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Trifle | Cooking Coach | Dec 2015

Trifle | Cooking Coach | Dec 2015


By Karen Vivers


It’s a far cry from the Bird’s trifle we always had in our house at Christmas and New Year.   You remember – custard from a packet, cream from a packet, fruit from a tin.  And probably, if I’m honest, if I could get that old ‘trifle in a packet’ I’d make it, but I’ve never come across the product in the Netherlands, so needs must and I taught myself to make trifle (almost) from scratch.

Preparation Time:  50 minutes plus time for the jelly to set.

Cooking Time: none

Ingredients for 6 to 8 Servings

Layer 1 : The Cake and Jelly Base

400gr / 14 oz. strawberries chopped roughly

3 or 4 x tbsp Marsala wine

2 x tsp icing sugar

500ml / 1 pt.  (roughly) of strawberry jelly

300gr / 10.5 oz. of a shop bought Swiss roll style cake cut into 1.5cm / 0.6 in. slices


Layer 2: Crème Patissiere 

6 x large egg yolks

120gr / 4 oz. caster sugar

60gr / 1.7 oz. plain flour

500ml /  1 pt. of whole milk

4 or 5 drops of  vanilla extract

A  little icing sugar


Layer 3: Cream and Decorations

300ml / 10 fl. oz. double cream for whipping

Optional – 1 x tbsp Marsala wine to mix into the cream

You can decorate as you wish, but some of my favourite decorations are chopped strawberries, pomegranate seeds or other berries.



The Cake and Jelly Base

  1. To start, the base.  Place the strawberries in a bowl with the icing sugar and 2 x tbsp of the Marsala wine, mix through and  set aside to macerate for 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Place your Swiss roll slices evenly and tightly into the bottom of your trifle serving bowl, drizzle over the other 1 or 2 tbsps of Marsala wine.
  3. Make the strawberry jelly as per the instructions on the packet.
  4. Cover the cake with the chopped strawberries, spreading them as evenly as you can.  Pour the jelly over carefully, not too quickly, allowing it to get down into all the nooks and crannies and soak into your cake.
  5. Place the base in the fridge to allow the jelly to set.  Normally this takes about 4 hours.  I very often make the base the day before I plan to serve the trifle.

The Crème Patissiere

  1. I tend to make crème patissiere rather than custard as it gives a thicker, stiffer finish.  Custard tends to stay a bit runny and the trifle collapses after the first spoonful is served.  To start the crème patissiere take an electric whisk and beat the egg yolks in a bowl with about a third of the sugar until the mix becomes pale yellow.
  2. Add the flour and whisk until everything is incorporated evenly, no lumps, and it has thickened a little.
  3. Heat the milk in a pan (not a non-stick pan) with the rest of the sugar and the vanilla.  Just as it comes to the boil, remove your pan from the heat and pour about two thirds of the hot milk into your bowl containing the egg and sugar mix.  Stir quickly with a metal hand whisk for a minute then add the rest of the milk and continue stirring quite firmly until everything is smooth and evenly incorporated.
  4. Put the pan back on a medium heat and pour your crème patissiere into the pan.  Stir continuously with your metal whisk.  As it thickens you may have to stir quite vigorously.  Let it bubble gently for 2 minutes and then remove from the heat.
  5. Sprinkle over a very thin layer of icing sugar and allow your crème patissiere to cool.  You can do this on a cool work surface or the quickest way is to pour it into a wide chilled dish before sprinkling over your icing sugar and then place in the fridge.  The layer of icing sugar prevents the formation of a ‘skin’.  Alternatively you can place cling film on top of it.
  6. Once completely cool it will be quite thick. Spread it over your set jelly base.  Be a bit gentle as you do not want to break the top of your jelly.

Cream Topping and Decorations

  1. Whip your cream with the icing sugar until it becomes stiff and holds its shape.  You can fold through the Marsala at this stage should you wish to use it.
  2. Spread the cream over the crème patissiere layer.  I like to do this very roughly, not smooth, lots of peaks and bumps makes it look attractive.
  3. Sprinkle over your berries and decorations.

Tips and Variations

  • You can of course make your own jelly using gelatin sheets, and add fresh flavours.
  • I like to keep it simple by using shop bought Swiss Roll, but of course you can make your own cake.  Simple ones work best, Madeira cake is a good option or the Dutch style ‘Oma’ cake.
  • Once you have practiced this a few times you can play around with the fruit flavours to keep it seasonal.
  • Strawberries can be a bit expensive in the winter time, so why not go retro and use a can of tinned fruit?
  • If  the crème patissiere is cooled, but not as thick as you would like it, put it on your jelly base and then return it to the fridge for a couple of hours to set it stiffer.
  • You can normally get the jelly in British shops and the best place to get double cream is M&S.  The Dutch style single cream works too, but it won’t stay stiff and can give a watery result.  Alternatively, you can use some mascarpone cream cheese with a little icing sugar and Marsala.


Karen Vivers, originally from Scotland, has lived here in Amsterdam since 1997, and has set up the Cooking Coach to help inspire people to get back into the kitchen.  The basis of the cooking lessons are easy, tasty, healthy recipes.  Each course starts with a free introduction session, to make sure that you only cook what you like to eat.

As well as cooking lessons, Karen offers Culinary Tasting Tours in Amsterdam, is a passionate food blogger, writer, author of “Love Food, Live Healthy”  and works freelance as a Business Consultant, specialising in small and medium food businesses, helping them get started, grow and deal with commercial challenges.


Love Food, Live Healthy is ideal for those of us who really enjoy our food, but want to eat consciously without compromising on flavour. Packed with over 100 recipes, this book has lots of practical cooking and healthy eating tips. Designed for cooks of all skill levels, whether you love cooking or just love eating! 

The Cooking Coach 

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