Fine Desserts

Traditional English Trifle Recipe (Sherry Trifle)

5 from 2 votes
My English Trifle Recipe easily makes a luscious traditional dessert layered with boozy cake, velvety custard, fruity jelly and whipped cream.
Traditional English Trifle is served in 3 glasses on a silver platter. Each Sherry trifle has a fruity raspberry jelly layer, moist sherry-infused pound cake, velvety creme anglaise, topped with light whipped cream, and colorful classic sprinkles.

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Hi Bold Bakers!

WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS RECIPE My Traditional English Trifle Recipe elevates the everyday trifle by making everything completely and easily from scratch, including  fresh fruit jelly layer and moist sherry-infused pound cake, to creamy and rich creme anglaise, lightly whipped cream, and even classic sprinkles on top for decoration.                                                        

As someone who grew up in Ireland, spooning into this heavenly layered dessert is a wonderful bite of nostalgia. Traditional English Trifle is on many tables after a Sunday roast dinner in Ireland and the U.K.. Every household puts and loves its own spin on trifle.

But no matter where you’re from, you’ll love the glorious blend of textures and flavors!

Table of Contents

What is Traditional English Trifle?

In the mid-1700s, a concoction known as a “foole” or a trifle made from sweet biscuits, wine, and custard was being served in England. It soon became wildly popular all across the U.K. and Ireland.

As stunning as it looks, trifle is easy to put together and versatile.

  • Traditional English Trifle can not only be specially made for holidays, but also use up leftover cakes with a gorgeous presentation for any casual occasion.
  • Traditional English trifle can be served in one big glass serving bowl or in individual dishes like we do here.

Traditional English Trifle is served in 3 glasses on a silver platter. Each Sherry trifle has a pink fruit-flavored jelly layer, boozy moist sherry infused pound cake, velvety creme anglaise, topped with light whipped cream, and colorful classic sprinkles.

Tools You Need for the Traditional English Trifle Recipe

Important Ingredients and Why

  • Pound cake:
    • Despite abundant moisture, a pound cake provides the ideal and sturdy base for a trifle to soak up sherry without going mushy.
    • Use my Sour Cream Poundcake recipe for the perfect tenderness and flavor.
  • Sherry: Sweet, nutty and smooth sherry is the most common dessert wine for soaking cakes in Traditional English Trifle.
  • Powdered gelatin:
    • Gelatin is a translucent, colorless, and flavorless gelling or setting agent. Get to know more details in my guide of How To Work With Gelatin.
    • Each tablespoon of powdered gelatin is equivalent to four gelatin sheets.
  • Fresh raspberries: Sweet and tart raspberries are the perfect contrast to the rich custard, cake, and cream.
  • Creme anglaise: 
    • “Creme anglaise” means “English cream” in French and is a vanilla custard cream sauce.
    • Use my Foolproof Creme Anglaise recipe instead of instant custard or pudding mix to put this trifle over the top!
  • Heavy Whipping Cream:
    • Use dairy cream with fat content of 36% to whip up well. Alternatively, use full-fat coconut cream.
    • Billowy and unsweetened whipped cream is the perfect contrasting finishing for layers of cake, raspberry jelly, and creme anglaise.
  • Sprinkles: 

How to Make Traditional English Trifle

  1. Soak the Cake

    • For each cup of cake cubes, use up to 2 tablespoons of sherry otherwise the result may go mushy. 
  1. Make the Jelly Layer

    • Bloom the gelatin.
    • Sprinkle powdered gelatin over the cold water and let it sit until the powder has soaked up all the water and expanded.
    • Alternatively, you can substitute about 3 ½ sheets of gelatin for 2 ½ teaspoons of powdered gelatin in this recipe.  Soak gelatin sheets in cold water for about 5 minutes or until soften, then drain off excess water.
    • Simmer sugar with additional water, softened gelatin for 15 minutes then add in mashed raspberries.
    • NOTE  to let the mixture cool slightly before pouring it into dishes.
    • Chill the cake/jelly mixture in the refrigerator for at least six hours.
  1. Assemble and Serve the Trifle

    • Pour prepared creme anglaise over the jelly layer in each dish. Top with a dollop of prepared whipped cream and top with sprinkles or more fresh fruit.

A spoon is scooping the Traditional English Trifle from the top through aerated whipped cream, velvety creme anglaise, then to the bottom of fruity jelly and boozy moist pound cake.

Can I Make Traditional English Trifle in Advance?

Yes, you can make Traditional English Trifle (AKA Sherry Trifle) in advance.

  • Bake and prep the cake, gelatin, and creme anglaise separately a day ahead, and assemble the trifle no more than an hour before serving.
  • Preparing a Sherry Trifle’s components separately can ensure distinct layers with a meld of flavors and textures.

