[Easy English Blog] A Mere Trifle

Cooking and recipes in English.

A friend bought me a packet of port wine jelly from Australia. In America, jelly is called jello.

I was wondering what to do with it. “It’s very popular in Australia,” my friend said. “People make trifle with it.”

“Ah,” I thought. “Trifle! I haven’t made trifle for years.”

This is what I did to make a trifle.

I made the jelly and put it in the refrigerator to set.

I made a pint (450ml) of custard. I was in a hurry so I used a packet of instant custard. Be careful though. You want the custard to be thick. So use only half the amount of milk that the instructions say.

I bought a sponge cake from the supermarket. I broke it up into pieces. I divided the pieces into three piles. I used one pile to make a layer of sponge cake in a glass bowl and poured some apple juice over it.

I chopped up the jelly and put half of it over the sponge cake.

I poured half the custard over that.

Then I repeated the layers; sponge cake with apple juice, jelly, custard.

I put the last pile of pieces of sponge cake on top. I put it in the refrigerator and forgot about until it was time for dessert. Then I decorated the top with cream and raspberries. Here is a picture. It’s not very pretty is it?


Trifle is a traditional English dessert. It usually has custard, sponge cake and fruit. Every family has their own recipe. Everyone has a strong opinion about the recipe and they are all different.

Some people soak the sponge cake in sherry. Other people use fruit juice. Many people use jelly in a trifle. My mother never did. She always spread the sponge cake with strawberry jam. The friend who gave me the jelly said, ”Where are the peaches? I always put canned peaches in trifle!”

So maybe a trifle is whatever you want it to be.

Have you ever made a trifle?

*Note: trifle is an interesting word. Look it up! It means something small and unimportant;  “a mere trifle”.

If you ever heard two cooks discussing dessert trifle, you might get another idea! Something large and rather important! This is because everyone has their own ideas about how to make a trifle. Modern trifles often have many ingredients so there are many things for cooks to disagree about.

The original trifles in the 17th century were probably rather simple desserts. Just fruit and custard or fruit and cream. They were also sometimes called fools.

This simple version “a trifle” is still popular in modern English cooking and it is called a fool. But  the modern trifle always has cake in it.