Trifle of Dreams

January 3, 2016


Ooof. So that’s that, then. Christmas is done. I’m convinced that all the over eating is due to the fact that the run up is so stressful. Presents, people, parties. It all adds up to a big ball of anxiety, no matter how much you enjoy the bits where you’re chucking gin down your neck or eating gravadlax in bed while watching Harry Potter.

New Year’s Eve also happened of course. I’ve stopped going out on NYE, as I expect many of you have. Now, it’s all about MASSIVE STEAKS. As usual I stood in my favourite local butchers, Flock and Herd, encouraging the nice meat man to inch the knife further and further along until the steak was borderline obscene before triumphantly announcing, “PERFECT! Two of those, please” then bouncing off to spaff more money on excellent cheese.  We cooked the steaks on the BBQ and ate them with bearnaise,  potatoes sauteed in goose fat and a herb heavy salad. After that, we had trifle. I wasn’t going to write about it, but it was my best ever, so here we are.

Trifles are often rubbish because they’re essentially very simple, so we end up with all kinds of variations which are arrangements of confited fruits, flavoured custards or (so 2015) salted caramel. I like them to be traditional, but this year I had a happy accident when I subbed in Madeira cake, because the shop had run out of the cake I wanted. It’s lovely and buttery-rich but also dense, so it soaks up the booze without going all wet and bitty at the bottom which is something that has always made me deeply uncomfortable. I sliced it and spread with raspberry jam a la Delia and Hoppy, as jelly in trifles is also gross, then soaked it in Marsala (picked it up by mistake instead of Madeira – again, lovely), topped with raspberries (their acidity is perfect with all the sugar), home made custard (I’m not an animal), whipped cream, toasted almonds. Done.

This, for me, is the perfect trifle.

The Perfect Trifle

(serves 6)

300g Madeira cake
300g raspberries
Raspberry jam
300ml double cream
2 large handful flaked almonds
Marsala (about 150-200ml)

For the custard (this is Delia Smith’s recipe)

275ml double cream
1 vanilla pod
25g golden caster sugar
1 teaspoon cornflour
3 large egg yolks

Toast the flaked almonds in a dry pan or under the grill until golden. Set aside. Slice the Madeira cake into little fingers, then make sandwiches with the raspberry jam. Use it to line the base of a bowl (preferable clear so you can see the layers), then pour the Marsala evenly over the top and set aside for it to soak in.

Make the custard by putting the double cream in a saucepan and heating. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod and add them to the cream, along with the pod. In a bowl, mix together the egg yolks, cornflour and sugar. When the cream is hot, add it to the egg mixture, whisking it constantly. Return the mixture to the pan on a low heat and cook, stirring all the time until it is thickened. Set aside in a shallow dish with a piece of greaseproof paper on the top (touching the top of the custard, to stop it forming a skin), until cool.

Layer the raspberries on top of the Madeira cake, then add the cooled custard. Whip the cream to soft, floppy peaks and spoon on top. Finish with the almonds.

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  • Avatar
    Reply Alex January 3, 2016 at 1:43 pm

    Madeira cake sounds great, I made exactly the same basic trifle recipe only with brioche soaked in elderflower cordial ( toddlers don’t do booze ). Hope one of your NY resolutions was more blogs, been missing your blogs !



    • Avatar
      Reply Helen January 3, 2016 at 1:45 pm

      Toddlers don’t do booze?! Weird 😉 That’s lovely of you to say you’ve missed the blog – so have I. Here’s to a lot more writing on here in 2016. It is definitely one of my resolutions!

      • Avatar
        Reply Claire January 21, 2016 at 1:34 am

        This toddler did. ????

  • Avatar
    Reply OldLag January 3, 2016 at 6:32 pm

    Trifle is generally an abomination – especially the soggy cakey bits. Your recipe sounds almost acceptable! What had you planned to use instead of Madeira cake if it had been available?

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen January 3, 2016 at 6:49 pm

      Um, good question. I was trying to remember if my mum used to use trifle sponges…then I got to the section and there weren’t any, so I nabbed the Madeira.

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    Reply Catherine January 3, 2016 at 10:18 pm

    My English mother, while living in the States, used to use Madeira cake soaked in sherry for her trifle, called pound cake there. She also used jam like you, jelly (Jello), not like you, and sliced bananas. Made her own custard too.

    Your trifle looks delicious.

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen January 4, 2016 at 8:33 am

      Lovely! Good on her for making it in the States. What did everyone think of it?

  • Avatar
    Reply Londonstuff January 4, 2016 at 10:20 am

    This looks amazeballs – jelly had always put me off trifles. I’ll give this a go when I’ve got some people coming round at the end of the month and pop you a pic.

    Just to be clear, the main layers you’ve put there are the Madeira cake, custard, raspberries, the cream and then the almonds? Trying to work it out by looking at the pic. Thanks 🙂

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen January 4, 2016 at 10:26 am

      Yeah so you make the little jam sandwiches with the Madeira cake at the bottom, then the fruit, then the custard (those two layers mix together because the custard runs into the fruit), then the cream, then the almonds. Hope you like it!

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    Reply Yas January 7, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    I’d like to share a sad and tragic Christmas trifle story. My lovely friend invited me for the day, and as well as a wonderful meal, and a beautifully homemade Christmas pudding, she prepared a trifle as an alternative. In essence it should’ve been fine, but it tasted so wrong! It was chocolate (already risqué), raspberry and, get this, rose water… it wasn’t quite sweet, not quite bitter, nor fruity. Every mouthful just tasted strangely ashy with a hit of Turkish-delight like aromatic musk. Bits of dry sponge caught you unawares. She was very self conscious about it so everyone had to say it was “very nice”. But I think she knew, she knew…! Lucky about the pud, we could at least show genuine enthusiasm there.

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen January 7, 2016 at 12:57 pm

      Oh no! She was on dangerous ground messing about with the classic… and rose water is a ALWAYS hard to get right, no matter how you use it. It’s either faintly floral or full on grandma’s soap dish. A funny story, though.

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    Reply Claire January 21, 2016 at 1:38 am

    This IS the trifle of my dreams.

    Three rules of Trifle Club?
    Chocolate in trifle is an abomination.
    Jelly was never an option.
    And PEARS? Beyond the pale.

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen Graves January 21, 2016 at 8:10 am

      Chocolate trifle IS an abomination. I don’t mind chocolate puds of course, but best to call them something else to avoid a riot.

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