Dining In

Traditional Trifle and a Twist

By Nancy Finch, Food Columnist 

Trifle is one of my favorite desserts — to eat and to prepare for guests.

This is a traditional English “pudding,” as my favorite authority, Theodora Fitzgibbon, an Irish food writer, describes trifle.

She says the “excellence” of the trifle depends entirely on the “quality of the custard used and the amount of sherry poured over the sponge cakes.” A crystal trifle bowl is standard equipment in an English or Irish kitchen.

With the help of a blender and microwave oven, I put the English version together in about 15 minutes. Once a bit tedious — all that stirring over the double boiler — the custard-making can be sped up. When I see “double boiler” in a recipe, I move on. In fact, mine is relegated to somewhere in the basement.

We’re suggesting two trifles, one a traditional recipe and a newer version with just a bit of rum and varied with fresh fruits layered with custard and crumbled cookies. Mrs. Fitzgibbon likely would not approve of my custard — but it’s fast — and both trifles are very good!



Custard Cream

2 cups milk

1 cup half and half

1 cup sugar

4 T cornstarch

1⁄8 t salt

6 eggs

1 t vanilla

3 T rum, optional

8-oz. tub reduced-fat whipped topping or 1 cup whipping cream, whipped and sweetened


8-oz. pkg. crisp coconut cookies, about 16

2 bananas, sliced

2 kiwis, peeled, cut in half and sliced

20-oz. can pineapple slices, drained and cut in half, reserve juice and 2 slices for garnish

1 cup fresh blueberries, if desired

1⁄3 cup flaked coconut, if desired

Fresh strawberries, if desired

Directions: Microwave Method – In large microwaveable bowl, place milk, half and half, and cook on high in microwave for about 6 minutes. Meanwhile in blender, place sugar, cornstarch, salt and eggs. Blend until smooth. When milk is scalded, pour slowly into blender and blend with egg mixture while pouring. After milk is combined with eggs, return to microwave and cook for 7 to 8 minutes until thickened. Remove from heat when thick. Stir in vanilla and rum, if using. Refrigerate until chilled. 

Conventional Method – In medium saucepan, stir together milk, half and half, sugar, cornstarch and salt. Over medium heat, bring to boil, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. In small bowl, beat eggs. Gradually stir about 1⁄2 cup of the hot milk mixture into eggs until well blended. Pour egg mixture in saucepan. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until thick and smooth and temperature reaches 160˚. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and rum, if using. Chill until ready to assemble. Then add rum. To assemble trifle use a clear bowl, preferably with straight sides. Spoon about one-fourth of the pudding into the glass bowl. Line sides of bowl with coconut cookies, standing on end (pudding will hold them up). Dip bananas in reserved pineapple juice. Layer bananas over pudding. Arrange kiwi half slices on top of each cookie. Break remaining cookies into large pieces. Layer on top of custard. Top with pineapple, then custard, blueberries (if using), spread with custard. Sprinkle with coconut and remaining cookie crumbs. Top with remaining custard. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Before serving, top with whipped topping or sweetened whipped cream. Garnish with fresh strawberries and pineapple. Serves 10.



2 cups milk

3 eggs

1⁄3 cup sugar

Dash salt

1⁄2 t vanilla

1⁄3 cup raspberry preserves

1⁄3 cup cream sherry (or less)

1 cup whipping cream

2 T confectioners’ sugar

1⁄3 cup sliced almonds

Pound cake

Directions: Conventional method – Scald milk in top of double boiler over simmering water. Beat eggs in small bowl or blender. Add sugar and salt. Slowly blend half of the milk into the egg mixture, beating constantly. Return to double boiler and cook, stirring constantly, until custard lightly coats a metal spoon. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. 

Microwave method – Place milk in microwaveable bowl in microwave oven and cook on high for about 6 minutes. Beat eggs in blender. Gradually, pour milk into the egg mixture in a blender. Blend until frothy. Return mixture to microwave oven and cook for about 2 minutes or until it coats a spoon well. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. To Assemble: Slice pound cake and spread with raspberry preserves. Place in bottom of bowl. Sprinkle with sherry. Cover with custard layer. Repeat layers ending with custard. Top with whipped cream or topping before refrigerating or just before serving. Spread cream over top of trifle. Garnish with sliced almonds on top. Serves 6 to 8.



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