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Trifle Two Ways — Beginner and Expert

If you are sick of heavy chocolate desserts, consider making a trifle for your next dinner party. A cold dish that is best when made in advance, a trifle consists of layers of cake, custard, fruits, whipped cream, and syrup. While the variations are endless, most trifles are served in a large, clear glass dish. I've found two recipes for you to experiment with — one uses help from the grocery store and the other is one hundred percent homemade — give both a try or combine elements from each recipe to make your own special trifle. To get started,


Beginner Trifle
From Everyday Food magazine

1/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 packages frozen raspberries (12 ounces each), thawed
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 store-bought pound cake (12 ounces), cut into 3/4-inch-thick slices
1/3 cup sliced almonds, coarsely chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Spread coconut on a baking sheet; toast until browned, about 6 minutes.
  3. Set aside. In a bowl, combine sherry, berries, and lemon zest; set aside.
  4. In another bowl, with a whisk or an electric mixer, beat cream and sugar until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
  5. Line the bottom of a 4-quart glass serving bowl with a layer of cake slices, packing them tightly. Spreading evenly, top with half the raspberry mixture, then half the cream.
  6. Add a second layer of cake slices, raspberry mixture, and cream; sprinkle with coconut and almonds. Serve immediately, or for best texture, refrigerate, covered, overnight.

Serves 12.

Expert Trifle
From Gourmet magazine

For cake
1/2 cup all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsalted shelled pistachios
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
4 large egg whites
For assembling trifle
Sherry syrup, recipe below
Vanilla custard, recipe below
Rhubarb purée, recipe below
For topping
1 cup chilled heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon light Fino Sherry
2 tablespoons unsalted shelled pistachios, chopped
Special equipment: a 15- by 10- by 1-inch baking pan; parchment paper; a 3- to 3 1/2-qt glass trifle or soufflé dish

  1. Make cake: put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter baking pan, then line bottom with parchment paper and butter paper. Dust pan with flour, knocking out excess.
  2. Pulse together 1/2 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, pistachios, and salt in a food processor until pistachios are very finely ground (mixture will resemble a slightly grainy flour). Transfer mixture to a large bowl and whisk in yolks, milk, and extracts.
  3. Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt using an electric mixer at medium-high speed until they hold soft peaks.
  4. Reduce speed to low, then add remaining 1/2 cup sugar, a little at a time. Increase speed to high and beat until whites hold stiff, glossy peaks.
  5. Fold one third of whites into batter to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.
  6. Pour batter into baking pan, spreading evenly, and rap pan against counter to release any air bubbles.
  7. Bake cake until golden and springy to the touch, 20 to 25 minutes.
  8. Cool cake in pan on a rack 20 minutes.
  9. Remove pan (with cake) from rack and cover rack with a sheet of parchment, then invert rack over cake and flip cake onto rack. Carefully peel off parchment from bottom of cake and cool completely.
  10. Assemble trifle: slide cake (on parchment) onto a work surface and arrange with a long side nearest you. Trim cake with a serrated knife to make a 12- by 9-inch rectangle, reserving trimmings, then brush cake and trimmings with Sherry syrup.
  11. Halve cake crosswise, then cut each half into thirds first lengthwise and then crosswise to total 18 (3- by 2-inch) pieces. Halve each piece diagonally to form triangles.
  12. Spoon 1/2 cup custard into bottom of trifle dish. Arrange half of triangles over custard in 2 layers, pressing short ends of triangles against side of dish (there should be small spaces in between slices for custard to run through).
  13. Arrange half of trimmings in the center, cutting them as needed to fit. Spread 1 1/2 cups custard over cake, then spread 1 cup rhubarb purée over custard.
  14. Cover with remaining cake and trimmings in same manner, then spread remaining custard over. Spread remaining rhubarb purée over custard, leaving a 1-inch border around edge. Chill, covered tightly with plastic wrap, at least 8 hours.
  15. Make topping just before serving: beat cream with sugar and Sherry using cleaned beaters until it just holds soft peaks.
  16. Spoon cream over top of trifle, then sprinkle with pistachios.

Serves 8.

Make ahead: trifle can be chilled up to 2 days.

Sherry Syrup

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
6 tablespoons light Fino Sherry

  1. Bring water, sugar, and Sherry to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then boil until reduced to about 3/4 cup, about 5 minutes.
  2. Cool syrup completely before using, about 1 hour.

Makes about 3/4 cup.

Make ahead: syrup can be made 1 week ahead and chilled in an airtight container

Vanilla Custard

3 cups whole milk
8 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla

  1. Heat milk in a 2 1/2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat until hot but not boiling.
  2. While milk heats, whisk together yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a heatproof bowl until smooth.
  3. Add 1 cup hot milk to yolk mixture in a stream, whisking, then add remaining milk, whisking constantly. Transfer mixture to saucepan and cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and registers 170°F on thermometer, 6 to 10 minutes (do not boil).
  4. Immediately force custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl and stir in butter and vanilla.
  5. Chill custard, its surface covered with wax paper, until cold and thickened, at least 3 hours. Custard can be cooled quickly by setting bowl in a larger bowl of ice and cold water and stirring occasionally.

Makes about 4 cups.

Make ahead: custard can be chilled, its surface covered with wax paper and bowl covered tightly with plastic wrap, up to 2 days. Special equipment: an instant-read thermometer


Rhubarb Puree

Vegetable oil for greasing pan
2 lb rhubarb stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces
2/3 cup confectioners sugar

  1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a large shallow baking pan with vegetable oil.
  2. Arrange rhubarb in 1 layer in pan and sift confectioners sugar evenly over top. Bake, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb is very tender, 25 to 30 minutes.
  3. Transfer rhubarb to a food processor and purée until smooth. Force through a medium-mesh sieve into a bowl, discarding solids, and cool completely. Rhubarb purée can be cooled quickly by setting bowl in a larger bowl of ice and cold water and stirring occasionally.

Makes about 2 cups.

Make ahead: rhubarb purée can be made 3 days ahead and chilled in an airtight container.

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