The Trifle Challenge – the results

” …with trepidation I take the bowl out of the fridge and carry it to the table, along with a plate and a spoon. I serve myself a large portion – as my grandpa always used to say, ‘if you’re going to do something, do it properly’ – and peer at the pile of pudding on my plate.

Taking a large spoonful, I bring it to my mouth, close my eyes and hope for a miracle …”

Last week I was challenged to make a trifle. But not just any old trifle: a special St Clement’s trifle. The reason for the challenge? I detest the stuff.

Apparently this recipe is going to change my mind. As the saying goes: the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Let’s see if it’s proof positive or negative.

* * * * *

What’s this? Make a cheesecake, instead of a trifle? Much though I’m tempted by the suggestion, the challenge was to find a trifle that could overcome my hatred of it. And that’s modern trifle rather than the original version, sadly. Back in 1596, when trifle was first coined (puddinged?), it was more like what we would now call a syllabub or a fruit fool.[1] Then some plonker decided to add sponge to the mix and all was lost. Sigh. Still, I’m ever the optimist: today is going to be the day that I’m proved wrong and trifle redeems itself! Yes! I screw my courage to the sticking place and head to the shops, list in hand.

Ready to go

Armed with ingredients – minus mandarins, which weren’t available, so I bought pineapple as the next best thing – I whip the cream with the condensed milk and lemon juice to make the syllabub-esque top layer of the trifle. Five minutes of splashy mess-making later, I’ve got about half a jug of the stuff sitting in front of me.

OK, maybe a little bit less now that I’ve dipped my finger into it to taste. And again. And – ooh, go on – just one more …


Why are all my kitchen things yellow? I have no idea.

To distract myself from the lemon cream I break the biscuits into the bottom of the bowl. I pop a piece into my mouth as I work and am surprised to find that it’s nothing like as nasty as I would have thought. It’s fine-textured and delicately sugary, rather than the gritty, tasteless mess that would be expected from the way they turn out when they’re soaked with liquid. Maybe Italian savoiardi are superior to English trifle sponges? Holding onto this ray of hope, I pour juice over the biscuits and start to layer the fruit.


Ten minutes later, when I catch myself rifling through the bowl of uneven pineapple pieces in search of the exact size and shape to tessellate with three others around it, I wonder whether making trifle may be messing with my head. When I collapse in giggles after seeing what’s been created after adding the layer of cream and decorative fruit, it’s confirmed.


The sight of half a jug of whipped cream left over shakes any thoughts of little green men out of my head. It does bring other ideas to mind, though.

This might have happened
As might this
And this. I couldn’t possibly confirm, though.

I wake up the next day feeling sick. Maybe it’s the amount of cream and sugar I stuffed into my face the night before, but I prefer to think it’s anticipation mixed with just a little bit of fear. What if I actually like trifle? I’ll have to change my whole belief system.

“Loves cats. After a 30+ year vendetta has discovered that she was wrong and trifle’s all right after all. Drives like a maniac.”

It just doesn’t have the same ring to it, so it’s with trepidation that I take the bowl out of the fridge and carry it to the table, along with a plate and a spoon. I serve myself a large portion – as my grandpa always used to say, ‘if you’re going to do something, do it properly’ – and peer at the pile of pudding on my plate. The cream and the pineapple look just as delicious as they did yesterday, but the biscuits at the bottom look ominous. They’ve half-disintegrated overnight and they sit underneath the shining white cream and zingy yellow pineapple as an amorphous, glistening glob of beige.

I get a sinking feeling in my stomach.

Taking a large spoonful, I bring it to my mouth, close my eyes and hope for a miracle.

It’s FOUL. The liquid-soaked savoiardi are blobby and tasteless, sticking to my tongue and ruining the smooth, creamy syllabub and tangy fruit above them. Why, why, WHY did anyone ever think this was going to be a good idea for a pudding?

People LIKE this?

I dissect the layers, scraping the syllabub away from the pineapple, savouring its smooth texture and sweet and sharp lemony zing, unsullied by soggy blobs of pappy biscuit, and weighing up the pros and cons of today’s experiment.

On one hand, lemon syllabub is my kind of heaven and this one will, as Kate A says, be great on top of a cheesecake. On the other, I’ve been vindicated in my belief that trifle truly is utterly disgusting.

I’m chalking this up as a victory for the trifle-haters.

[1] Source: Trifle (ENGLISH KITCHEN): Alan Davidson and Helen Saberi

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About Kate Bailward

Kate Bailward is a cat-loving, trifle-hating, maniac driver. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+
This entry was posted in Eating Like a Maniac, Reviewing Like a Maniac and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to The Trifle Challenge – the results

  1. Kate says:


    Kate B, there is no hope for you! Your trifle dislike is obviously so deeply ingrained that it’s now a phobia. (Thank you, British Airways.) Try it as Key Orange Pie next time – I suspect it’s the soggy cake that, well, takes the cake for you. But I can sympathize, as a matter of fact – having become severely gluten intolerant over the last few years, I last tried this recipe with gluten free sponges, and yes, soggy GF trifle sponge is revolting.

    So I take it you don’t want my chocolate and cherry trifle recipe? :P
    Kate´s last post ..LIBBY’S LIFE #61 – A voice in the dark

  2. Deanna says:

    Texture is underrated but accounts for much.
    Deanna´s last post ..One year on

  3. Krista says:

    You are hilarious!!! :-) I’m afraid I’m one of those crazies who like, nay, LOVE trifle. :-) I don’t usually like soggy anything, but when it’s soggy because of liquor and cream? BRING IT ON! :-)
    Krista´s last post ..Goat Raids, Colds and A Really Great Spring Break in Queensland

  4. @Kate A: Hahaha! Chocolate? Yes. Cherry? Hellz yeah! Trifle – dammit, there’s always a catch …

    Gluten free’s a killer, isn’t it? I was lucky, only having a wheat intolerance which went away when I cut it out for a while, but my BFF has recently been diagnosed as celiac and is finding it hard to adjust. Mind you, she’s also vegetarian, which makes life doubly difficult – keep food issues to one per person, I say. ;)

  5. @Deanna: As always, you are wise, gelato lady.

  6. @Krista: *shakes head sadly*. And we were getting along so well …

    Hehehe! Your reasoning is sound – alcohol and cream *is* a winning combination – and you have goats, which means you are an excellent person. So, OK, on balance, I think you’re forgiven your trifling (DYSWIDT?) aberration.

    You can stay. Just keep the trifle out of sight. ;)

  7. Canedolia says:

    Have you tried zuppa inglese gelato?

    Glad you didn’t cave in to the tyranny of trifle!
    Canedolia´s last post ..Expat vs Immigrant or Why I Love my EU Passport

  8. Urgh – no, can’t think of anything worse! How to completely ruin the deliciousness of gelato in one fell swoop hehehe. Not a fan of tiramisu, either – basically the same thing just with a fancy name. Pick me up? More like beat me into submission with your vileness …

  9. Ma says:

    Roast beef, lemon curd and marmite – all yum but should not be eaten together. Trifle is wrong always. xxx

  10. Pops says:

    Interestingly this just popped up on my computer this morning.

  11. Urgh. Giving it an Italian name and dying it pink doesn’t make it any better, Gennaro!

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