Nigella Lawson’s boozy British trifle recipe

I have written so many recipes for trifle, I scarcely dare reiterate my love for it. But this, perhaps the most traditional of my offerings, shows the sensational, time-honoured pud at its glorious, many-layered best: the jam-slashed and sherry-sodden sponge, the sharp fruity layer of flavour-oozing berries, the eggy custard and the whipped cream. On top, my favourite colour combination: the Victorian pink of crystallised rose petals with the tender green of chopped pistachios. Perfection.

Louise Hagger


1 litre double cream
8 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
50g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

2 packets trifle sponges (8 sponges in each packet)
340g jar strawberry or blackberry jam
500ml cream sherry
2 x 380g packets frozen summer fruits, thawed
Zest of 1 orange
25g caster sugar (not needed if using fresh fruits)

500ml double cream
50g pistachios
1 tbsp crystallised rose petals (or crystallised violet petals)

  1. To make the custard, heat the cream in a large, wide, heavy-based pan and while it’s heating, whisk the egg yolks, whole eggs and caster sugar in a bowl.
  2. When the cream’s at boiling point – though don’t actually let it boil – take it off the heat and pour it over the eggs and sugar, whisking as you go.
  3. Wash out the pan (boring but it does have to be done), then pour the uncooked custard back into it and return to the heat.
  4. Cook over a medium heat (people will tell you it should be low heat but that is just too tedious for words), stirring all the time, until it has thickened. It must never boil!
  5. After 10-15 minutes, it should be thick enough, so straightaway pour it into a cold, clean bowl, add the vanilla extract, and whisk a bit to help bring the temperature down.
  6. Cover the very top of the custard, as well as the bowl, with clingfilm and leave to cool, while you start assembling your trifle.
  7. Split the 16 trifle sponges in half and make into sandwiches with the jam. Squidge these into the base of your trifle bowl. A trifle bowl should, I feel, be glass so you can see the layers from the outside. The proportions vary and, since the point of a trifle is the layers, the dimensions of your bowl will determine how these build up and the amount of sponge etc you will need.
  8. Pour the sherry over the sponges and let it soak in.
  9. Now tumble in the thawed summer fruits, with a little of their liquid. (It might seem unseasonal to use ‘summer’ fruits, but I love their tartness against the sweetness of the custard that will drape over them.) Then grate the zest of the orange over the fruit and sprinkle with the caster sugar; if you’re not using frozen fruit (which tends to be sour), don’t bother with the sugar.
  10. When the custard’s cool, remove the clingfilm. Pour and scrape the custard on top of the berries. It will be soft-set: thickened but far from solid. Cover the bowl (not the custard this time) with some fresh clingfilm and refrigerate for at least half a day or up to two days – it’s this standing time that makes the difference.
  11. When you are ready to serve, take the trifle out of the fridge to stand for about 1 hour. Whisk the cream until softly whipped. You don’t want it to merge with the custard, but nor do you want it stiffly peaking.
  12. Remove the clingfilm from the trifle bowl and spread the cream on top of the custard with a rubber spatula.
  13. Finely chop the pistachios, sprinkle over the top of the trifle and adorn with a few crystallised rose petals (or crystallised violet petals, if you prefer).

TIP If you really don’t want to make custard from scratch, you can use good shop-bought ‘fresh’ custard, 2-3 x 500ml (500g) cartons. Crystallised rose petals or violet petals are easy to find at specialist cake decoration stores or online.

MAKE AHEAD Make the trifle (without the cream) up to two days ahead. Keep, covered, in the fridge. When ready to serve, finish with the cream, pistachios and crystallised rose (or violet) petals, as directed.

Food styling: Emily Kidd. Prop styling: Luis Peral. Photo assistant & retouching: Sophie Bronze. Food styling assistant: Susanna Unsworth. Recipes taken from Nigella Express, At My Table, Feast, Simply Nigella, Nigella Christmas, Cook Eat Repeat. For more, visit