Trifle Recipe: Christmas Trifle With Ribbons of Red and Green Jello

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Trifle Recipe: Desert With A History

Trifle is said to have it's origins in foole, a dessert of fruit puree, sugar and whipped cream. In 1596 Thomas Dawson of England published a recipe consisting of thick cream, ginger and rosewater. In later years a milk custard and alcohol-soaked bread were added.

Variations of trifle today include fruit, jellies or gelatin, custard, cream and port or sherry-soaked cake. They are truly tasty and decorative as well.

Today my friend Annejie (pronounced A nee kee) shares with me her old family recipe for a delightful trifle. Annejie is originally from South Africa. She is of Dutch descent and her cooking is divine. To her family, Christmas without trifle would be an American Thanksgiving without turkey.

The British have influenced the South African culture throughout generations. They took over the Cape from the Dutch in 1795. It was returned to the Dutch seven years later and was seized by the British again in 1866. After the discovery of diamonds and gold in SA, the British fought determinedly in the Boer Wars to retain control. SA remained a Dominion of England until 1931.

Annejie's dishes often reflect English, Dutch and Malaysian influences.

Planning The Trifle


Annejie plans her trifle in two-day sessions. On day one, she makes the cakes and prepares the Jello. The next day, she cooks her custard, whips the cream and layers the trifle when the custard has cooled.


Beating the eggs in a good mixer for the sugar cake.
Beating the eggs in a good mixer for the sugar cake.
Annejie uses waxed paper in the baking dishes to ensure the sugar cake loaves don't stick
Annejie uses waxed paper in the baking dishes to ensure the sugar cake loaves don't stick

Ingredients For Christmas Trifle

  • 3 Loaves Sugar Cake, cut into bites, recipe below
  • 4 Packages Lime and cherry Jello, large size
  • 8-10 Cups Custard, favorite recipe or packaged
  • 2-3 Cans Fruit Cocktail, tropical, drain and reserve juice
  • 2 Cups Sherry or port wine
  • 1-2 Cups Malted milk balls, optional
  • 1 Quart Whipping cream, whipped

A Layered Dessert

To prepare for her masterpiece Annejie will bake a "sugar cake". The sugar cake is surprisingly easy. Annejie prefers this recipe because the cake's texture and consistency are excellent for soaking up the fruit juices and port in the trifle.


Sugar cake recipe:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tea spoon vanilla extract


This recipe makes one loaf. Annejie needs a large trifle. She will bake 3 loaves of sugar cake.She begins by beating the eggs and then adds the other ingredients one at a time.She explains that a good mixing machine is important for the fluffiness of the batter.


Sugar cake loaves cooling on rack.
Sugar cake loaves cooling on rack.

Rate Christmas Trifle

5 stars from 4 ratings of Delightful Christmas Trifle With Ribbons of Red and Gree

Sugar Cake Loaf

Annejie bakes the sugar cake loaves in a 350 degree oven. They turn out perfectly as she removes them from the hot pans to cool on a cooling rack.

Annejie uses 4 large boxes of red and green Jello  for her Christmas trifle
Annejie uses 4 large boxes of red and green Jello for her Christmas trifle
Cooling off the custard
Cooling off the custard

Jello Rainbow

The cakes are cooling. Annejie prepares the red and green Jello brand gelatin according to package directions. It will take awhile for the Jello to gel. Meanwhile Annejie stores the sugar cake in air-tight containers. They will be cooled off and sponge-like for the trifle building.



The Custard

Annejie will next make a custard for the trifle layering. This sounds like it is going to be a bit more difficult but Annejie makes hers with ease.

In the UK custard is a medium-thick sauce and is popular for using in desserts. Many times people want to resort to packaged custard because it is easier. But for the best tasting custard Annejie recommends a homemade custard.

Like most good cooks, Annejie measures, tastes and adds as she cooks. There are many custard recipes available if more precise measuring is desired.

