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A really great trifle

A trifle is as wontonly extravagent a dessert as you can get, says Nigel Slater, and I would never attempt to lessen that. A spoonful of trifle should be a moment of unbridled self-indulgence, and I make mine with that in mind


sponge cake - about 200g
sweet wine - Vin Santo or orange muscat
double cream - 300ml
custard - 250ml
raspberries - a couple of good handfuls, plus strawberries, blackberries, etc., to scatter


1. Crumble the sponge cake into rough lumps and put them into a large dish or six smaller ones. Pour over enough sweet wine to soak it thoroughly.

2. Pour the cream into a cold mixing bowl and whisk it slowly. The consistency is crucial if the trifle is to be perfect. You want it to be thick enough to stand in soft folds, thin enough to almost slide off a spoon unaided. I find this easier when both the cream and the mixing bowl are very cold.

3. Stir half of the whipped cream into the custard.

4. Whiz the berries in a blender or mash them to a purée with a fork. They should be almost at pouring consistency; if not, add a splash of mineral water.

5. Drizzle most of the purée over the sponge cake. Spoon the custard over the sponge too, letting it fall lazily over the cake to merge somewhat with the puddle of crushed raspberries. Spoon the remaining cream over the top, then scatter over some whole berries and finish with a drizzle of raspberry sauce.

And more

  • Some other good things. I once had an anonymous letter from someone berating my suggestion of putting bananas in a trifle. I still put them in, or at least sometimes I do. There's something no nannying about the marriage of bananas and custard.
  • If you use macaroons or ratafia biscuits instead of cake, give them a good while to soak up the liquid so that they're soft.
  • Use blueberries, loganberries, blackberries and gold raspberries instead of the raspberries.
  • Whiz up a can of apricots in a blender in place of the raspberry sauce, sharpening them with a squeeze of lemon juice.
  • Sprinkle chopped pistachios or toasted flaked almonds on top of the finished trifle.
  • A coffee and chocolate trifle. Soak the sponge in sweet Marsala, then pour over a cup or two of sweetened espresso. Mix the cream and custard as above and top with a second layer of softly whipped cream and a thick dusting of cocoa powder.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Serves: 6
Source: Nigel Slater