This trifle will look smashing on your Christmas table!!! Layers of custard and jelly, studded with cake and piled high with cream and fruit, it looks stunning in a trifle dish but otherwise just use a glass bowl!
TOP TIP: you can buy the cake and custard ready made (though my recipe uses homemade). But I really recommend making the jelly yourself. It’s such a major component in trifle, it’s easy, and the difference between artificially flavoured packet jelly and real fruit jelly is phenomenal!
The first time I made trifle, I used raspberry flavoured Aeroplane jelly and store bought custard. It looked so fabulous, I was beaming with pride. Blinded by the beauty of the trifle, I completely forgot the first rule of cooking – it doesn’t matter how pretty it looks or how good the photos are if it tastes meh.
One big bite, and I wrinkled my nose with distaste. The jelly flavour was just so incredibly artificial, it was really off-putting because its artificial-ness is such a stark contrast to all the other flavours going on in the trifle.
Now before you go thinking I’m some kind of food snob, let me just say this – I actually don’t mind Aeroplane jelly on it’s own, there’s something sentimental about it. And I thoroughly encourage you to use store bought custard if you are pressed for time (though homemade is really sooooo good!).
BUT PLEASE DO NOT USE FLAVOURED AEROPLANE JELLY IN THIS TRIFLE!!!!
I promise you, it is so crazy simple to make real juice flavoured jelly! All you have to do is use gelatine which is very cheap and easy to use!
NOTE: I used to use flavourless Aeroplane Jelly for the jelly (click here for the original recipe). It’s no longer available, so the recipe uses plain gelatine instead which was preciously an alternative in the notes. Video not yet refilmed. Will do so next year!
For those of you wondering about the difference: Flavourless Aeroplane Jelly was sweet so the recipe called for unsweetened cranberry juice. Gelatine powder is unsweetened so we need to use sweetened cranberry juice.
I think the reason why it makes such a difference to use real Cranberry Juice for the jelly instead of flavoured Aeroplane Jelly is because there is so much of it in the trifle. Also, the jelly is slightly more concentrated in flavour than when you make it per the packet directions because the liquid to crystals ratio is lower, to ensure the jelly is firm enough to withstand the weight of everything piled on top of it.
Other than that, I have no other trifle rules. In fact, I’m pretty relaxed about everything else. Use whatever cake you want for the base – store bought or homemade madeira, Pound Cake or Vanilla Cake, even Christmas cake. Use homemade or store bought custard. Use any fruit you want – even canned is fine. I’d even say it’s pretty ok to use whipped cream out of a spray can over using flavoured Aeroplane jelly!!!
If you want quite neat layers, like depicted, please do follow the recipe carefully for each layer. In my trifle making life, there have been some not-so-pretty trifle efforts (albeit tasty!). Mainly bleeding between the layers, and jelly that set too much before ladling onto the custard, so it looked broken and split, rather than a clear jelly to show off the fruit in that layer.
If you’re catering for a large group this Christmas and/or you want a dessert you can make days in advance, this Christmas Trifle is ideal! Just assemble the layers then refrigerate. The only thing you’ll need to do on the day is whip the cream and pile on the fruit.
Then stand back and admire your handiwork. Beam with pride at how gorgeous your trifle looks. Enjoy that moment, because as soon as people start digging in, it will look like a complete and utter wreck. A delicious wreck. 😂 – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
- 1 x 450g / 14 oz Madeira cake or Pound cake store bought (Note 1)
- 1/3 cup orange or other fruit flavoured liquor (like Cointreau), or apple, orange or other fruit juice (or 2 tbsp brandy)
- 7 tsp gelatine powder (Note 2)
- 6 cups Cranberry juice, original (ie WITH sugar added, not No Added Sugar, Note 2)
- 500 – 750g (1 – 1.5 lb) strawberries , halved
- 1 each punnet blueberries, raspberries
- 2 1/2 cups heavy / thickened cream (or pure whipping cream)
- 3 tbsp white sugar (caster sugar ok)
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Homemade Thick Custard (or 900g 1 tub Pauls Double Thick Vanilla Custard, Note 3):
- 3 cups milk (full or low fat)
- 1/4 cup caster sugar (superfine sugar)
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or extract) (Note 4)
- 1/4 cup caster sugar (superfine sugar), extra
- 4 egg yolks (Note 7 for using leftover whites)
- 1/2 cup cornflour / cornstarch
- Cut cake into 2 cm / 0.8" cubes. Cover bottom of 3.5 L / 3.5 qt trifle dish with cake (might not use all) and sprinkle with liquor or juice.
