English Trifle

Just a warning – It’s going to take me a while to figure the nutritional value.

Every year since before I can remember Mumika would make a trifle for Christmas. And when I say trifle, I mean a real trifle, non of this brownie trifle, gingerbread trifle, trifle with pudding and non sponge cake in a parfait form. None of this American version crap that’s out there. This, my friends, is the real deal. A traditional English trifle that has been a staple in England at all Christmas tables for centuries.

Of course everyone makes theirs differently. Mumika adapted hers from a family recipe. She took the jam out. Grandpa loved it, and a tradition was born.

This is my one thing that I have to eat during Christmastime. When I got out of the hospital 12 days before Christmas in 2011, I asked for a trifle for dessert. I cared about nothing else, but that trifle making it’s appearance during dessert. So, Mumika radically changed her menu to allow me to have a little bit of my absolutely favorite dessert of all time. She only gave me a little bit, but I didn’t care. All that mattered was that I had some.

This year, Mumika is in Houston, and I am up here. My second Christmas without her. My first Christmas without her, I was in Taiwan with my best friend. But guess what, there was a trifle waiting for me when I came home. This year, I was spared cooking Christmas dinner by my sister inlaw. I’m still making my trifle. I don’t care if I’m the only one that eats it. I will happily eat it making exclaimations like, “so good” and “nomnomnom”.

This trifle is a little bigger than most people think or will understand. It’s not about tradition. It’s not about my favorite dessert. Or that Mumika has been making it since the dawning of time. It’s so much more than that to me. Despite, Dad’s death, she still made it every year. So in a way, even though he’s no longer with us, he’s at least remember and is at the table. In the form of a trifle. It makes Christmas less tough. It allows me to get through the day. And I know what your thinking, you’re surround by family by being with the inlaws. But it’s not the same. It will never be the same. That’s why I am so adamant about the trifle. It’s my way of telling dad, hey happy Christmas, look what were having for dessert. There’s a lot of love in that trifle.

But I have to make it this year. I’ve never made it. Mumika makes it. I know what’s in it. I know how to assemble it. I just decided to take it a step further and make everything from scratch.

It ended up a disaster. Turns out there’s an art of putting the angel food cake and smushing it in the bottom of the bowl so that it doesn’t float up when you pour the jello ontop. You would think the fruit would weigh it down, but nooooo. This is an art that one day, after years of practice, I will hopefully learn.


English Trifle

angel food cake
cream sherry
2 cans of fruit cocktail
whipped topping


get a trifle bowl

The first layer is the angel food cake. We use angel food cake because you really can’t find sponge cake anywhere and angel food cake is pretty much sponge cake. Cram as much angel food cake as you can into the trifle bowl. And when you think you’ve put enough, cram some more.

Drizzle some cream sherry on the angel food cake. You don’t have to drizzle, you can do it like we do and just make sure the angle food cake is soaked in sherry. I personally like tasting the alcohol in my boozy desserts. As I always say, We Thompsons like our desserts extra drunk.

The second layer is technically the fruit. We use  cans of fruit cocktail packing in 100% juice. You drain the juice and pour the fruit on top of the sherry soaked angel food cake.

The third layer is the jello. Raspberry or Cherry works best. Heat 2 cups of water, dissolve the gelatin. Instead of putting two cups of cold water, only put one cup. This also helps make sure that a) there isn’t too much jello and b) the angel food cake won’t decide to go swimming in the jello. Look at the picture of the trifle I made That’s bad. You do not want that. That is what happens when the angel food cake goes swimming. Put the trifle into the fridge to firm up the jello. Wait at least an hour before making the custard.

The fourth layer is the custard. Make enough custard to balance the abundance of the jello. Make as directed. You can make it from scratch or use Bird’s powdered custard. What ever you do, do not use pudding as an alternative. Pudding is not custard. Pudding does not firm up. Pour the custard onto of the jello and chill in the fridge for 4 hours or until dessert time.

The last layer is the whipped topping. You delicately spread this over the firmed custard. Usually, this is done right before you dig into the trifle.

And that is how you assemble an English trifle.

Makes anywhere from 10 – 20 servings.


3 thoughts on “English Trifle

  1. I only used one can of mixed fruit..or you can use a bag of the frozen mixed fruit. Also I only used one of jello and let it cool before pouring over the Angel food cake…I poured it slowly so it soaked into the cake…hence it doesn’t rise.


  2. Pingback: Chocolate Pudding Cake | The DIABETIC Kitchen

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