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My Favorite English Trifle Recipes

Updated on September 26, 2014

English Trifle Recipes: Sherry Trifle & Black Forest Trifle

As a child during the 1970s my Nanna used to make us the best English trifle. Tradiitonally she would make it on a Sunday, and when we went to visit her for tea, the trifle would have center stage on the table.

I would like to share with you my favorite English trifle recipes: the traditional English trifle recipe that my Nanna used and I still use today, and also, as a bonus I will share my secret modern day trifle that I derived from her original recipe - Expat Mamasita's Black Forest trifle, that is reminiscent of Black Forest Gateaux, which was the height of sophistication at any 1970s party.

I hope that you enjoy making and eating the best sherry trifle as much as me and my family have enjoyed it.

Nanna Taylor
Nanna Taylor | Source

What is an English tea?

Tea is not only the quintessentially English drink, but it is also the term given to a meal taken in the early evening.

Traditionally afternoon tea was a light meal taken during late afternoon, consisting of delicate sandwiches and cakes, and was considered to be an upper class preoccupation.

High tea on the other hand was the evening meal of the working classes, generally eaten in late afternoon to early evening.

According to sites such as "put learning first" If you call it "tea", and eat it at around half past six, you are almost certainly working class or of working class origin."

What meal do you eat in an evening?

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What made Nanna Taylor's trifle the best?

As a child we had tea with my paternal grandmother, Nanna Taylor, most Sundays.

We would arrive at her house during the late afternoon and would eat at about 5pm, not formally at the table, but sat in front of the television with a tea plate balanced on our knee.

Sunday tea would consist of sandwiches - boiled ham or tinned salmon, small sausage rolls, pork pies, salad - and by salad I mean lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes with no fancy dressing, followed by apple pie with cream and if we were lucky her sherry trifle, washed down with a cup of English tea (definitely with milk and maybe sugar but never with lemon!).

Trifle was a treat for Sunday's, and not every Sunday, and the recipe I am sharing with you below is the same one that my Nanna used to make for us.

So, you are going to ask what made it the best?

I'll share a little secret with you. It didn't matter that it was made with canned fruit instead of fresh, with Birds custard instead of home made, that she put slightly too much sherry in it for my childish taste buds, or that it was topped with hundreds and thousands (sprinkles) instead of fancy decorations.

My Nanna was not someone who enjoyed spending hours in the kitchen, she didn't make cordon-bleu meals or bake fancy cakes, but what she did make for us she made with love.

And it was that love that made her trifle the very best.

Traditional English Trifle Recipe

— Nanna Taylor

Nanna Taylor Trifle Recipe



  • A packet of boudoir fingers
  • trifle sponges or a small swiss roll cake
  • A tin of fruit (your choice)
  • A packet of jello-o (jelly in the UK) in a flavor to compliment the fruit
  • 3 tablespoons Birds custard powder
  • 2 teaspoons of Sugar
  • 1 pint of milk
  • 1 pint of whipping cream
  • Sherry or alcohol to taste (optional)
  • Candy chocolate vermicelli or fruit to decorate
  • Last but not least : love to mix inside the trifle


  1. Place the boudoir fingers (or cake slices) into the bottom of your trifle bowl.
  2. Drain the juice from the canned fruit and arrange the fruit on top of the fingers.
  3. Mix your jello according to the instructions on the packet, reducing the quantity of water if you wish to add alcohol (I suggest 1 tablespoon of alcohol)
  4. Pour the jello over the sponge and fruit base.
  5. Place into the refrigerator and leave to set (preferably over night).
  6. Prepare the custard at least six hours before you need the trifle.
  7. Mix the custard powder and sugar with enough milk to mix to a paste.
  8. Heat the rest of the milk, in a pan or in the microwave.
  9. Before the milk comes to the boil add the custard powder paste and stir well.
  10. Bring the milk mix to the boil, stirring regularly, until the custard thickens.
  11. Allow the custard to cool for 20 minutes, in a sink of cold water or the fridge, stirring regularly to prevent a skin forming.
  12. Pour the cooled custard over the jello base and smooth it level.
  13. Place the trifle base back into the refrigerator and allow to cool / set for 3 to 4 hours.
  14. 1 hour before you need the trifle whisk the cream until it is stiff (forms peaks).
  15. Spoon the cream onto the trifle base.
  16. Place in the refrigerator and allow to chill for 30 minutes.
  17. Decorate the top of your trifle with sprinkles / decorations.
  18. Place back into the refrigerator until it is needed.

Nanna Taylor's Top Tip

If the jello requires 1 pint of water on the instructions, use 3/4 of a pint instead.

This will help your jello to have a firm consistency.

Cast your vote for Nanna Taylor's English Trifle Recipe

Black Forest Individual Trifle Recipe

— Expat Mamasita

Nanna Taylor's trifle with a twist.


Black Forest Delight

As a bonus I am going to share with you my Black Forest trifle recipe.

Inspired by the trifle's that my Nanna made for me as a child, I made the yummy adult trifles for Senor Cicak's birthday meal.

I made these as individual trifles, using glass tumblers, but I have previously made it as a full size trifle and it was equally as scrumptious.

Black Forest Trifle Recipe



  • 1 chocolate swiss roll or packer of mini swiss rolls
  • 1 can of black cherries
  • 1 black cherry jello
  • Cherry liqueur (optional)
  • 1 sachet of Chocolate Angel Delight
  • Milk to mix with Angel Delight (check packet for volume required)
  • 1 pint of whipping cream
  • Cadbury's flake to decorate


  1. Slice the swiss roll and place one slice in the bottom of each individual serving glass.
  2. Drain the canned cherries and place 3 or 4 on top of each slice of swiss roll.
  3. Make the black cherry jello according to the instructions, replacing 1 tablespoon of water with 1 tablespoon of cherry liqueur (optional).
  4. Pour the jello into the serving glasses, to a height of 1/2 of the glass.
  5. Place into the refrigerator and allow to set, preferably over night.
  6. Make the Angel Delight as per instructions on the packet.
  7. Place Angel Delight in each of the glasses, up to just below 3/4 of the glass height.
  8. Place in the fridge and allow to set for 1 to 2 hours.
  9. Whisk the whipping cream until stiff.
  10. Place whipped cream onto the top of each trifle.
  11. Place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes.
  12. Sprinkle Cadbury's flake onto the tops of the trifles.
  13. Place back in the refrigerator to chill for a further 30 minutes.
  14. Your Black Forest trifles are now ready to serve.

Modern or traditional?

Which trifle would you most like to try?

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