Annejie makes her custard with milk, sugar, vanilla and custard powder. She uses almost a gallon of milk.She purchases custard powder, available in the international foods aisle in most supermarkets. She pours almost the whole gallon of milk into a large saucepan. She heats the milk, adds some vanilla and begins with one and a half cups of sugar. She uses the rest of the milk to stir up with about 7 serving spoons of the custard powder. (To use eggs, use 8-12 beaten egg yolks).

Over medium heat she stirs the mixture constantly until it is a medium-sauce consistency.Annejie pours her custard into casserole dishes to cool.

Annejie uses 3 cans of tropical fruit cocktail
Annejie uses 3 cans of tropical fruit cocktail

The Fruit

The fruit is going to be an important part of the trifle.The fruit juice,combined with port or sherry, helps to give the trifle it's delicious flavor.The sugar cake will be essential to soaking up the liquids. Annejie chooses tropical fruit cocktail for her trifle.


Fruit juice from the tropical fruit cocktail is combined with a bit of port.
Fruit juice from the tropical fruit cocktail is combined with a bit of port.

Annejie uses a strainer to drain the fruit juice.She combines the drained fruit cocktail juice with about two cups of port wine. She sets the fruit aside to use in the layering.This trifle is sounding better and better!

Instructions For Christmas Trifle Recipe

  1. Prepare the jello. Cut into cubes when set.
  2. Bake sugar or pound cake in advance. Cool
  3. Make custard using your favorite custard recipe. Cool
  4. Drain fruit and reserve
  5. Add fruit juice to sherry or port.
  6. Cut cake into bite-size pieces
  7. Layer ingredients in a large bowl. Cake, custard, Jello, fruit. Toss in a few malted milk balls if desired
  8. Pour liquid over ingredients. Let soak a few hours.
  9. Before serving, top with whipped cream and sprinkle with chocolate sprinkles.
The layers begin with slices of sugar cake
The layers begin with slices of sugar cake
Cake, custard, Jello and fruit layers. Add the liquid  in between. Malted milk balls add a fun surprise.Top it off with whipped creme.
Cake, custard, Jello and fruit layers. Add the liquid in between. Malted milk balls add a fun surprise.Top it off with whipped creme.

Putting it All Together

All the ingredients prepared, it is time to build the layers of the trifle. Annejie chooses a large glass bowl to make sure everyone can see that it is just as pretty as it is tasty. She begins by placing layers of the sugar cake at the bottom of the bowl. Next goes on some of the custard topped with the red and green jello (which has been cubed).Then she adds some of the tropical fruit cocktail.

Annejie continues to layer the cake, custard, Jello and fruit cocktail. She stops now and again to pour in some of the liquid(fruit juice and port mixture). Often when she makes trifle she will toss in a few malted milk balls here or there for a crunchy surprise but this is optional.

Annejie whips up a quart of real whipping cream to top her creation. Now the traditional Christmas trifle her family loves is ready to adorn the table. It is SO delicious! If you try Annejie's delightful trifle with ribbons of red and green gelatin, you may just start a family tradition of your own for generations!

Cook Time

Prep time: 24 hours
Ready in: 24 hours
Yields: A large crowd. Halve or third for less

Annijie's Hometown In South Africa

A markernelsprit , South Africa -
Nelspruit, South Africa
[get directions]

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Comments 67 comments

Alice Venter 5 years ago

This is our family's favorite holiday treat. In fact, death threats are made if trifle isn't on the holiday table.

You can always find someone's back end sticking out of the fridge at 3AM. If you are good and sneaky, you can startle the trifling trifle thief and catch them with cream in their hair!


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 5 years ago from United States

What a great idea! It looks both festive & delicious.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Thanks Dirt Farmer, it sounds difficult but it really isn't and it is really tasty!


Maarten 5 years ago

What an excellent write up and the history is spot-on! Excellent blog post!


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA

This desert looks festive and delicious! It must serve a bi crowd too!


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Yes! A big crowd! You could half all ingredients and still have plenty!


sam-eg profile image

sam-eg 5 years ago from Happy Land

hi Rebecca,That sounds really great,and easy to follow steps, thx for sharing this useful and delicious holiday recipe


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

You are welcome sam-eg. The port mixed with the fruit juice soaked into the cake is the flavor kicker!


