Trifle: cake, custard, and fruit make an English tradition

English Trifle is a rich dessert made of sponge cake soaked in fruit syrup and served with whipped cream, custard, and fruit. According to many sources it is made with wine or liqueur, but the dish does not necessarily depend on these for either flavoring or moisture. Fruit juices and nonalcoholic sparkling beverages work well in recipes for fruit. If you discover an unusual fruit and juice combination, by all means try it in a trifle.

The base may be sponge cake, dry yellow or white cake, macaroons, or ladyfingers. The trimmed crusts of a home-baked cake are delicious.

A large, straight-sided glass bowl, holding about 2 quarts liquid, will show off the carefully arranged layers of fruit and cake beneath the custard and cream.

Although trifle originated when the English put stale cake to good use by adding flavoring and fruit, it need not be limited to leftovers.

A fruit juice such as Martinelli's Sparkling Cider sprinkled over the cake base adds fine flavor and moisture. Some trifle recipes include cubes of Jell-O for one of the layers. Others suggest powdered Jell-O sprinkled over the juice-moistened cake or cookie base to be activated by the juices.

Instead of making custard from scratch you may want to use a traditional British convenience food -- Bird's Custard. Follow package directions. Made in England, Bird'shas been used in making trifle there for many years and is now available in specialty stores in the United States. Trifle 4 eggs 1/4 cup sugar 2 cups milk, heated 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 cup frozen raspberries, drained, liquid reserved 3 to 4 tablespoons strawberry Jell-O 2 dozen ladyfingers, split 1 cup raspberry jam 2 cups sliced fresh or frozen peaches 2 to 3 bananas, sliced 1 pint fresh strawberries, halved 1 cup whipping cream

Prepare soft custard: Beat eggs with sugar in double boiler. Add hot milk and cook over hot water until custard has thickened. Cool and add vanilla.

Mix raspberry juice and strawberry Jell-O powder in small bowl.

Line bottom and sides of serving bowl with 3/4 of the ladyfingers. Sprinkle with half of the raspberry juice mixture. Cover with jam.

Add remaining ladyfingers and sprinkle with remaining raspberry juice. Layer peaches, bananas, and strawberries. Cover with custard. Refrigerate.

Top with raspberries. Whip cream and spread over raspberries. Chill. Serves 10 to 12. Strawberry Crown Trifle 1 8-inch white cake layer 2 cups milk 1 small package Jello vanilla pudding and pie filling 8 ounces whipping cream 15 to 20 ounces frozen strawberries, drained 3 whole fresh strawberries 1/3 cup sparkling cider

Early in the day, combine milk and pudding mix in a saucepan and cook according to package directions. Allow to cool completely and refrigerate.

A few hours before serving, whip cream and fold into chilled pudding. Split white cake layer in two and place l/2, cut side up, on serving plate.

Sprinkle cut side of cake with half of the cider. Spread about 3/4 cup of pudding mixture over cake. Top with 10 ounces of strawberries.

Add second layer, cut side down, and sprinkle with remaining cider. Spoon on pudding mixture, letting it run down sides of cake. Add remaining strawberries.

Wash fresh berries. Hull and halve 2 berries and place in star pattern on top. Place whole third berry, hull side down, on halved berries. Summer's Solace 2 cups cake or macaroon crumbs 1 package Bird's Custard Powder 1 generous cup blueberries 3-4 large fresh peaches, peeled, sliced 1 cup whipping cream, whipped stiff

Sprinkle crumbs in a 9 by 13-inch glass dish. Prepare custard according to package directions. Cool slightly and spoon over crumbs. Top with thinly sliced peaches and sprinkle with blueberries. Add large dollops of stiffly whipped cream and serve immediately.

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