English Christmas Trifle

Filled with fruit, white cake and amaretto, custard and whipped cream, English trifle is surprisingly easy to make, it looks amazing when presented at a big dinner.

English Christmas Trifle in a glass trifle bowl with layers of berries and cake
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Classic English Christmas Trifle isn’t often made outside of the British Isles, but maybe that should change. This recipe is simple and elegant and makes for a perfect Christmas day dessert.

Really want to impress your guests this Christmas? Why not try this Homemade Amaretto recipe that you can then use in your trifle and also serve in a cocktail? Also, don’t forget to learn How To Make A Perfect Whipped Cream to use in your trifle!

English Christmas Trifle in a glass trifle bowl with layers of berries and cake

English Christmas Trifle

English trifle is one of those things that most people think of as being only relegated to fancy meals across the pond in the UK.

However, not only is an English trifle surprisingly easy to make, it looks amazing when presented at a big dinner, which makes it perfect for a big Christmas celebration.

Feel free to play around with the fruits and even the layering depending on your preferences because no matter what you do, a big English Christmas trifle is sure to impress. 

english trifle ingredients in white bowls

Why Should You Use White Cake In This Recipe?

Traditional English Christmas trifle usually contains either Lady Fingers or chopped-up Madeira cake as the cake base, so why does this recipe call for white cake?

Well, white cake is probably the easiest cake to get a hold of, especially pre-prepared, so it makes this whole recipe a lot easier.

Plus, white cake has a more neutral and balanced flavor, allowing all of the other ingredients to shine through without the cake stealing too much of the show.

However, if you want to stick to tradition, feel free to use the classic Madeira cake still; it might be harder to find, but it does have a certain flavor of its own that is worth trying out.

English Christmas Trifle barries nad pears in mixing bowl

Do You Need To Use Bird’s Custard For This Recipe?

Making your own custard is definitely one of those things that a lot of people consider a big barrier to entry for cooking at home.

There is a lot of fear that the custard itself could break, or it might burn, or any number of things could go wrong, totally ruining the whole recipe.

Instead, just pick up a can of Bird’s Custard or even one of their ready made packets that you just need to add milk or water too!

If you wanted to really go above and beyond, though, you could make it yourself. There are all kinds of easy custard recipes out there, but the most simple would be to heat up half and half in a saucepan until it is just about hot to the touch and then whisk in sugar and egg yolks alongside a little vanilla extract.

As long as you don’t cook the egg yolks too much by overheating the custard mixture, the egg yolks should thicken it beautifully, resulting in a creamy, thick custard.

English Christmas Trifle with a spoon in the top of the trifle bowl

What Are All Of The Different Layering Methods You Could Use?

While this recipe does have a pretty prescriptive method of assembly, creating each layer individually in a particular way, there is always the option to mix it up a little bit and do something different.

While some people will follow this recipe with cake at the bottom, you could instead start with a jelly fruit layer instead.

There isn’t a lot of difference between the different options – it is really about what kind of final texture you want from your trifle. With the cake in the middle layer, it is likely going to get a bit soggier, whereas the cake is on the bottom (or even the top!) will result in a slightly crispier and crumblier texture.

English Christmas Trifle served in two white bowls overhead view

Do You Have To Use Pears And Raspberries?

This recipe calls for the use of both canned pears and some fresh raspberries to provide the fruit for this trifle, but there are other options for fruits you could choose from as well.

  • Strawberries

Strawberries are actually sometimes considered the more traditional option for making a trifle, so long as you quarter them into attractive little strawberry triangles.

  • Blueberries

Blueberries are a great way not only to add some extra antioxidants to your diet but they are also a great replacement for raspberries if you don’t have any on hand.

Even better, try to get some fresh blueberries, as they are a hundred times better than anything frozen.

  • Bananas

Bananas are definitely a more unorthodox choice for this kind of recipe, but if you are a big banana lover, they are definitely worth trying.

Though they won’t break apart as much as softer fruits, bananas can give a nice rich earthiness to the trifle that other fruits simply can’t compete with.

