How to Make the Perfect Christmas Trifle
Way boozier than your nan’s.
This article originally appeared on MUNCHIES in December 2016.
You may be on your third re-watching of Love Actually and have drunk enough mulled wine to drown an entire workshop of elves, but it's not Christmas until someone brings out a trifle.
The favourite festive dessert should feature thick layers of cake, custard, cream, jelly, and—as your Aunt Mary will tell you with a wink and an unsteady arm grip—a good glug or two (or seven) of sherry. It must be served late afternoon on Christmas Day, not long after the cheeseboard has been demolished and just as your Nan announces that she "couldn't possibly eat another thing."
In celebration of the quadruple-deckered pud, we asked some of our favourite chefs to share what goes into their finest cut glass trifle bowls at Christmas.
Missy Flynn, bartender. Previously co-owner of Rita's "For the base, I would use très leches cake. Then for the fruit layer, I would use ancho chili-poached pears and raisins with a good splash of mezcal and a little Ancho Reyes spiced liqueur.
The next layer would be a buttermilk panna cotta custard with vanilla, on top of which is a sticky Dr Pepper jelly. The trifle would be topped with whipped cream, crushed almond macarons, more raisins, and black cherries—and zest of lime to freshen it up a little."
Jeremy Lee, head chef of London's Quo Vadis "I have never stopped loving trifle and enjoy making few puddings more. There is an estimable feeling of accomplishment once the trifle is complete, equalled only by its enjoyment once devoured.
Shall we encourage a delicate sponge flavoured with lemon and almond, and liberally anointed with Amontillado? The cake spread with a homemade lemon curd. A rich, fine custard infused with lemon and vanilla. Elizabeth David's everlasting syllabub. A cream made more so with a maceration of lemon, sherry brandy, and white wine.
Then when all is in readiness, assemble the trifle in the time-honoured tradition. When done, place sugared mint leaves, sugared pistachios, slivers of candied lemon slices, golden almonds. There is a delightful thought to acquire sheets of edible gold to scrunch among the other delights.
There is such pleasure in gathering together all the produce required to make a pudding that is quite unique, is truly incomparable and delights all when set upon the table."
Daniel Heffy, head chef of Buyer's Club in Liverpool. "The trifle should have an apple jelly base and a gingerbread layer above it with a brandy and cinnamon syrup. Above this will be butterscotch custard with chunks of fudge swimming in it. The trifle will be topped with vanilla cream and more gingerbread.
These ingredients are everything a trifle should be—a lovely spoonful of comforting ingredients with a slight nostalgic feel that takes you back to when you were a child."
It's a nice take on the classic Turkish dessert, kabak tatlisi. I'd decorate with caramelised crushed walnuts on top."
Amaretti biscuits are on the bottom, soaked in more Amaretto, and a layer of custard (made from almond milk, vanilla, coconut sugar, and a touch of agar agar).
Next up, some good old berries that had been frozen during summer and simply macerated in icing sugar and vanilla. In goes more custard and then a cashew and tofu cream, with added coconut oil and sugar. In the restaurant, I'd put this in a icing whip gun, so it comes out extra light and fluffy.
Garnish it with chocolate shavings and a glacé cherry. Nothing fancy, just a good trifle!"