Old fashioned English trifle



My dad had a patient, an Indian man, who owned a petty shop very close to the clinic. He called it a corner shop; it wasn't even a shop, rather, the outside wall of a store against which he had racks and shelves stocked with hairbands and hair clips, chewing gum (this was before it was banned in Singapore), needles, safety pins, embroidery thread, dried snacks, sweets and chocolates, make up, magazines and a whole lot of knick-knacks. It was amazing to see the load of stuff he could store in that tiny space. Home for the holidays, I'd walk over to the shop from the clinic and browse through English magazines like Woman's Own and Women's Weekly before making a selection. Pictures of beautiful English homes, gardens and kitchens fascinated me.


Ok ok! It wasn't the homes and kitchens that interested me but the recipes. Pictures of cakes, biscuits, pies and desserts, all beautifully captured, were tantalising and I must admit that a lot of my baking "education" came out of those pages. I'd wait for my parents to organise a dinner party for their friends just so I could make a dish from one of those mags, usually dessert.



The English trifle was about the easiest to do. It was absolutely delicious, colourful, a crowd-pleaser and by the end of the evening, THE topic of conversation. The best thing was that it could be made a day in advance so the flavours could mellow and merge. My preparations would start two days earlier when I would bake the cake and make the jelly. On my shopping list would be canned fruits, custard powder, sliced nuts, whipping cream and sprinkles. The next day, it would be quick work to chop the fruits and sandwich the cake with jam. Trifles need to be presented in a clear glass bowl and Mum would let me use one of her best ones. Dad's finest sherry would be used to moisten the cake slices once they were arranged in the bowl and topped with chunky squares of jelly and fruit. Cold custard forms the middle layer and then softly whipped cream is spooned or piped over the top. A few fruits, toasted nuts and sprinkles were all that would be needed for the finishing touches. The sprinkles, by the way, are mandatory :)

The trifle is one of those desserts that you could either spend a lot of time over starting with the cake and créme anglaise (custard) or like me, make it with custard powder. I get my stock from home and it's as good as made-from-scratch custard. The jelly too is made from a pack, my favourite flavours are orange and strawberry.  As for the fruits, it's always a large can of cling peaches. For texture, I like to add toasted almonds. As for the cake, I always bake a pound cake, slice it into thick slabs and sandwich them with strawberry jam. (A trifle is a great way to use up stale or leftover cake.)

Trifle trivia - Trifle history reveals that the first trifles were a combination of biscuits (sometimes cake), custard and alcohol and were probably made around the mid-1700s!

Here's the recipe:


Old Fashioned English trifle

Ingredients

500 gm vanilla pound cake.
Jam
1/4 cup sherry (can use orange juice)
1/4 cup peach syrup (from the can)
2 packs fruit flavoured jelly crystals
3 tablespoons custard powder (I use Bird's)
4 tablespoons sugar
600 ml milk
I large can peach halves, cut in large squares. Reserve some for the top.
200 gm whipping cream
2 tablespoons icing sugar

An 8" glass bowl

To decorate
3 tablespoons slivered almonds, lightly toasted
Sprinkles


Method
Start a day earlier, follow packet instructions to make the jelly. If using two different flavours, set them in separate moulds.
To make custard, mix the custard powder and sugar with a little of the milk. Place the remaining milk into a saucepan and when nearly boiling, stir in the custard powder-sugar mixture.
Whisk the custard till it thickens, allow to come to a boil and simmer for a minute.
Remove from heat, cover with cling film to prevent a skin forming.
Cool to room temperature.
 
When you are ready to assemble the trifle, slice the cake into slabs, sandwich with jam.
Cut into cubes and arrange them inside a large clear glass bowl.
Moisten the cake with the sherry (or orange juice) mixed with the peach syrup.
Scoop out blobs of jelly, place them over the cake, top with fruit and most of the toasted nuts.
Stir the cooled custard till smooth and pour over the jelly and fruits (if the custard is warm, the jelly will definitely melt).
Leave to set in the fridge for a couple of hours till the custard is cold.

Whip the cream with icing sugar till it forms soft peaks.
Pipe or scoop over the custard layer, top with the remaining diced peaches and toasted nuts.
Leave to set in the fridge for about 8 hours or even overnight.


*To make this a completely no-egg dessert, use an egg free cake and packaged custard powder;
*Any fruit can be used, stew them before use with the exception of mangoes, oranges and bananas;
*Nuts may be omitted;
*You could substitute sherry with any other liqueur
*Omit liqueur especially if giving to young children;
* You could make your own créme anglaise in place of packaged custard powder.

Baketales is now 6 years old and how better to celebrate than with a recipe! So go on, make a trifle and impress your family and guests. Thank you for keeping us going!

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