A trifling matter

While Jenny focused on Yule logs this week, I had my sights set in a different direction. Watching the GBBO holiday special featuring the cast of Derry Girls, trifles were top of mind for me, and a post from Australian Gourmet Traveller featuring 22 different trifle recipes for Christmas further nudged me in that direction. Trifle has a long and glorious history, dating back at least four centuries according to food historian Seren Evans, who notes that in 1598 a translator named John Florio described the dish as ”A kinde of clouted creame called a foole or a trifle in English.”

The reason trifle has had more staying power than other historic foods like syllabubs and flummeries may have to do with its flexibility and adaptability to changing tastes and fashions. The components of trifle have shifted over time, and after a few hundred years the standard ingredients now include a sponge cake soaked in spirits, fruit , and a rich egg custard, all topped by whipped cream and an assortment of garnishes. Trifles are almost always presented in glass bowls, the better to show off the distinct layers.

Although the ingredients list is simple, the sky’s the limit when it comes to interpretations of this culinary classic as you can see by the recipe titles below. Choose your favorite fruit(s), pick a complementary custard flavoring, and use the sponge or pound cake that suits your fancy and you’ll have a delicious, visually impressive dessert that will elicit oohs and aahs. I’m a fan of trifle because it does not involve any fussy decorating yet still looks amazing. Berries are my fruit of choice, and I prefer to keep the custard simple and use a cake with hints of citrus. What’s your favorite trifle recipe?

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  • Jenny  on  December 13, 2020

    Rachel’s trifle from Friends – “It’s a trifle. It’s got all of these layers. First, there’s a layer of ladyfingers, then a layer of jam, then custard, which I made from scratch. Raspberries, more ladyfingers,” Rachel said in the episode. “Then beef sautéed with peas and onions. Then more custard and then bananas and then I just put some whipped cream on top.” (Two of the magazine’s pages were struck together.)

  • averythingcooks  on  December 13, 2020

    Joey’s reaction to Rachel’s trifle: “What’s not to like? Custard, good! Jam, good! Beef, GOOD!”

    For holiday dinners, I often make trifle without the fancy bowl inspired by some excellent recipes in my books (Ina Garten & Anna Olson in particular). I “casually” layer chunks of pound cake moistened with raspberry liqueur, Ina’s stewed berries OR raspberry sauce & lemon curd lightened with whipped cream all on a lovely plate/platter. With more whipped cream on top and toasted sliced almonds, my friends think I’m a genius! The secret is to have great versions of pound cake and berry sauces in the freezer well ahead of time and to have a foolproof curd recipe – it goes together effortlessly on the day and always impresses.

  • veronicafrance  on  December 14, 2020

    I’m a great fan of Nigel Slater’s 30-minute trifle. I never make trifle with custard now, but use his mascarpone-based “custard”, basically the same as used for tiramisu. His version has booze-soaked sponge fingers, raspberries, and bananas under the custard. I use amaretti for the base if I can get them, and I never put whipped cream on top, just decorate with toasted flaked almonds and/or candied peel. I’m quite proud of this variation:

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