English Trifle – a (New) England Holiday Tradition

When not traveling for the holidays, we like to host a traditional Boxing Day dinner party at our house. Of course, this being a British tradition, it requires such delights as pudding, brandy, and the pulling of Christmas Crackers. And after having the best and most decadent Christmas dinner in England a few years ago, I’ve added traditional English Trifle to the dessert offerings. You can pretend it’s healthy because it has fruits in!

This recipe is adapted from #291836 at Syllabub: Words on Food.

Large round or oval clear serving bowl with a wide flat bottom
Large heat-proof whisk
Sauce pan
Hand-mixer for whipping cream (optional)

For the Custard
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 T vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
2 T cornstarch

1. In a saucepan heat the milk and cream to boiling.
2. In a large bowl whisk the egg yolks with the sugar, vanilla and cornstarch until smooth and pale.
3. While constantly whisking the egg yolk mixture, slowly trickle in the hot milk/cream.
4. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over gentle heat whisking frequently until the custard thickens sufficiently to coat the back of a spoon. Do not allow the mixture to come to a boil – it will split.
5. After thickening, chill the mixture in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

For the Trifle
6 cups assorted fruits*, washed, peeled, pitted & sliced as needed
36 ladyfingers, or enough to cover the bottom of your trifle bowl in two layers
4 cups custard (above)
1/4 cup brandy, sherry, or fine Marsala
1.5 cups heavy (whipping) cream
12 amaretti cookies

1. Layer ladyfingers in two layers in the bottom of the bowl and sprinkle with brandy.
2. Layer fruits one at a time, with heavier varieties on the bottom and lighter fruits like raspberries on top.
3. Spread the cooled custard over the fruits, leaving about 1/4 inch of space from the custard layer to the edge of the bowl.
4. Crush the cookies and sprinkle the crumbs over the custard.
5. Finally, whip the cream until fluffy, adding the remaining tablespoons of brandy as you go, then dollop this over the top of the trifle.

*I prefer assorted berries but you can also use cherries, peaches, mangoes, etc

Keep the trifle chilled until served. Allow your guests a moment to admire the beautiful layered concoction before the first portion is served and the entire assemblage collapses into a bowl of delicious sloppy mush.

Published by Sarah Scully

Sarah is a librarian as well as an avid knitter and occasional knitwear designer. She also enjoys cooking, gardening, hiking, reading, painting, and writing with fountain pens.