- Optional extra: Scatter over 1/2 to 1 punnet halved strawberries (this is not in ingredients list).
- Heat half juice – Put half the cranberry juice into a saucepan over medium heat (3 cups / 750ml). Bring to a simmer, then turn off stove.
- Dissolve geatline – Meanwhile, put remaining room temperature cranberry juice into a very large bowl. Sprinkle gelatine all across surface (don't dump in one place, else you get lumps). Whisk until mostly dissolved (will finish dissolving in next step).
- Pour in hot cranberry juice. Whisk until gelatin is fully dissolved.
Jelly Layer 1:
- Pour HALF the warm jelly liquid carefully down the side of the trifle dish so the cake pieces are submerged. Refrigerate the trifle dish uncovered for 1.5 hours until it is partly set. It needs to be set enough so you can gently place a strawberry on it and it will stay on the surface. Proceed to Custard Layer steps.
- Pour remaining warm jelly in a bowl and leave on the counter. DO NOT refrigerate.
- Meanwhile, make the custard so it is ready to use (see below for how to make).
- Remove trifle from fridge. Whisk the room temperature custard to loosen. Spoon onto the jelly, smooth surface, press against wall of glass to seal (stops jelly bleed so you get neat layers). Refrigerate uncovered for 1 hour until the surface has firmed up a bit – just enough to hold the jelly (jelly is soft, so custard doesn't need to be fully set).
Partially set remaining jelly
- Give the remaining jelly a good whisk then put it in the fridge at the same time to thicken a bit but not fully set. Refrigerate for 1 hour, but check at 30 minutes to ensure it isn't setting too fast. The jelly should be sloppy but spoonable, scoops up in a small mound. If it fully sets, you'll end up with a "broken glass" effect on the next jelly layer rather than a clear layer (read Note 5).
Jelly Layer 2:
- Remove trifle and jelly from fridge. Jelly should be sloppy. Carefully spoon over jelly, smooth surface. Scatter over 1 punnet halved strawberries (or half each raspberries and strawberries). Refrigerate for 3 hours+ (can leave in fridge for 48 hours, until ready to assemble).
- Cream: Beat cream, sugar and vanilla until softly whipped.
- Once jelly is set, just before serving, top with cream, then pile over remaining berries. Dust with icing sugar.
- Serve!! PS It is imperative to ensure every servings includes a bit of every layer in the trifle 😂
- Bring milk, ¼ cup sugar and vanilla to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat. Do not boil.
- In a large bowl, whisk together remaining ¼ cup sugar and yolks, then whisk in cornflour until smooth.
- While whisking, carefully pour in about ½ cup of milk mixture. Once mixed in, slowly pour in remaining milk while whisking. Once incorporated and smooth, pour back into saucepan.
- Return saucepan to stove over low heat. Whisk constantly until it becomes thick and custardy – this will happen quite quickly, about 45 seconds (ie it is liquidy when you start, then suddenly it thickens). Once thickened, remove immediately from heat (it will continue to thicken as it cools).
- Immediately pour into a bowl and cover with cling wrap, pressing onto surface. Leave on the counter to cool to room temp until trifle is ready to layer with custard. Makes 750ml. (Note 5)
Life of Dozer
All I want for Christmas is for this Trifle to fall off the table.
Love, Dozer 🐾
Santa won’t be making good on that wish, but while he was sleeping, Santa accidentally flung some custard on his face and he didn’t even stir….