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Traditional Sherry Trifle

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This Entry gives two recipes, for Traditional Sherry Trifle, an elaborate one based on fresh fruit and real custard, and a much simpler one using packet ingredients. Depending on the time you have available, and how much you wish to impress your guests will be the way to decide which one to make. Scroll down for both recipes!

Sherry trifle.

In the Middle Ages the inclusion of fruit with a meal was considered the prerogative of the nobility. Although fruits native to the UK, such as gooseberries, blackberries, black and red currants and apples, were sometimes available growing in the wild, most were contained in fruiteries attached to the kitchen gardens of the wealthy. Thus it was the cooks of the rich who first started to make jams, marmalades and jellies as well as candied peel and dried fruit.

It wasn't until the 18th Century that sweetened fruit jelly was available to the masses, coinciding with the reduction in the price of sugar. It is not known who first came up with the idea of combining jelly with cake soaked in sherry or fruit juice, custard and cream, but the resulting dessert makes a delicious (if fattening) end to the meals of Christmas Day.

Traditional Sherry Trifle - From Scratch

This version, although making use of shop-bought or already available cake, gives directions for making the trifle as was traditional in Victorian times.


  • 1 Victoria Sponge or Madeira Cake
  • 1 Pint (20 fl oz) milk
  • 2 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tblspns caster sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla pod
  • 4 fl oz medium sherry
  • 6 oz raspberry or strawberry jam
  • 10 oz double or whipping cream
  • 2 oz toasted, flaked almonds
  • 2 oz glace cherries
  • 1 oz gelatin or jelly cubes (vegetarian ones available)
  • Fresh or tinned fruit of choice (optional)
  • Small knob of butter
  • Extra sugar if using fresh fruit


  1. First spread the jam onto the cake. Then break the cake into even pieces and lay on the bottom of a large (3 1/2 pint capacity) glass dish. Sprinkle with the sherry and cover with a plate to keep moist. Leave overnight if possible.

  2. Heat the milk a little and add the vanilla pod. Cover and leave to infuse for 20 minutes then remove the pod.

  3. Beat together the eggs, egg yolks and sugar and then add slowly to the milk. Cook over a gentle heat using a metal hand whisk to prevent lumps forming. Remove from the heat when the custard starts to thicken and add the lump of butter to prevent a skin forming. Occasional stirring will also help to prevent this happening.

  4. If using fresh fruit make sure it is clean and sliced or cubed into bite-sized pieces. Place into a saucepan with 2 fl oz of water and sprinkle with sugar. Warm gently until the sugar dissolves and absorbs the colour from the fruit.

  5. Drain the fruit, saving the syrup formed, and place the fruit over the soaked cake mixture.

  6. If using tinned fruit, just drain, again saving the syrup, and arrange on the cake.

  7. Take the saved syrup and make a jelly using the gelatin... read the packet carefully. It is worth measuring how much liquid you have before adding the thickener as the jelly doesn't want to be too stiff!

  8. Pour the jelly over the cake and fruit and leave in a cool place to set.

  9. Pour over the cold custard.

  10. Whip the cream and spoon carefully on top.

  11. Sprinkle with the almonds and decorate with the cherries.

  12. Serve and enjoy.

Traditional Sherry Trifle - Quick Version

As with all recipes, this one has at least one short-cut version. Use this one if you are worried about making your own egg custard or have far too many other items to prepare.


  • 1 packet of Trifle Sponges
  • 1 pint (20 fl oz) milk, 2 oz custard powder, 2 oz caster sugar or
  • 1 pint ready-made custard
  • 1 packet of jelly - vegetarian ones available!
  • 1 tin of mixed fruit
  • Medium sherry or port or brandy
  • 1 pint (20 fl oz) double or whipped cream or
  • A packet of Dream Delight Topping
  • Cherries or hundreds and thousands or any other cake decorations


  1. Place trifle sponges into a 3 1/2 pint glass bowl.

  2. Soak with the sherry, port or brandy. If preferred this can be omitted.

  3. Make the jelly using any liquid from the fruit to top it up to make a pint.

  4. Pour over the cake and leave to set

  5. If making your own custard form a paste with the custard powder, sugar and a little of the milk. Add to the rest of the milk and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave until cold. Stir every so often to prevent a skin forming.

  6. When cold, pour the custard on top of the other ingredients.

  7. Whip the cream or make the topping and spoon carefully over the trifle.

  8. Decorate, chill and serve.

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