A simple English trifle for your summer BBQ

Apr 25, 2014 at 4:55 a.m. ET

Believe it or not, the trifle has been around for more than 300 years. And it is still as popular as ever with its layers of sponge and fruit, custard and whipped cream.

English trifle

We love trifle in Britain and it is a firm favorite for summer buffets and family meals. That is probably due to its versatile nature and because it can be made a couple of days in advance and still look tempting.


  • 1 pint milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornflour/cornstarch
  • 1 medium Swiss roll (I like to use a vanilla sponge with strawberry filling)
  • 1 (14 ounce) tin of fruit cocktail or fruit of your choice
  • Jell-O of your choice made up to 1 pint
  • 1 pint heavy/double cream
  • Grated chocolate or toasted flaked almonds for presentation


  1. Find a pretty glass bowl for presentation (about 8 inches in diameter and about 6 inches deep). Cut the Swiss roll into slices about 1/2 inch thick, and arrange in the bottom and up the sides of the glass dish to about 1/3 of the height.
  2. Drain the fruit and place carefully on top of the sponge.
  3. Make the Jell-O up to 1 pint and pour over the top of the sponge and fruit. Refrigerate for a couple of hours to set fully.
  4. In the meantime, prepare the custard by heating up the milk until it steams.
  5. Add the vanilla essence. Slake the cornflour/cornstarch with a couple of teaspoons of water and whisk into the hot milk. Return to the heat and bring it to a boil. Add the sugar and mix well. Pour the custard into a bowl and allow to cool.
  6. When the Jell-O base is set and the custard is cool, pour the custard over the Jell-O and return to the fridge
  7. While that is cooling, whisk the cream until it forms soft peaks. Arrange the cream on top of the trifle. I sometimes like to pipe it on, but if you are in a bit of hurry it looks equally pretty spooned on and fluffed up into peaks.
  8. Place the strawberries on the top and sprinkle with the grated chocolate or toasted almonds.
  9. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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