English Berry Trifle

Trifle (TRI-fuhl) – The word “trifle” comes from the old French term “trufle,” and literally means something whimsical or of little consequence.  A proper English trifle is made with layers of egg custard poured over sponge cake then soaked in sherry and berries and topped with whipped cream. As a testament to how good this classic British dessert really is, it has been enjoyed since the 1500s. One taste and you’ll reject calling this majestic dessert “whimsical” or of “little consequence”.

As is the case with many of the traditional recipes of England, dishes evolved as a way of using up leftovers. Trifle originated as a way to use stale cake. The English Trifle is a close cousin of the Italian Zuppa Inglese (English Soup) and distantly related to the Spanish dessert called Bizcocho Borracho.

English Trifle

English Trifle

English Trifle is a show stopper. Especially in summer when fresh berries at their peak. It's also a dramatic finish to any holiday or celebration meal. This recipe is made easier by using a good store bought pound cake instead of baking one from scratch. Finding a large glass bowl to serve the trifle in provides a dramatic way to present the many layers and colors.
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Course: Dessert
Cuisine: British, England
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 10
Author: My Hungry Traveler


  • Stand mixer with whisk attachment
  • Medium saucepan
  • large saucepan


  • 1 lb Vanilla pound cake, cut into ½-inch thick slices
  • 12 oz Blueberries (2 cups)
  • 18 oz Raspberries (3 cups)
  • 1 tbsp Lemon juice
  • 1 lb Strawberries, stems trimmed, cut in half longways
  • 1 tbsp Cornstarch
  • 2 cups Whole milk
  • 2 tbsp Butter
  • 3 large Eggs (2 egg yolks, 1 full egg), beaten
  • ½ tsp Vanilla extract
  • 6 tbsp Sugar
  • 1 qt Heavy (whipping) cream
  • 4 tbsp Grand Marnier or Kirsch or both


Prepare Berry Compote

  • In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine 1 cup blueberries, 1 cup raspberries, lemon juice, 1 tbsp sugar, and ½ tsp cornstarch. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes for the berries to begin breaking down. Set aside to cool.

Make Custard

  • Place mixer bowl and whisk attachment in the freezer. In a large saucepan, hand whisk the milk, eggs, 2 tbsp sugar, and 1 tsp cornstarch. Cook over medium heat until mixture begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl to cool.

Whipping Cream

  • Remove cold mixer bowl and whisk and attach to mixer. Whisk cream and 3 tbsp sugar on high until stiff peaks form. Move 1 cup to refrigerator for topping trifle later.
    Gently fold ¼ cup of whipped cream into the custard with a rubber spatula. Then fold in the rest of the whipped cream.

Assemble Trifle

  • In a large glass bowl, spread 1 cup custard evenly over bottom. Next lay ⅓ of the pound cake and sprinkle with 1 tbsp liquor. Next cover pound cake with ⅓ of berry compote sprinkled with 1 cup fresh blueberries. Add a layer of custard over that.
    Create a second layer with pound cake, then liquor, then ½ of the remaining berry compote, ½ of the remaining fresh raspberries, and finally the remaining custard.
    Create the top layer with rest of the pound cake, liquor, compote, and 1 cup fresh strawberry halves. Top with 1 cup of the saved whipped cream and decorate with the remaining fresh berries.
    Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up-to a day. Serve cold.


Calories: 626kcal | Carbohydrates: 60g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 39g | Saturated Fat: 24g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 215mg | Sodium: 371mg | Potassium: 407mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 40g | Vitamin A: 1662IU | Vitamin C: 45mg | Calcium: 191mg | Iron: 2mg

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