Who doesn’t love a traditional trifle with its layers of sponge, fruit, custard and cream infused with a touch of decadent alcohol? Ok I know how easy it is to go out and buy one ready-made but there’s nothing more satisfying than making your own or at the very least assembling one at home, which allows you to tailor it to your own taste. 

The ingredients are pretty simple and this is an example of one such trifle I made on a Sunday morning from whatever I had to hand. Don’t be put off by the process, this is a fun dessert and the effort is worth it.

SPONGE-the base for your trifle. You can buy ready-made trifle sponges, or use a simple shop bought Madeira cake but as I try and avoid wheat I tend to make my own sponge too from the store cupboard.



3 heaped tbsp white spelt (or wheat) flour (sifted)

2 tbsp sugar (I use a light Demerara but white will do)

1 large egg (beaten)

1 large tbsp coconut oil (soft but not liquid-you can substitute butter if you prefer)

1 tsp baking powder

1tsp vanilla (I use Madagascan Vanilla Bean paste rather than flavouring because it's a better taste and although it can be pricey a little goes a long way)


Cream the coconut oil and sugar until smooth, beat in the egg and vanilla paste. Fold in the flour and baking powder. Add a splash of milk (whatever type of milk you use e.g. almond, soy or coconut milk) to slacken the mix into a thick batter. Put the mix into a silicone cake mould, any shape will do, as all you need it to do is hold the cake until it’s cooked through. It doesn’t need to look pretty because you’re going to be cutting it up when cool.


Bake in a preheated oven around 160C-180C (320F-350F, gas mark 3-4) for about 10-12 minutes until cooked through (test by inserting a thin skewer or a bamboo kebab stick-when it comes out clean it’s done). Turn out of the mould and set aside to cool on a wire rack.

CUSTARD-now you have 2 options, use a shop bought custard or make your own, but bearing in mind we’re dealing with what you’ve got to hand then let’s go with option 2.



2 eggs (or 4 yolks if you’re feeling extravagant-less chance of scrambling the eggs if you use yolks only-the problem with this is you have 4 egg whites sitting in the fridge and  despite the best intentions they’ll probably stay there unused until you have to throw them away-not ideal)

½ pint of milk (again whatever you use) or ¼ pint of milk and ¼ pint cream (obviously a more luxurious result)

½ tsp vanilla bean paste (or 1 split vanilla pod)

1 large tbsp sugar (white is best as brown sugar turns the custard an off putting colour)



Put the milk (and cream if using) and vanilla in a pan and bring gently to the boil, taking care not to catch it on the bottom of the pan. Set aside and allow the vanilla to infuse with the milk.

Whisk the eggs thoroughly and when the milk has cooled down pour it over the eggs whisking all the time. Don’t be tempted to pour the milk while it’s still hot or it will scramble the eggs (very unpleasant). At this point, if I’m using whole eggs, I usually slake a teaspoon of cornflour with a little cold milk and mix this in, which thickens the mixture so that it’s a better consistency for trifle.

When the eggs and milk are thoroughly whisked and creamy stir in the sugar and pour the mixture into a heavy based pan and bring slowly back to the boil stirring all the time. Remove the vanilla pod if you used one and sieve if required. Set aside to cool.



You can use whatever soft fruit is in season or in the freezer. I grow my own raspberries and freeze them in season to use in the winter. Raspberries are ideal as are strawberries, blackberries, blueberries or harder fruits such as peaches or nectarines but really the fruit layer can be anything you prefer.



Sherry is the traditional option here but if you don’t have a bottle in your cupboard there are many alternatives. Port is perfect, rich and dark, or any of the fruit liqueurs such as kirsch, Chambord Raspberry Liqueur or even sloe gin, which adds a deep warming note ideal for a winter trifle.



Double cream is perfect but there are dairy substitutes that work just as well (coconut cream whisked with sugar is an option here)


The fun part starts. Cut the sponge into slices or chunks and lay them in the bottom of a suitable bowl. Mine is a 1970’s Laura Ashley ceramic bowl which looks pretty in the centre of a table but a glass bowl is just as good. Traditionally you would spread jam over the sponge at this point but it really isn’t necessary. Pour your chosen alcohol over the sponge, enough to dampen it rather than drown it otherwise the sponge just disintegrates. Layer the fruit over the sponge, sweetened with honey if required. Don’t skimp here but don’t overload the fruit either, balance is the key. Next spoon the custard over the fruit in a thick layer, allow it to settle. Finally whisk the cream into soft peaks and spoon this over the custard, you can smooth this down or leave in peaks, whichever you prefer. I usually grate a little dark chocolate over the top but you can sprinkle chocolate chips or hundreds and thousands if you’re trying for the retro look.


There you have it, a luxury dessert that’s fun to make whichever options you choose. There’s enough for four good sized portions here but there’s only two of us in our house so I put two portions in the fridge for the next day. I hope you give it a try and let me know how you got on as I’d love to hear from you. Bon appétit x