Traditional English Trifle – This traditional English trifle is a layered dessert made with ladyfingers soaked in sherry, fresh berries, vanilla pudding, and fresh whipped cream. The combination of these flavors and textures will blow you away!
So much of what I learned about cooking comes from Food Network stars like Bobby Flay, Ina Garten, and Giada de Laurentiis. The way they talked about food and knew so much about it captured my attention immediately. I started watching when I was about 13 and have been obsessed ever since. But now I also watch a few new favorites like Pioneer Woman and Farmhouse Rules.
Baking, however, is a different story. My first memories of baking were with my grandmother. She taught me how to make some her famous recipes, like her apple pie, and even bought me my first cookbook. And I still have it! And maybe I still cook from it…Hey, those children’s recipes are still really good as an adult!
When I got a little older, she taught me one of the most beloved recipes in our family. Ever since I can remember, we’ve had it on Christmas Eve after dinner and if I ever try to make anything else, my sister would most definitely veto. Say hello to our family’s traditional English trifle!
Trifle has become more popular than it was when I was growing up so you’ve probably heard of it before. Most people have heard it from that episode of Friends, when Rachel adds ground beef to the trifle by accident. Have you seen that episode? It’s a classic one. Prior to meeting me, this was my husbands only exposure to trifle so I had to reassure him that mine was going to turn out much better.
But in case you haven’t heard of it before, a trifle is, at it’s most basic level, a large parfait. It’s layered with various flavors and textures, usually with cake, pudding or custard, and a whipped cream.
This version is made with ladyfingers soaked in Sherry, fresh strawberries, mixed berries, vanilla pudding, and fresh whipped cream. Now, I know I called this a “traditional” English trifle, but there are a couple differences: the traditional version uses jam instead of berries, cake instead of lady fingers, and some versions even have bananas.
And I’m pretty sure the English don’t use instant vanilla pudding like I do. But the real thing just takes toooo long, okay? This is a judgement-free zone.
I’m sure I don’t have to explain why this trifle is to-die-for. There’s not just one texture or flavor at play here, but rather a collection of them – juicy fruit, fluffy (and slightly boozy) ladyfingers, thick and creamy vanilla pudding. All of these awesome layers come together to make an unforgettable dessert.
And for that reason, this recipe isn’t just a showstopper with my family – my friends are obsessed with it too! Every time that I’ve made it for a potluck, people go crazy for it.
But just because it tastes (and looks!) amazing, doesn’t mean that this trifle is impossible to make. In fact, it’s rather easy to make. All you’re doing is layering things, people! And like I said above, you’re not even making the pudding from scratch so you really have no excuse to not make this dessert for yourself.
Here are some things to consider about this recipe before you get started:
- I have made this trifle a million times and I’ve learned that the best trifle I’ve ever made was one that had time to “settle” into the dish overnight. You can also make it first thing in the morning if you plan to serve for dinner. The point is that you should make this ahead of time and NOT immediately before you plan to eat it.
- If I really want to plan ahead, I cut the strawberries and make the pudding even sooner so they can chill in the fridge for a few hours before assembly. This is not required, though.
- The Sherry is a little strong, so if you’re serving to kids, you may want to cut amount in half. Replace the other half of sherry with apple juice so you still have enough liquid to soak the ladyfingers.
- Speaking of the ladyfingers, I’ve made the trifle with two different kinds: crunchy and soft. You can use either for this recipe. However, this recipe was written with crunchy ladyfingers since they are the ones I see the most frequently in stores. If you do decide to use soft, make sure to toast them in the oven so they don’t get soggy from the Sherry. If you can’t find ladyfingers at all, pound cake will work just fine. But you will also need to toast it a little.
- I’ve made the trifle in a trifle dish from the very beginning. If you don’t have one, this is the one I have. You can also use a glass bowl but I don’t think the presentation is as pretty in a bowl. If you want to get extra fancy, you can make the trifle in individual dishes. They are the cutest things! Here’s a link to those, as well.
I hope you love this family-favorite dessert of ours! It’s sure to amaze your family, too. Let me know how you like it in the comments below!
Here are all the kitchen tools and serveware that I used in today’s recipe. For each item sold below, I make a small commission. I only recommend items that I own and love so you can trust that each recommendation is tried and true. Thank you for supporting CPA!
Traditional English Trifle
- 1 5.1 ounce package instant vanilla pudding
- 3 cups whole milk cold
- 1 pint heavy cream
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 7 ounces lady fingers crunchy (if using soft, see note below)
- 1/2 cup Sherry wine
- 1 12-ounce package frozen mixed berries thawed
- 2 quarts fresh strawberries hulled and sliced
- 1/3 cup sliced almonds toasted, cooled
- Make pudding by mixing 5.1 ounce package with 3 cups of cold milk (if your package has difference measurements of milk, follow those). Whisk to combine until it's thickened. Place in the fridge to thicken a little more until we need it.
- Make whipped cream by adding heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla to the bowl of a mixer. Beat with whisk attachment until thickened and stiff peaks form. Set aside.
- Layer 1/2 of the ladyfingers on the bottom of a trifle dish. Slowly pour 1/4 cup of Sherry wine over the ladyfingers. With a slotted spoon, scoop half of the thawed mixed berries over the ladyfingers. They should be strained enough with the spoon, but don't worry if a little extra juice gets in there.
- Layer 1/2 of the prepared pudding over the berries, making sure that they are completely covered. Add 1/2 of sliced strawberries over the top of the pudding. If you want a nice presentation, you can line the edge with strawberry slices standing straight up. Layer 1/2 of the whipped cream over the strawberries, completely covering them.
- Repeat layers. Sprinkle toasted almonds (that have cooled) over the top layer of whipped cream. If the almonds are still warm, they will melt the whipped cream so make sure they have cooled. Let the mixture set in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving (ideally overnight, if possible).