“Is this traditional English trifle with beef or eggplant?”

I hosted a dinner party a few weeks ago in the style of a traditional Sunday roast lunch (watch for more on that later), and for dessert there was trifle. Of course, in the week leading up to the party, whenever I mentioned trifle I kept getting the question of, “You mean like in that one episode of Friends?” There are few people of my generation that didn’t end up watching a lot of Friends in college dorms, and that includes the episode where Rachel got a few pages in her British cookbook stuck together.

Thankfully for my friends, I featured a more traditional version from Cooking of the British Isles. They summarize it as “Cake, Fruit, and Custard Dessert with Whipped Cream”. What they don’t mention is all the sherry and brandy, which really makes this an ideal winter dessert.

Traditional Raspberry Trifle
Time Life Foods of the World, Cooking of the British Isles

Serves 6 to 8.

Raspberry Trifle in Stages

1 poundcake (either homemade, about 5 x 4 x 3 or store-bought, about 12 ounces)
4 tablespoons of raspberry jam
1 cup blanched almonds (I used slivered, the book recommends halved)
1 cup medium-dry sherry
1/4 cup brandy
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons superfine sugar
3 cups custard (make from scratch, or use Birds like I did)
2 cups raspberries (if fresh or 20 ounces frozen)

Cut the poundcake into 1-inch thick slices and coat them with the raspberry jam. Place 2 or 3 of the cake slices, jam side up, in the bottom of a glass serving bowl. Cut the remaining slices of cake into 1-inch cubes, scatter them over the slices, and sprinkle 1/2 cup of the almonds on top. Then pour in the sherry and brandy and let the mixture steep at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

In a large chilled bowl, whip the cream with a whisk or electric mixer until it thickens slightly. Add the sugar and continue to beat until the cream is stiff enough to form unwavering peaks on the beater when lifted out of the bowl.

To assemble the trifle, set 10 of the best berries aside (I was using frozen, so skipped this) and scatter the rest over the cake. With a spatula spread the custard across the top. Then gently smooth half of the whipped cream over the surface of the custard. Using a pastry bag fitted with a large rose tip, pipe the remaining whipped cream decoratively around the edge (I forgot to do this since I hadn’t saved berries for decorating). Garnish the cream with the reserved 10 berries and the remaining 1/2 cup almonds.

The trifle will be at its best served at once, but it may be refrigerated for an hour or two.

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