Strawberry Trifle

Trifle, which is a dish somewhat unfamiliar to most Americans, is a dangerous, dangerous dessert.

It starts off all pretty and shiny in a clear glass trifle dish, with bits of cake and strawberries creating a lovely layered display and a rich yellow custard and white fluffy whipped cream on top.  Soon though, it’s served and forms a rather untidy, gloppy serving of sheer heaven.  You have it once and think, I don’t have a trifle problem. Me? No – I can take it or leave it.  But then you see some strawberries with whipped cream nearby and suddenly you can taste the custard and cake, too.  There’s no getting away from it.

I’ve made trifle for years and it’s one of the most often requested birthday “cakes” from my family.  My recipe is a little different, but it’s what we like and what I find easiest to make.  You can substitute different fruits or liqueurs, and it is still wonderful. The most delightful part is the Rich Custard, but if you really must you can substitute vanilla pudding. Just add a bit more vanilla extract.


Angel Food Cake, cut into 1″ thick slices
2 pints of fresh or frozen strawberries, halved and tumbled with 1/4 cup sugar for 15 minutes. (Or 1 large container of strawberries in syrup, thawed.)
Generous splash of brandy or sherry – say 2 Tbsp?  I’ve used Cognac in a pinch, too.
Whipped Cream, if home made, sweeten to taste  or just used prepared
Slivered almonds, toasted in an oven for a few minutes.
Rich Custard (recipe below)

In a large, clear glass bowl, line bottom and sides with angel food cake slices.

Mix the brandy and sugar with the strawberries, and place the strawberries on the sides and on the bottom of the dish. You want the strawberries to provide a pop of red color. Pour any remaining liquid evenly over the bottom.

Pour cooled rich custard over the cake and strawberries, and top with whipped cream and slivered almonds. Serve immediately. If you have to wait to serve, refrigerate it and just hold off on the whipped cream and almonds until right before serving.

Rich Custard:

1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup cornstarch
5 cups whole milk
4 eggs, well beaten in a medium sized bowl
1 1/2 Tbsp vanilla

Blend sugar, salt, cornstarch and whole milk in a large saucepan on medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil stirring constantly. Once the custard reaches the boil, remove from heat and add 1 cup to the eggs in the bowl, stirring vigorously so the eggs don’t cook. Add another cup of milk mix to the eggs, and continue stirring.

Return the whole thing to the saucepan and put back on medium/low heat. Heat for 1-2 minutes until the custard is just starting to bubble a little. Don’t leave it for a second at this point or it will curdle. Remove from heat and add in vanilla. Let cool before adding to trifle dish.  It will thicken as it cools

This recipe also makes a lovely pouring custard. Just add another cup of milk. We don’t eat pouring custard much in the US, but it’s delicious dessert sauce. Just a bowl of fresh fruit with pouring custard poured over – it’s simple and wonderful.

For a party, use nice clear wide plastic glasses and build the trifle in them. Just before serving add the whipped cream and almonds – it’s so easy and looks really pretty

There are so many wonderful kinds of trifle.  Here are a couple of my favorites.

Mango Cardamom Trifle

Variation:  Chocolate Raspberry Trifle

Make chocolate custard:  skip the Vanilla, add a generous 1/3 cup cocoa to the sugar and cornstarch, and pour in a little of the milk. Stir well until the cocoa is completely mixed in.  We didn’t increase the sugar and it tasted fine.

Use slices of unfrosted chocolate cake and fresh or frozen raspberries, and top with whipped cream and a sprinkling of mini chocolate chips.

I’ve made both of these for a large graduation party – see my tips here:


4 thoughts on “Strawberry Trifle

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