How to make a proper trifle

Not a soggy sponge or lumpy custard in sight, this boozy, creamy AND citrusy trifle is a joy to eat, so add it to your Christmas repertoire and you’ll have guests coming back for more.

We show you how to make it, plus loads of ideas to switch it up a bit with different ingredients.

How to make a proper trifle

You will need…

  • 12 clementines
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 4 tbsp amaretto
  • Amaretti biscuits to sprinkle
  • Whole skin-on almonds, halved or roughly chopped, to sprinkle

For the sponge

  • 100g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra to grease
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 medium free-range eggs
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 30g ground almonds

For the custard

  • 300ml whole milk
  • 175ml double cream
  • 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped
  • 6 medium free-range egg yolks (see tips)
  • 50g golden caster sugar
  • 40g cornflour

For the amaretto cream

  • 500ml double cream
  • 50ml amaretto
  • 100g icing sugar, sifted


  1. Heat the oven to 180°C/fan160°C/ gas 4. For the sponge, grease a 20cm round cake tin and line with baking paper. Beat the butter and 100g sugar with an electric hand mixer in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the 2 whole eggs, one by one. Fold in the flour and ground almonds, then pour the mixture into the tin. Bake for 15-18 minutes until a skewer pushed into the centre comes out dry. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool.
  2. For the custard, put the milk and the 175ml cream in a non-stick pan with the vanilla seeds and pod. Bring to the boil. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and golden caster sugar using a balloon whisk until pale and thick. Whisk in the cornflour. Gradually pour over the hot milk mixture and whisk until smooth. Return to the cleaned pan and cook over a low heat, stirring, until very thick and glossy. Don’t let it boil, but let it get thicker than you think it needs to be; you should be able to see the bottom of the pan as you stir (it could take 10 minutes). Pour into a bowl and press cling film onto the surface. Cool, then chill.

  3. Slice the ends off the clementines and peel with a serrated knife, then cut into 0.5cm thick rounds.

  4. Melt the 50g caster sugar with 2 tbsp water in a large pan. Without stirring, turn up the heat and bubble until golden and syrupy. Stir in the 4 tbsp amaretto; it may seize (harden) but will melt again. Take off the heat, add the fruit and leave to macerate for 15 minutes or up to 24 hours.

  5. Strain the fruit (keep the syrup) and arrange in the base and up the sides (1 slice high) of a 1.5 litre trifle dish. Trim the sponge to fit on top, drizzle over as much syrup as you like, then spoon on the custard.

  6. Just before serving, whip the amaretto cream ingredients with a balloon whisk to just short of soft peaks, then spoon on top of the custard. Crumble over the amaretti biscuits, sprinkle on the almonds, then serve.


  • Next time, try using pears or apples with brandy or calvados and toasted hazelnuts.
  • Make the sponge up to 3 days in advance and store in an airtight container, or wrap and freeze for up to 3 months, then thaw.
  • Macerate the clementines in the caramel for up to 24 hours. Make the custard in advance and chill.
  • There are many stages to a trifle, so if you’re pushed for time, read the recipe and see what you can prepare in advance.
  • Whipping the cream with an electric hand mixer is faster than using a balloon whisk, but it can turn from perfect to grainy in just a few turns of the whisk. We like to whip the old fashioned way, by hand, as it gives greater control and you get a better feel for the texture and resistance of the cream (not to mention a good workout for your arms!).

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