“A dessert typically consisting of plain or sponge cake often soaked with wine or spirits (as brandy or rum) and topped with layers of preserves, custard, and cream.” –Definition of English Trifle, as found in the Merriam-Webster dictionary
I can still remember the first English Trifle I tasted years ago. Its soft airy whipped cream, comforting creamy pudding, fresh sweet berries and crumbly texture made for one memorable, heavenly dessert.
Having scoured my cookbooks (this was pre-internet) for an English Trifle recipe, but failing to find one that reflected the culinary vision I had in my baker’s mind, I set out to create my own.
I had just read Frances Mayes’ 1996 memoir Under the Tuscan Sun, in which she shared a Lemon Cake recipe that I had made, served with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. Deliciously moist and fresh, I decided to make my first trifle with her lemon cake in place of the more typical ladyfingers and sponge cake that one finds in traditional English Trifle recipes.
After all, there truly is nothing better than using homemade vanilla pudding or even tapioca, fresh whipped cream and a trio of berries – strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.
Refreshing and light, the English Trifle makes the perfect summer dessert for cookouts, barbecues and family get-togethers. It’s also a fun patriotic dessert for the Fourth of July with the layering of the red berries, the white whipped cream/pudding/cake, and the blueberries.
We hope you enjoy!
English Trifle Recipe:
Lemon Cake (taken from Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes, 1996)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temp.
2 cups sugar
3 eggs, room temp.
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
3 tbsp. lemon juice
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Cream together 1 cup of sweet butter and 2 cups of sugar. Beat in 3 eggs, one at a time. The mixture should be light. Mix together 3 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and incorporate this with the butter mixture alternately with 1 cup buttermilk, (In Italy, I use one cup of cream since buttermilk is not available.) Begin and end with the flour mixture. Add 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and the grated zest of the lemon. Bake in a nonstick tube pan at 200 degree for 50 minutes. The cake can be glazed with 1/4 cup of soft butter into which 1 & 1/2 cups of powdered sugar and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice have been beaten. Decorate with tiny curls of lemon rind.
Vanilla Pudding (taken from The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, 1931)
Hint: Be patient with the pudding, it takes a lot of time and constant stirring to keep it smooth and creamy and to keep it from burning.
2/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp. cornstarch
1/8 tsp. salt
3 cups whole milk
3-4 large egg yolks
2-3 tbsp. butter
1 & 1/2 tsp. vanilla
In medium heavy saucepan mix together thoroughly the sugar, cornstarch, and salt and gradually stir in, making sure to dissolve the cornstarch, 3 cups of whole milk and then whisk in the egg yolks, and then the butter. It is important to stir constantly to keep lumps from forming and to keep from burning the pudding. Cook, on medium heat stirring constantly until the mixture just comes to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low; stirring briskly, bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Let cool for several minutes and then place plastic wrap on top to keep the top from forming a film. Let the pudding cool thoroughly before using.
To assemble the trifle:
The cake and pudding
1-2 cups sliced strawberries*
1 cup raspberries
1 cup blueberries
Several cups of fresh whipped cream
Round trifle dish
Instructions for the trifle:
To begin, cut cake into 2-3 inch squares and spread raspberry jam on one side. Arrange neatly on the bottom of the trifle dish and then begin the layering first with pudding, then berries and then the whipped cream. Continue layering to the top finishing with the whipped cream. Decorate the whipped cream with either cake crumbs or berries. Refrigerate for at least 6-24 hours (I found that it tasted best after refrigerating overnight.)
*You can combine all of the berries together in a bowl for the layering or you can layer the berries separately for a more orderly and patriotic looking finish.
3 thoughts on “Late Spring, Early Summer: The Perfect Time for an English Trifle”
This looks wonderful! I have been making Francis Mayes Lemon cake for about 7 years now and absolutely love it. My only concession to change is that I use the juice and zest of 6 lemons. …we love lemon!
Also, I came across a wonderful lemon, rosemary sauce that you begin making as the cake cools. Cool until just warm the sauce, then pour it over the slightly warmed cake and allow it to seep in. I always reserve a bit to spoon over individual slices. A bit of fresh, unsweetened whipped cream and it is to die for. Simply the best lemon cake ever.
In summer, a pint of native blueberries folded in before baking is Devine. ????
Kim, that sounds delicious! We’ll definitely try your suggestions!
I too think this sounds fabulous and was going to make just the Mayes Cake with her glaze but both this recipe and Kim Quinn’s version appeal greatly. I would love to know this wonderful lemon, rosemary sauce recipe?