I associate trifle with Christmas – my great aunt Maud (who was British) used to make trifle – the kind with sponge cake in the bottom doused in sherry or brandy, a layer of fresh or tinned fruit, Bird’s custard and whipped cream on top – but it’s truly a year-round dessert. This is my aunt Maud’s trifle bowl, the stand long since broken off – I decided to bring it back this holiday, after chatting with a friend’s mum visiting from Worcestershire about trifle and the Great British Bake-off and the jelly-vs-no jelly debate (I say no jelly). It can be as summery or wintry as you like, and it still seems festive to me when made with a quick sponge roll spread with blackberry jam from the height of summer.
If you’re not familiar with trifle, it’s a British thing traditionally made with layers of custard poured over sherry or brandy-soaked sponge cake, jelly roll or ratafia (similar to amaretti) and jam, stewed fruit or jelly (gelatin), depending on where you grew up, and topped with whipped cream. Delicious, right? And so easy – it’s something you can assemble even if the thought of baking makes you nervous, and is the ideal solution if your cake doesn’t survive re-entry.
In this version, Mary Berry and Sheila Fennell confirmed my memories of aunt Maud’s trifle, but the great thing about it is that you could combine virtually any kind of cake, fruit and custardy-pudding and call it a trifle. Gingerbread and sautéed pears! Chocolate cake and cherries! Pound cake with eggnog custard! Seriously, once you’re down with the concept of spooning out layers of cake and cream, anything goes.