JimmieWriter profile image

JimmieWriter 4 years ago from Memphis, TN USA

Sounds like something I'd like to taste. I agree that homemade is always better than store bought or a mix. Always!


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

Sounds like a delicious and attractive dessert. Voting this Up and Useful.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Yes, it is really good! Thanks! You could use blue Jello and make a fourth of July one.LOL


Au fait profile image

Au fait 4 years ago from North Texas

Christmas will be here before you know it! This is a great idea for something to give your holiday buffet or your meal some pizzazz. So pretty and I'm sure it's yummy too. I like that you make the cake yourself. I would probably cheat and just buy a pound cake and cube it up.

Voted up, useful, and beautiful! Will share . . .


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Thanks! it is a time consuming recipe but well worth it.


john000 profile image

john000 4 years ago from Superior, Arizona

This reminds me of the trifle my grandmother made when I was a child. It was so good. My grandmother came to the states from England in 1922. She obviously prepared many English dishes. Her roast beef and Yorkshire pudding was to die for. This reminded me of all the good times with her. I am copying this recipe and hope to prepare it myself. Thank you.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

That is awesome. As I have stated here, I don't make this myself, my friend from SA makes TONS of it on Thanksgiving and Christmas. This Hub is a live interview with her as she prepares this great trifle. It is SOOOOOO good!


moonlake profile image

moonlake 4 years ago from America

It looks good and sounds good. I made something like this for Thanksgiving. Voted Up.


Hezekiah profile image

Hezekiah 4 years ago from Japan

Nice hub, I miss a good trifle after living in the East for so long. Gonna have to try to make this here in Japan.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Thanks, moonllake, it IS good!

Hope you get to have a Christmas trifle in JApan, Hezekiah


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 4 years ago from sunny Florida

Your timing is perfect. Just in time for our holiday entertaining. There is just something so special about a trifle. And your pictures and step by step directions make this seem like a recipe I can make without fouling up. Thanks for sharing. Sending Angels your way. ps :)


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Thanks ps. It is definitely a special trifle. I just had it again for Thanksgiving. This is from last Christmas. You and your family will really like this trifle.


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 4 years ago from USA

I re-read your recipe just in time for my holiday luncheon! This looks like a wonderful dessert to impress my artist friends! Voted up and pinned!


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

That's great, Stephanie! Toss plenty of sherry in that trifle and you gals have a good time!


Sherry Hewins profile image

Sherry Hewins 4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

It so festive, and I bet it's yummy. Voted up and pinned.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

It is yummy. Thanks for the pin.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

Yum, I know this would be so good and thanks for the added story. Very interesting!


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Thanks Jackie. It was an interesting time interviewing her and following as she made the trifle.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

Wow! Would this be a treat to see and also get to eat. It would need a crowd of people to eat this much trifle! I enjoyed just reading about it and learning about the ingredients she uses in making her trifle. Up, useful and interesting votes. Also sharing!


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Thanks, Peggy for reading this long recipe. I hope you get to enjoy a trifle soon.


moonlake profile image

moonlake 3 years ago from America

This looks great. I love this kind of dessert. Pin, vote and sharing.


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

Mmm a wonderful recipe for me to try out. Thanks for sharing.

Eddy.


Blond Logic profile image

Blond Logic 3 years ago from Brazil

Wow. I have never had a trifle like that. I had to do a double take when I read malted milk balls. I hope everyone who eats it realizes how much time, love and effort goes into making this.

I love your friend's name, by the way.

Alas, as it is just the two of us here, I won't be making it but I will be sharing this. Vote up and awesome. If there was a scrumptious option I would click that as well.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM

This sounds and looks divine! I have made trifle before at Christmas time but not with the red and green jello. Great idea. Trifle is so fun at Christmas time too. Thanks so much for sharing you and your friend's recipe with us. Yummy!


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

It is great! I just had some for Thanksgiving.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Thanks for all that sharing, Moonlake!


