Trifle Recipe — Christmas in England

English Trifle recipe Video (scroll down for printable recipe)

Part seven in my Christmas Around the World series! Christmas in England, focus on: TRIFLE!

The Trifle was one of my grandmother’s signature desserts. For as much as she loved to eat, she really did not enjoy cooking and rarely did it that I recall, except for gingerbread muffins, cinnamon toast, and this trifle, if you can call making a trifle “cooking”. It’s assembly, really; a combination of ready-made ingredients that comes together remarkably well. Most trifle recipes will use store-bought ladyfingers layered with custard, jam, sometimes nuts, and whipped cream. My grandmother always made hers with a frozen (and thawed, derp) Sara Lee poundcake, instant vanilla pudding, raspberry or strawberry jam, and CoolWhip. I’ve used poundcake here, but occasionally she also used angel food cake. You can use any of those cakey bits that you like.
raspberry trifle recipe

If you’d like to make your own custard (pudding) use the vanilla pudding recipe I gave you in this banana pudding post. Trifles lend themselves very well to experimentation, too, so you might want to try using a chocolate or coconut custard instead. Use any chunky jam that you like, but raspberry jam with vanilla custard is the most traditional combination. You could also make it a little fancier by macerating fresh berries or fruit in a little sugar and orange juice or orange liqueur for an hour and using that instead of jam. Sliced almonds were always on top of hers, too, but again you could try different nuts or maybe even use raw cacao nibs instead of nuts if you were doing a chocolate trifle. Really, the world is your oyster and you are free to trifle with it as you please.

trifle recipe

Trifle Recipe – Printable!


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5 from 2 reviews

  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour



1-10 ounce frozen poundcake, thawed

¼ cup sweet sherry or brandy

3 cups prepared custard or pudding*

½ cup jam

1 cup sliced fresh berries

½ cup heavy cream, whipped to stiff peaks

¼ cup sliced almonds


Cut the pound cake into slices about ⅓” thick crosswise.
Cover the bottom of a 2-3 quart dish (straight-sided glass dish is considered the “proper” dish for a trifle, but really anything will do) with slices of pound cake. Break the slices as necessary to make an even layer, filling in all holes with cake bits.
Sprinkle 2 tablespoons brandy over the cake.
Spread 1 cup of the custard over that evenly, reaching edges. Dollop a little of the jam over that and half the berries.
Make another layer of cake, brandy, custard, jam, berries.
If you have enough cake to make a final layer, do so. Spread the remaining custard, jam, berries over that.
Cover the top of the trifle with whipped cream and sprinkle with almonds.
Serve right away if you must, but it is better if allowed to sit in the refrigerator for an hour or two before serving.

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For more recipes from the British Isles, check these out!

Scotch Shortbread

Shepherd’s Pie

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Fish and Chips!

trifle recipe


  1. Great Stone Face on December 18, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    This looks delicious. I have a very similar glass bowl, so it’d be easy to duplicate. You could make the spreading of the alcoholic ingredient easier and more even by dabbing the cake with a pastry brush. I have brandy — we are out of sherry — but you also could use rum or vin santo (Italian raisin wine). Thanks!

    • Hilah on December 20, 2013 at 9:30 am

      The pastry brush is a great idea! Why didn’t I think of that … I guess because I just do it the way my grandma did it. You know how that goes.
      I’ll have to look up vin santo. Is that similar to German “ice wine”?

  2. Calli on April 29, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    A few years ago, I made a cranberry trifle that got rave reviews; I make it every year now. It also has pound cake instead of lady fingers. I think I’ve used a different pound cake recipe every year (buttermilk, eggnog, etc), because I make different ones as gifts, but it doesn’t make a significant change in the trifle. The cranberry part is just cranberries, ginger, and sugar. The ‘custard’ part isn’t custard though; it’s a sweetened cream cheese and heavy cream mixture beaten together until it’s light and fluffy and really hard not to just eat with a spoon until you’re comatose.

    Your trifle looks delish. Will have to try it sometime; big raspberry fans in this house. I love that something as simple to put together as a trifle is nice to look at and has a big flavor pay-off.

    • Hilah on April 30, 2014 at 7:41 am

      Oh Calli, that cranberry trifle sounds completely marvelous! Thanks so much for sharing. I can’t wait to try that next year. It sounds like exactly the kind of recipe my grandma would have gone crazy over.

  3. Selena on December 24, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    Hey Hilah

    Maybe we can use milk instead of the juice or coffee or alcohol I’m sayin cuz I’m making this for 5 children! They love it

  4. Alanna on November 19, 2023 at 4:53 am

    I live in the Canadian prairies and some fresh fruits are either not available or overpriced. Would substituting frozen raspberries work? And to drain or not drain.

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