Boozy British Trifle

Submitted by: Joanna Wilson, Toronto

“It's a modern twist on a classic dessert, which my mother -- who came to Canada from Scotland in 1967 -- made every year. My sister took it up a notch with this even better version from the domestic goddess, Nigella Lawson. It's a pudding with punch.”



  • 1 litre(s) heavy cream
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup(s) super fine sugar
  • 1 tsp(s) vanilla

Trifle Base

  • 2 packets trifle sponges, with 8 sponges in each packet (or 2 plain pound cakes of 12 ounces each)
  • 340 g strawberry or blackberry jam (1 12 oz. jar)
  • 500 ml(s) cream sherry (2 cups sweet sherry)
  • 2 380g packets of frozen summer fruits, thawed (two 12-ounce bags)
  • zest of one orange
  • 25 g caster sugar - not needed if using fresh fruits (2 tablespoons superfine sugar)

Trifle Topping

  • 500 ml(s) double cream (2 cups heavy cream)
  • 50 shelled pistachios (1/3 cup)
  • 1 15ml tablespoon crystallised rose petals (or crystallised violet petals) – try or

Cooking Instructions

To make the custard, heat the cream in a large, wide, heavy-based pan and while it’s heating, whisk the egg yolks, whole eggs and caster sugar in a bowl. When the cream’s at boiling point – though don’t actually let it boil – take it off the heat and pour it over the eggs and sugar, whisking as you go.

Wash out the pan (boring but it does have to be done), then pour the uncooked custard back into it and return to the heat. Cook over a medium heat (people will tell you it should be low heat but that is just too tedious for words), stirring all the time, until it has thickened. It must never boil!

After 10-15 minutes, it should be thick enough, so straight away pour it into a cold, clean bowl, add the vanilla extract, and whisk a bit to help bring the temperature down. Cover the very top of the custard, as well as the bowl, with cling film and leave to cool, while you start assembling your trifle.

Split the 16 trifle sponges in half and make into sandwiches with the jam. Squidge these into the base of your trifle bowl. (A trifle bowl should, I feel, be glass so you can see the layers from the outside. The proportions vary and, since the point of a trifle is the layers, the dimensions of your bowl will determine how these build up and the amount of sponge etc. you will need.) Pour the sherry over the sponge sandwiches and let it soak in. Now tumble in the thawed summer fruits, with a little of their liquid (it might seem unseasonal to use ‘summer’ fruits, but I love their tartness against the sweetness of the custard that will drape over them). Then grate the zest of the orange over the fruit and sprinkle with the caster sugar; if you’re not using frozen fruit (which tends to be sour), don’t bother with the sugar. (And you could bake a layer of pink, forced winter rhubarb, instead. Use 1kg rhubarb – about 800g when it's trimmed and sliced into 4cm-5cm pieces. Put the slices in a baking dish, sprinkle with 300g caster sugar, cover tightly with foil and cook, without adding liquid, for 45 minutes in a 190C/gas mark 5 (375F) oven. Once the rhubarb’s cold, use that as your fruit layer and boil down the juices to make a syrup for ice cream, or to drizzle – reduced and then chilled – over the cream with the pistachios and rose, later).

When the custard’s cool, remove the cling film. Pour and scrape the custard on top of the berries. It will be soft-set: thickened but far from solid. Cover the bowl (not the custard this time) with some fresh cling film (plastic wrap) and refrigerate for at least half a day or up to 2 days – it’s this standing time that makes the difference.

When you are ready to serve, take the trifle out of the fridge to stand for about 1 hour. Whisk the cream until softly whipped. You don’t want it to merge with the custard, but nor do you want it stiffly peaking.

Remove the cling film from the trifle bowl and spread the cream on top of the custard with a rubber spatula.

Finely chop the pistachios, sprinkle over the top of the trifle and adorn with a few, beautiful crystallized rose petals (or crystallized violet petals, if you prefer).

Source or her book NIGELLA CHRISTMAS

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