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

You are welcome, Eddy!


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Thanks for stopping by !


shin_rocka04 profile image

shin_rocka04 3 years ago from Maryland

This looks quite tasty..just shared and pinned it. Kudos!


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Yummy looking dessert. Love this.


Careermommy profile image

Careermommy 3 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

This looks so easy and fun to make! My kids love jello recipes and would definitely love this one!


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Lots of steps but delicious!


CraftytotheCore profile image

CraftytotheCore 2 years ago

What a beautiful idea! It looks delicious!


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

It is VERY delicious!Thanks for stopping by


Deborah-Diane profile image

Deborah-Diane 2 years ago from Orange County, California

This trifle recipe looks absolutely divine! Thanks!


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Yeah, it is....really, really good. My friend makes it at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I just love it!


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 2 years ago from Orlando, FL

This trifle looks like a lot of work, but I bet it's worth it! Great photos and details! :)


stricktlydating profile image

stricktlydating 2 years ago from Australia

Yum! I love it! Perfect for an Aussie Christmas too!


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

It is! Merry Christmas, Sunshine!


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

I'll bet it would. Good for summertime. Christmas!


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 2 years ago from Upstate New York

Wow! Looks absolutely like a stunning dessert for Christmas time. I had some trifle in England and loved it. This looks even better than that!


sallybea profile image

sallybea 2 years ago from Norfolk

rebeccamealey

I used to make a very similar trifle when I lived in South Africa. thanks for reminding me of this - really so simple but perfect for Christmas day. It is a great alternative to rich fruit pudding. I hope this one will be on my menu for Christmas dinner.

Thanks for sharing.


john000 profile image

john000 2 years ago from Superior, Arizona

I had to come here a second time to look at the photos of your trifle. It looks just like my mother's - good memories this Christmas season.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

How sweet. Merry Christmas, John


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 2 years ago from sunny Florida

Yes please....I will have some. I think I may have commented on this in the past but it looks so good I had to come back to it.

It looks yummy.

Angels are on the way to you, Rebecca.

I hope you and your family have a lovely Christmas ...ps


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Thanks, ps, and the same to you and yours! Angels back to you.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas

This would be so delicious and beautiful for the holidays. Pinning it to my 'Fabulous Deserts' board!


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

This looks really good. I'd love to try it. Voted up and pinning to my "Yummy Desserts I Want To Try" board.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

It' my favorite. Thanks for pin. Happy holidays!


LadyFiddler profile image

LadyFiddler 2 years ago from Somewhere in the West

This is both mouth and eye watering aaaaaannnnnnndddd scrumptious can i have some please i am hungry now and this will sure do me fine.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

It's all gone! It went very fasy.


Minnetonka Twin profile image

Minnetonka Twin 2 years ago from Minnesota

No doubt that creating this masterpiece is a labor of love. It sounds like a lot of work but well worth it in the end. I have never tried Trifle but have heard of it. I guess it's because my parents were not into baking when I was a child. So glad you shared your friend's recipe with us. Hit many buttons, voted up and sharing.


brakel2 profile image

brakel2 2 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

What a great recipe with the result full of color. It was nice of you to use her recipe and write it up so well. Often recipes from other countries are fascinating. Thanks for sharing. Blessings. Audrey. Pinned


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Thanks, you are right, it is a labor of love. It is also extremely delicious. Thanks for stopping by!


Geniusknight profile image

Geniusknight 2 years ago from Netherlands

No one an beat the yummy Christmas Trifle recipe ! A simply 5 stared recipe ! Merry Christmas. :)


bethperry profile image

bethperry 24 months ago from Tennesee

This is so festive looking, and sounds so yummy! Thank you for sharing the recipe!


moonlake profile image

moonlake 12 months ago from America

Came back to share this. Great recipe for Christmas.


ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 11 months ago from New Delhi, India

This Trifle recipe looks so delicious and just right for the festive season.

I would love to try this on New year eve.

Thanks for sharing the details!


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 11 months ago from California

Doesn't this just make my mouth water!!

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