Not so trifle, Trifle

Trifle is one of those things that you either love or hate, like fruit cake.  Or closer to home, the durian, also known as The King of Fruit.  There is no middle way for the durian, with its sweet flesh and distinctive rotten onion smell.  You either love it or hate it.

I'm not entirely sure why people don't like trifles.  Maybe it is because of its distinctive 70's look, but for more than a decade, it was one of those desserts that were out of fashion.  Actually, according to Wikipedia, trifle is a pretty old desert.  "The earliest known use of the name trifle was for a thick cream flavoured with sugar, ginger and rosewater, the recipe for which was published in England, 1596, in a book called "The good huswife's Jewell" by Thomas Dawson.  It wasn't until sixty years later when milk was added and the custard was poured over alcohol soaked bread."   Well, with Jamie Oliver posing with a huge trifle in hand on the front cover the Christmas edition of Jamie Magazine, I think it is safe to say that the humble trifle is back en vogue.

So, trendy as I am (yeah, right), I decided to "build" some individual trifles for my Taiwanese guests  at our early Christmas lunch.  I thought this was going to be easy peasy; no mess - no fuss.  Boy, was I wrong!  Not that the actual making was a problem.  No, no...finding red and green jelly was the big challenge!  All I could find was coffee and green tea (yuk!) jelly and that was going into my trifle...over my cold, dead body.  I traveled up and down the city, going from supermarket to supermarket - nothing.  Eventually I found a lonely packet of strawberry jelly but still, not a single packet of green jelly to be seen anywhere.

I thought about abandoning my idea of a festive trifle but seeing as they were already halfway made and chilling in my fridge, I had to come up with a "Plan B" - make my own!  So, armed with a few sheets of gelatin, some apple and lemon juice and a touch of green apple food colouring, I improvised a bowl of (very brightly coloured), I dare say, quite delicious green apple jelly!


  • 1 packet of red jelly (any flavour but not something that would clash with your fruit.  I used strawberry)
  • 1 packet of green jelly (mine was my self improvised apple jelly)
  • 1 trifle sponge cake or some mini Swiss rolls
  • a few Tbsp of Port, Sherry or brandy
  • some fresh berries in season (I used blueberries)
  • some good quality fruit cocktail, from a can
  • 500ml custard (you can use ready made custard like Ultramel if you want.  I made custard using just a little more custard powder than stated on the package.  This helped it to set better.)
  • whipping cream, sweetened to taste.
  • some grated chocolate, 100's and 1000's, chocolate sprinkles or glacé fruit for garnishing

  • Cut the cake or Swiss roll into 1.5cm slices and line the bottom of your classes.
  • Sprinkle your alcohol of choice over the cake and let it soak in.  Meanwhile make your packet of red jelly, following the directions on the packet and let it cool.
  • Pop the berries onto the cake layer and pour the cooled red jelly over it to make your red layer.  The cake and berries might float.  Don't let it worry you - it looks pretty!  Refrigerate until the jelly is set.
  • Make the jelly as per the instructions on the packet.  I used double the custard powder stated on the packet in order to get a thicker custard.  Let the custard cool.
  • Pour the cooled custard over the red jelly layer.  Leave it so set.
  • Prepare your packet of green jelly and set aside to cool.
  • Drain the syrup off the fruit cocktail and add the fruit to your trifles, on top of the custard layer.  Pour the cooled green jelly over the fruit to make your green layer.  Refrigerate until set.
  • Just before serving, whip the cream to still peaks and plop dollops of this on top of your trifles.
  • Garnish with chocolate shavings, glacé fruit, chopped nuts or colourful sprinkles.


  1. Thanks for visiting on my side. I love a good trifle and we traditionally have it on new Year's eve!
    Are you a SA blogger. I see you live in Taiwan, but cannot miss all the SA recipes!

  2. Hi Nina! I actually visit "your side" quite often. There is always something fabulous! Yes, guilty as charged. I am a South African, but I've spent the past 8 years in Taiwan.

    Of course nothing I do on my blog can compare with what you guys are doing, but with our kitchens and lack of western ingredients it is a bit of a struggle sometimes. That is why I started writing.

    Thanks for popping in - I'm honoured! :)


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