Looking for more traditional Christmas Dessert recipes? Try these out:

Pineapple Upside Down Bread Pudding

Grandma Marion’s Christmas Pudding

Salted Caramel Gingerbread in a Mug

Happy Cooking



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Filled with fruit, white cake and amaretto, custard and whipped cream, English trifle is surprisingly easy to make, it looks amazing when presented at a big dinner.

English Christmas Trifle

Filled with fruit, white cake and amaretto, custard and whipped cream, English trifle is surprisingly easy to make, it looks amazing when presented at a big dinner.
4.88 from 8 votes
English Christmas Trifle in a glass trifle bowl with layers of berries and cake
Prep Time
20 minutes
Karlynn Johnston


  • 3 cups Birds Custard (prepared)
  • 1 prepared white cake (baked in a 9×13 pan)
  • 1/3 cup amaretto
  • 1 pears canned (drained and diced)
  • 4 cups fresh raspberries
  • 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds (for garnish)
  • fresh raspberries and mint leaves for garnish


  • Prepare the Birds Custard as per the directions and set aside.
  • Prepare the white cake mix in a 9×13 baking pan as per the directions on the box.
  • In a medium bowl, beat 2 cups heavy cream with the confectioner's sugar until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
  • In a separate mixing bowl toss the diced pears and raspberries with 2 tablespoons Amaretto, stirring to bruise the berries slightly.
  • To assemble the trifle cut the cake into 1/2-inch thick slices to fit tightly into the bottom of a trifle bowl (or a 1 1/2-quart decorative glass bowl).
  • Drizzle or sprinkle the cake layer with Amaretto.
  • Layer 1/3 of the pears and raspberries over the top of the cake, followed by 1/3 of the custard.
  • Repeat the process, creating a total of three layers with the remaining ingredients.
  • Spread whipped cream on top, then pipe rosettes of whipped cream on top.
  • Garnish with raspberries, slivered almonds and mint leaves.
  • Refrigerate covered until ready to serve.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 545kcal, Carbohydrates: 73g, Protein: 8g, Fat: 24g, Saturated Fat: 14g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 7g, Trans Fat: 0.2g, Cholesterol: 97mg, Sodium: 444mg, Potassium: 365mg, Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 37g, Vitamin A: 875IU, Vitamin C: 14mg, Calcium: 283mg, Iron: 2mg

All calories and info are based on a third party calculator and are only an estimate. Actual nutritional info will vary with brands used, your measuring methods, portion sizes and more.

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Karlynn Johnston

I’m a busy mom of two, wife & cookbook author who loves creating fast, fresh meals for my little family on the Canadian prairies. Karlynn Facts: I'm allergic to broccoli. I've never met a cocktail that I didn't like. I would rather burn down my house than clean it. Most of all, I love helping YOU get dinner ready because there's nothing more important than connecting with our loved ones around the dinner table!

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  1. Pete Xander says

    Okay, I stiffed you a star. My mom made trifles for decades before it was even heard of, much less commonplace as it is now. In making one’s own custard, though, you left out a vital insurance factor — yes, don’t overcook the custard, but what is the temperature at which the eggs will curdle? THIS fact comes from making a custard homemade ice cream recipe, but holds true to all egg-thickened custard: The temperature should be kept under 180 degrees F. Know that if it does exceed that, the temperature will continue to rise 4-5 degrees after it’s taken off the heat before it breaks and curdles.

    Use a candy thermometer? NO! The range of temperatures on a candy thermometer is too difficult to read. I long have used a better one — a MEAT thermometer. For lower temperature cooking where a few degrees makes the difference, a meat thermometer is far more accurate, and EVERYONE has a meat thermometer.

    And since I live at 6,000 in the San Bernardino Mountains of southern California — and a biologist with a broad science background — I know that water boils at 212 degrees at sea level. For every 500 feet of elevation, you have to know the boiling point will be 1 degree lower. So at 6,000 feet, the boiling point will happen at 200 degrees, or 2 degrees F for every 1,000 feet in elevation gain.

    There — science lesson over. Time to get cookin’!4 stars

    • Mr. Kitchen Magpie says

      Wow! Thanks for that, quite helpful. I appreciate you taking the time to share!!5 stars

4.88 from 8 votes (6 ratings without comment)

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