British Food That Doesn't Suck

part 1 of an occasional series to prove that British food isn't all about boiling everything into mush, and that there are great things that come from it...

The Trifle

Sponge cake and fruit soaked in jello. Atop this, a layer of cold yellow Bird's custard (you know, it's just eggs, milk, sugar, cornstarch and vanilla... it's not hard... you can make it yourself). And finally, on top of that, freshly whipped cream. With sprinkles. And maybe halved strawberries.

My mum used to make it every year for Christmas. (She'd make two or three). I made it last year for Thanksgiving for a bunch o' Merkins1 who'd never had it before.

It went down well. Next time? I need to figure out how to make a Sherry trifle. I've never tried - it can't be that hard though, can it?

Side note: It appears that a trifle (while definitely a British invention) encompasses a large number of desserts. It basically appears to cover any kind of multi-layered wet cake. Requirements: Must be a sponge layer, the sponge must be soaked in a liquid. Seems to also require that there's fruit of some kind involved. The top layer is always whipped something-or-other (preferably cream - if you're going to eat dessert, at least do it with style). The middle layer appears to be optional - but it's usually there, and it's usually some kind of custard or pudding. So... erm... there you go.

The Recipe

Lady Fingers
Strawberry Jello
1 can, fruit cocktail
Custard (see below for recipe + requirements - or buy Birds' custard)
Heavy whipping cream
Sprinkles (or as they're called back home, 100s and 1000s).

Sponge Layer

Break the lady fingers into pieces and put in the bottom of a big glass dish. Drain the fruit cocktail, and add to the dish. Make up the jello mix, and pour into the dish as well. Allow to cool, then refrigerate until set.

Custard Layer

Here's a couple of recipes ready made for the Custard. I'd try the thicker one, as it's going to need to set somewhat. It should still be liquid after everything else sets though - just not runny, and not set.

Once the custard has been made, cover with saran wrap (to eliminate any air, which will form a skin) and cool until cold but not set. Pour the custard onto the set Sponge Layer, re-cover with plastic wrap, and return to the fridge to set some more (this step may be over kill).

Whippy Topping Layer

Whip up that whipping cream, until it becomes, well, whipped cream. Add to the big dish and use it to cover the custard layer. Sprinkle on the sprinkles, and serve immediately.

You could also try adding some strawberries, slivered almonds, etc. if you wanted. Go nuts! Heck, do two different flaor layers of jello, or use jam swiss rolls instead of lady fingers. Or try it with coffee cake in the bottom. Or use Egg Nog instead of Jello and skip the custard step. (Seriously, do a search - there's room for thousands of variations).

1Theatre folk and Terry Pratchett fans alike will know what a Merkin is. Go ahead. Look it up. I dare ya.

About the author

Simon Cooke is an occasional video game developer, ex-freelance journalist, screenwriter, film-maker, musician, and software engineer in Seattle, WA.

The views posted on this blog are his and his alone, and have no relation to anything he's working on, his employer, or anything else and are not an official statement of any kind by them (and barely even one by him most of the time).

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