Recipe: Christmas Trifle

Recipe: Christmas Trifle

Recipe: Christmas Trifle

Posted by Hedi Schreiber on


  • 1 x 450g / 14 oz Madeira cake, store bought (Note 1)
  • 1/3 cup / 85 ml orange or other fruit flavoured liquor, or apple juice (or 2 tbsp brandy)
  • 4 x 85g packets flavourless Aeroplane Jelly ("Create a Jelly") (Note 2 for subs)
  • 5 cups / 1.25 L no added sugar Cranberry juice (Note 2)
  • 2 - 3 punnets strawberries, halved
  • 1 each punnet blueberries, raspberries


  • 600 ml / 2 1/2 cups whipping cream
  • 3 tbsp / 55g white sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract


  • 750 ml / 3 cups milk (full or low fat)
  • 1/4 cup / 55 g caster sugar (superfine sugar)
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or extract) (Note 4)
  • 1/4 cup / 55 g caster sugar (superfine sugar), extra
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup / 80g cornflour / cornstarch


  • Cut cake into 3 cm / 1.2" cubes. Cover bottom of 3.5 L / 3.5 qt trifle dish with cake (might not use all) and sprinkle with liquor or juice. 
  • Optional extra: Scatter over 1/2 to 1 punnet halved strawberries (this is not in ingredients list).


  • Bring 3 cups of the Cranberry juice to a boil in a large saucepan. Add jelly, mix until dissolved. Add remaining juice.


  • Pour HALF the cranberry jelly liquid carefully over the cake in the trifle dish. Refrigerate uncovered for 1.5 hours until it is partly set – still quite soft, but not watery (ie if you gently place a strawberry on it, it will stay on the surface).
  • Pour remaining jelly in a bowl and leave on the counter (do not refrigerate).
  • Meanwhile, make the custard (see below).


  • Remove trifle from fridge. Spoon over the custard, smooth surface, press on glass to seal (stops jelly bleed). Refrigerate for 1 hour until surface has firmed up a bit - just enough to hold the jelly (jelly is soft so custard doesn't need to be fully set). 
  • Put remaining jelly in the fridge at the same time (to thicken a bit, but not too much, see video. If sets too much, next jelly layer doesn’t set clear, will look broken and bubbly). CHECK jelly at 30 minutes, just to ensure it's not setting too fast.


  • Remove trifle and jelly from fridge. Jelly should be sloppy. Carefully spoon over jelly, smooth surface. Scatter over 1 punnet halved strawberries (or half each raspberries and strawberries). Refrigerate for 3 hours+ (can leave in fridge for 48 hours, until ready to assemble).


  • Cream: Beat cream, sugar and vanilla until softly whipped.
  • Once jelly is set, just before serving, top with cream, then pile over remaining berries. Dust with icing sugar. 
  • Serve!! PS It is imperative to ensure every servings includes a bit of every layer in the trifle 


  • Bring milk, ¼ cup sugar and vanilla to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat. Do not boil.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together remaining ¼ cup sugar and yolks, then whisk in cornflour until smooth.
  • While whisking, carefully pour in about ½ cup of milk mixture. Once mixed in, slowly pour in remaining milk while whisking. Once incorporated and smooth, pour back into saucepan.
  • Return saucepan to stove over low heat. Whisk constantly until it becomes thick and custardy – this will happen quite quickly, about 45 seconds (ie it is liquidy when you start, then suddenly it thickens). Once thickened, remove immediately from heat – it will continue to thicken.
  • Pour into a bowl and cover with cling wrap, pressing onto surface. Leave on the counter until trifle is ready to layer with custard. Makes 750ml. (Note 5)

 Recipe Notes:

1. CAKE: Any cake will work fine with this. Pound and Madeira are ideal and readily available at supermarkets. Christmas Cake is also great.

2. JELLY: The flavourless “Create a Jelly” Aeroplane jelly is sweet. It's sold at Woolworths, Coles etc in Australia. So it’s important to use sugar free / reduced sugar Cranberry Juice (I use Ocean Spray Cranberry Light - No Added Sugar), otherwise your jelly will be too sweet.

You’ll find trifle versions made using raspberry and strawberry flavoured Aeroplane jelly. I tried it once and really didn’t enjoy it, I found it too artificial. I really think it’s worth the small effort of making a jelly made using real Cranberry Juice, the flavour difference is astonishing, it’s real.

If you can't find Flavourless Aeroplane jelly, see Note 5 for how to make the jelly using plain gelatin.

3. STORE BOUGHT CUSTARD: I would use store bought custard over flavoured Aeroplane Jelly, to save time. Add a dash of vanilla to freshen it up. Make sure you get DOUBLE THICK Custard (Pauls is good, Woolies, Coles etc in fridge section).

4. VANILLA BEAN PASTE has little black specks in it, like when you use an actual vanilla bean. It's optional, you can just use normal vanilla!

5. GELATIN JELLY: Use this if you don't have Flavourless Aeroplane Jelly where you are. This is made using normal gelatin powder. I use McKenzie's here in Australia, small tub sold in the baking section of supermarkets. If using gelatin, you MUST use Cranberry Juice with sugar added, called Cranberry Classic here in Australia. Otherwise your jelly won't be sweet at all. Cranberry Juice is sold in the aisles.



3 cups (750 ml) cranberry juice (NOT low or no sugar), room temperature

3 cups (750 ml) cranberry juice (not low or no sugar), boiled

7 tsp / 21 g gelatin powder*

* Australia: I use McKenzie's, US: 3 x 7g sachets Knox plain gelatin, UK: 2 x 12g sachets Dr Oetker (close enough to 21g)


1. Put room temperature cranberry juice in a bowl, sprinkle over gelatine powder. Whisk until mostly dissolved.

2. Pour in hot cranberry juice. Whisk until gelatin is fully dissolved. Use per recipe.

This jelly requires more liquid because there’s about 1 1/2 cups of Aeroplane jelly powder, so you need more liquid volume using gelatin powder. Cranberry Jelly made using gelatin needs to use normal cranberry juice ie not sugar free because otherwise the jelly is not sweet enough.

6. CUSTARD: You want the custard mostly cooled but not set. When slightly cooled, it is like soft whipped cream so you can spoon it on the trifle and it spreads smoothly. If it cools too much and sets, just use an egg beater and beat until smooth. Once refrigerated in the trifle, it thickens even more – it’s not like a firm set custard that’s cut-able into clean pieces (like firm tofu), it is softer than that, it's more like silken tofu ie. you can cut it cleanly but it's wobbly and soft.

7. I feel bad providing the recipe reference because I had issues with it, but I must because it is where the original idea came from and the end result looks so similar. I made this trifle recipe from as written, I had problems with untidy layers / bleeding and I really did not enjoy the flavour of the artificial jelly. I also found the trifle didn't fill a standard trifle dish enough. So I used this recipe as a reference point, but reconstructed it pretty much from scratch.

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