English Trifle Recipe

What is an English Trifle?  It is a cake well soaked with sherry and served with a boiled custard poured over it.  It is delicious and elegant looking layered in a trifle bowl or individual dessert glasses.  This wonderful English Trifle is served at Afternoon Tea.  This cake is also known as “Tipsy Pudding.”  George Washington, our first President of the United States, is said to have preferred a Trifle over all other desserts.  NOTE:  If you do not have a true trifle bowl, use any straight-sided round glass bowl (the layers look beautiful from the sides of a glass bowl.

English Triffle

History of Trifle:  

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 real egg custard poured over sponge cake soaked in fruit and sherry and topped with whipped cream.

The English call versions of this cake a Tipsy Cake or Pudding, Tipsy Squire, and Tipsy Hedgehog.  It was also known as Tipsy Parson and Tipsy Squire in America.  The difference between these cakes and the original trifle is that these were all made with dried cake, rather than fresh.

The first trifles were very much like Fools (an old confection of pureed fruit mixed with cream), and the two terms were used almost interchangeably for many years.  Many puddings evolved as a way of using up leftovers and trifle originated as a way to use stale cake.  According to Trifle history, the English Trifle is a close cousin of an Italian version called “Zuppa Ingles” (English Soup), and also seems distantly related to a Spanish dessert called “Bizcocho Borracho.”

Check out Linda’s Afternoon Tea and High Tea Recipes.  Additional trifle recipes: Spiced Pumpkin Mousse Trifle and Red, White and Blue Trifle.

Please check out my American High Tea or Afternoon Tea Menu (with recipes) which includes this delicious English Trifle.

English Trifle Recipe:
Prep Time
30 mins
Total Time
30 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: English
Keyword: English Trifle Recipe
Servings: 10 to 12 servings
  • 1 (18 1/4-ounce) package yellow cake mix
  • 1 cup raspberry jam, divided**
  • 1 (29-ounce) can peaches, sliced and drained (reserve juice)
  • 1/2 cup sherry or brandy, divided (optional)***
  • 1 (6-serving size) vanilla pudding mix (not instant)
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 cups whipping cream, sweetened
  • Almonds, sliced and toasted
  1. Prepare the yellow cake according to package directions using a 9-inch cake pan (reserve one layer for another use).  One baked cake layer horizontally cut into two equal layers.

  2. Place one sliced layer into a trifle dish or a large glass bowl with straight sides; cover with 1/2 cup jam and half of the sliced peaches.  Pour approximately half of the reserved peach juice over the cake or until it is moist but not sloppy.  Pour 1/4 cup sherry or brandy over the top, as evenly as possible.  

  3. Place the second sliced cake layer on top and cover with remaining jam and peaches; pour remaining peach juice and sherry or brandy over the top.

  4. Prepare the vanilla pudding according to package directions, using the 3 cups of milk.  Pour hot pudding over the top of the cake; let cool.  When cool, spread with whipped cream. Decorate with toasted sliced almonds. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

  5. Makes 10 to 12 servings. 

Recipe Notes

* A purchased sponge cake may be substituted.

** Your favorite jam can be substituted.

*** You can omit the liquor if you don't use alcohol in your cooking.


British Recipes    Dessert Recipes    Historical Cakes    Tea Cakes   

Comments and Reviews

One Response to “English Trifle Recipe”

  1. patricia fondren

    This is a fantastic recipe. I have made it several times for several different clubs or organizations of which I am a member and it has always been well received.


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