made from the ingredients and flavors you love.

Making the Trifle

As near as I can tell every trifle is composed of a minimum of three and usually more layers.  For the purposes of this post, I will discuss the five most common layers starting with:

Trifle Layer #1: The Cake

The bottom of the cake and the first layer is always a form of cake (as noted above it’s usually sponge cake.)  This is especially true when creating a zuppa inglesia.  Other options included:

  • Trifles made with flavored sponge cake (lemon and orange are my person faves)
  • Trifles made with angel food cake
  • Trifles made with lady fingers (which sounds a little like tiramisu)
  • Trifles made with brownies (Emeril Lagasse is my hero.)

Said cake is always dashed with a little liquor or liqueur.  Suggestions include: brandy, port, cream sherry, and flavored liqueurs.

Trifle Layer #2

The next layer is an optional layer.  Let’s call it the pudding layer to distinguish it from the custard layer, which comes next.  The pudding layer is something like lemon curd, jam, or pudding which can be spread on top of the cake before the custard is added.

Trifle Layer #3

After the pudding layer comes the custard layer.  I know custard and pudding are very similar, but I had to distinguish each one somehow.  Anyway, this is the second of the required layers to make a trifle.  The custard should be spread across the cake/liquor layer and the optional pudding layer.  Be generous with your custard as a lot of the flavor and sweetness of the dessert is going to come from the custard.

Basic vanilla custard is a fine choice, but consider flavoring it with chocolate, citrus, or almond extract.

Trifle Layer #4

The final required layer is the whipped cream layer which rests on top of the custard to provide additional body and sweetness, without being too heavy.  Any whipped cream will work, but again, like the custard, consider giving the whipped cream some flavor.

Trifle Layer #5

For the fifth and final layer, which is optional, anything goes.  Anything that seems like it would work well in the trifle can go in the trffle.  Some of the most common fifth layers that get put into a trifle include:

  • Raspberries
  • Blueberries
  • Brownie pieces
  • Candied lemons
  • Strawberries
  • Limes

Even though this is the fifth layer, it can be put anywhere.  Sometimes the berries are only put on top.  Sometimes they are added before the whipped cream, sometimes after.  Whatever makes sense and tastes delicious, go for it.

So, if you can’t quite figure out how one of these trifles gets put together, consider this recipe from Jenni (who claims it’s so good you’ll slap your mama.  Which seems like one of the more desired outcomes from unResolution month.  And trifles for that matter.)

Her special blend:

Layer 1: Cream sherry soaked lemon spongecake
Layer 2: Raspberry jam
Layer 3: Vanilla pastry cream
Layer 4: Whipped creme fraiche

And it looks a little something like this:

A Gorgeous Trifle

I’d love to take credit for that, but there’s no WAY I could ever make something pretty.  But I encourage you to eat and above all else, enjoy!

Thanks to Jenni for her pic, as well as brooklyn, Wagas Ahmed, and panduh.


  1. Hey, BWD! Glad to have been of some service via our tweet-versation last evening! The post looks excellent–great explanation of all the layers:) I’m honored that you include my humble recipe (actually, it’s my Auntie Ev’s. She’s from England, so she’s “authentic!”) The swank-o version that you show is what we used to do at the restaurant for presentation, but for home, we always made it in a Pyrex baking dish, spread a layer of whipped cream on top and put a maraschino cherry in the center of each square we cut:D

    Now, about this chocolate trifle–yay! I wonder who I’d slap if I made that?!

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