How to Store Traditional English Trifle

The best way to store a leftover trifle is keeping it wrapped with clingfilm in the fridge for up to three days.

Note that the texture may get mushier overtime.


What can I substitute for sweet sherry? How can I make this English Trifle Recipe alcohol-free?

  • Other alcohol: Sweet sherry gives Traditional English Trifle its distinct flavor, but you can substitute brandy, rum, or even a flavored liqueur like Grand Marnier.
  • Non-alcohol: If you prefer an alcohol-free trifle, use orange juice or apple juice in place of the sherry.

How can I keep Traditional English Trifle from becoming too soggy?

For best results, you should be baking the cake the day before to save time on the day of assembly. Also, a day-old cake will soak up the liquid better.

What if I want to make a gluten-free trifle?

Use my Gluten-Free Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake recipe for a gluten-free option. Plus, you’ll also get even more fruit flavor in your trifle!

What if I want to make one big trifle instead of individual servings?

Use a trifle dish or a big glass bowl to layer the ingredients as directed in the recipe.

Gemma’s Pro Chef Tips

  • You can use lady fingers, Victoria sponge, or pound cake to make this dessert.
  • I use my Sour Cream Pound Cake, but you can use my other pound cakes including Vanilla Pound Cake, Lemon Pound Cake, or Coconut Cream Cheese Pound Cake
  • For pretty desserts like Traditional English Trifle, use glass serving dishes to show off the layers. You can use wine glasses instead of buying new special dishes!  Teacups are another lovely way to serve trifle.
  • Homemade custard takes this to the next level. Here is my recipe for creme anglaise
  • For the upcoming summer, I used raspberries but you can use strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, other summer fruits like peaches or plums, or even tropical fruit.
  • It’s best not to sweeten your whipped cream with sugar or vanilla. Plain, unsweetened whipped cream will complement the other ingredients and keep your trifle from being overly sweet.

A closes shot of one glass of Sherry trifle with pink sherry soaked moist pound cake and raspberry flavored jelly at the bottom, smooth creamy custard in the middle, and topped with softly whipped cream and colorful sprinkles.

For More Trifle Recipes, Check Out

Traditional English Trifle

5 from 2 votes
My English Trifle Recipe easily makes a luscious traditional dessert layered with boozy cake, velvety custard, fruity jelly and whipped cream.
Author: Gemma Stafford
Servings: 6 people
Prep Time 25 minutes
Chill for 6 hours
My English Trifle Recipe easily makes a luscious traditional dessert layered with boozy cake, velvety custard, fruity jelly and whipped cream.
Author: Gemma Stafford
Servings: 6 people


  • 10 oz (280 g) pound cake
  • ¾ cup (6 fl oz/170 ml) sherry
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 ½ teaspoons (8 g/1 sachet) powdered gelatin
  • 1 ¼ cups (10 fl oz/300 ml) water
  • ¼ cup (2 oz/ 58 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 ⅔ cups (8 oz/225 g) fresh raspberries, roughly mashed
  • 1 recipe creme anglasie
  • 1 ½ cups (12 fl oz/360 ml) heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon sprinkles


  • Cut the pound cake into small cubes and divide between the six (8 oz/1 cup) dishes.
  • Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of sherry over each cake-filled dish.
  • In a small bowl add the 2 tablespoons of water and sprinkle over the gelatin. Set aside to set for 10 minutes.
  • In a medium saucepan over medium/low heat add in the water and sugar and allow to come to a simmer.
  • Whisk in the sponged gelatin into the simmering water until dissolved.
  • Remove from the heat and add in the mashed raspberries. Allow the mixture to cool down for 15 minutes before dividing it evenly between the six dishes.
  • Cover the dishes with clingfilm and place in the fridge for at least 6 hours to allow the gelatin to set. (Note: This layer can be made a day in advance.)
  • When ready to serve pour a lovely thick layer of the custard over the cake. Finish with a big dollop of whipped cream and a few sprinkles on top.
  • Serve immediately or keep refrigerated for up to 24 hours.


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11 months ago

Sounds like a lovely dessert Gemma!! My mom always made something similar using poundcake, then some mandarin oranges then poured over some orange flavored jello. Let set and also tipped it with her custard and whipped cream. I love your videos and all your wonderful recipes!! Thank you!!

About Us

Meet Gemma

About Us

Meet Gemma

Hi Bold Bakers! I’m Gemma Stafford, a professional chef originally from Ireland, a cookbook author, and the creator of Bigger Bolder Baking. I want to help you bake with confidence anytime, anywhere with my trusted and tested recipes and baking tips. You may have seen one of my 500+ videos on YouTube & TikTok or as a guest judge on Nailed It! on Netflix or the Best Baker in America on Food Network. No matter your skills, my Bold Baking Team & I want to be your #1 go-to baking authority.


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