Trifle is a wonderful dessert at any time of year, but it is lovely at Holiday Time because as well as tasting great, it also looks really pretty. This is my Grandma's recipe which my Mom taught me to make when I was a little girl. My Mom told me that Grandma’s trifle used to be legendary in Stoney Creek, Ontario, where she and her sister grew up. Even the strictly teetotal Vicar used to ask for seconds!
Grandma originally used rum for the trifle, but then changed to sherry, although no one ever knew why. I think it is because it tastes so lovely and stains the cake bit of the trifle such a gorgeous shade of red. Be sure to use good sweet sherry or a nice Madeira for this recipe as the alcohol is a very important part of it. I ate it as a child and it was never a problem, but be sure to tell folks with children and drivers that it does contain alcohol. It is very sweet anyway, so most people will only want a small portion.
I have made one change to my Grandma's recipe, in that hers never did contain any fruit. However when I first came to England and served trifle for dessert, I had a lot of people ask me why I had "left out" the fruit. They seemed adamant that in England, trifles must contain fruit, so I decided to give in and amend the recipe a bit. If I am honest I really do like the fruit, and am pleased with my version, although I do hope my Grandma would approve!
The quantities are quite loose and you really have to judge according to the size of the bowl you are using, but it never hurts to have left over jelly roll, custard, or sherry so I always err on the side of having too much. When I say jelly roll, I’m talking about a rolled up sponge cake filled with jam or sometimes jam and cream (either works really well). Jelly roll is also called Swiss Roll or Roulade in many countries. Just as a guide, to serve 8 to 10, I use:-
2 and 1/2 medium Jelly/Swiss Rolls/Roulades
2 batches of custard
(made from Harry Horne’s or Birds custard powder according to the directions on the can and allowed to cool just a little)
1 to 1-1/2 cups of sherry or Madeira
2 small cans of strawberries or raspberries, very well drained
1 large container whipping cream
It is nice to use a pretty bowl for this - it's a good opportunity to use that special cut crystal bowl that sits in the cupboard waiting for a special occasion. However I have even made it in a casserole and it still looks and tastes lovely. Please bear in mind that the quantities I have listed above are affected by the size of your bowl, so they really are just a guide. Be careful not to overfill the bowl, and leave lots of room for cream at the top, as well as a bit of a space at the top of the bowl so you can cover the trifle with Saran Wrap or cling film without ruining the top of it.
This is so easy to make. Just assemble your ingredients and slice the Jelly/Swiss Rolls/Roulades in medium slices. Be sure the custard is ready and that it is warm, but not piping hot. Also do be sure you have drained the fruit well.
Use the slices of Jelly/Swiss Rolls/Roulades to line the bottom and the sides of the bowl, up to within about an inch and a half of the top. You might not be able to get the jelly roll all the way up the sides of the bowl with the first layer, so if not, just keep working your way up the sides of the bowl as your inside layers get higher.
Sprinkle sherry very generously over the first layer of jelly roll. Add about 1/3 of the fruit, followed by about 1/3 of the warm custard. (Warm custard penetrates the jelly roll better). Repeat this at least two more times, depending on the size of the bowl, being sure to finish with a layer of custard and leaving at least an inch and a half at the top of the bowl. Allow the trifle to cool to room temperature, then cover and put it in the fridge.
Leave the trifle in the fridge for at least two or three hours (you can leave it overnight if you like). Once it is nice and cold, whip the cream and spread it over the top. If desired, you can sprinkle the trifle with a few flaked toasted almonds or decorate if with a few Amaretti biscuits. Again, it isn't something my Grandma did, but I am sure she would have no objection and I think it makes the trifle look even prettier!