Two very different trifles to shake up your Christmas dinner

Leave the sherry in the cupboard and try these interesting alternatives


And so to the the trifle, staple of most Christmas dinner tables and perhaps just as contentious in its own way as the Brussels sprouts are. Jelly or no jelly, fruit or no fruit, Bird’s best or homemade custard ... the variations are endless.

What is common to many trifles is a liberal slosh of sherry. But instead of that traditional approach, here are two very different trifles to try. Eunice Power’s version marries seasonal mandarins with Italian mascarpone, and Irish whiskey. Carmel Somers looks to France, with her toffee apple trifle with brandy.

Both bring a new approach to a much loved Christmas dessert.



600ml orange juice
50g caster sugar
4 sheets leaf gelatine
18 boudoir biscuits or sponge fingers
80ml water
80g sugar
2 tbsp whiskey
6 mandarin oranges
500g mascarpone
500ml cream
50g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract


1. Gently heat the orange juice with the sugar in a pan until the sugar dissolves (but do not boil, as the gelatine will be less effective). Soak the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water for about five minutes, or until they are soft and pliable. Remove them from the soaking water and squeeze out any excess water with your hands. Stir them into the warm orange juice.

2. Pour the orange juice through a sieve into a glass trifle bowl. Place in the fridge to set. This can take up to four hours, depending on your fridge.

3. Next, make a syrup by dissolving the sugar in the water in a saucepan over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved. Allow to simmer for a few minutes then take it off the heat and stir in the whiskey.

4. Whisk 300ml of the cream until it holds its shape, then fold in the mascarpone cheese, icing sugar and vanilla. Fill a large piping bag with the mascarpone cream.

5. To assemble: Peel the mandarin oranges, cut them in half and then into slices. Arrange the slices around the perimeter of the bowl on the jelly and over the jelly. Pipe half of the mascarpone cream in the centre of the bowl on the jelly and around the orange slices. Dip the sponge biscuits in the whiskey syrup and layer on top of the mascarpone. Finish with another layer of mascarpone.

6. Cover and leave in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight. Before serving, whip the remaining 200ml of cream and spread it over the trifle.


Toffee apple and brandy trifle
Toffee apple and brandy trifle


For the sponge:
250g sugar
8 medium eggs
250g plain flour

For the apples:
75g butter
750g eating apples, cored and sliced
100g dark brown sugar

For the custard:
300ml full cream milk
150ml cream
4 large egg yolks
50g sugar
1 level dessert spoon cornflour

To finish:
150ml Longueville apple brandy
250ml cream lightly whipped


1. Two days before you need the trifle, make the sponge. Heat the oven to 180 degrees and line a large baking tray with baking parchment. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar with the eggs until it has at least doubled in size and is thick, pale and firm. This can take up to 15 minutes depending on your mixer. Sieve the flour into a bowl and fold the egg mixture in gently, taking care not to lose the lightness of the mixture. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown and firm. Remove to a wire rack and let it sit overnight to firm and become slightly stale.

2. The next day, make the toffee apples. Melt the butter in a pan and add the prepared apples and cook until they are starting to soften. Add the sugar and continue to cook on a low heat until the mixture starts to caramelise and the air smells of toffee. Allow to cool.

3. Make the custard by bringing the cream and milk to the boil. In the meantime, in a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until pale. Now pour the boiling milk into the bowl and mix well. Pour back into the saucepan and return to a medium heat. Continue to whisk until it comes up to a slow simmer and is thick and smooth. Remove from the heat to cool.

4. Finally assemble the trifle by lining the bottom of a large glass bowl with the sponge and sprinkle with half the brandy. Next add half of the apples followed by another layer of sponge and sprinkle with the rest of the brandy. Now add the rest of the apples and pour over the custard. Allow to stand for at least two hours or overnight if possible.

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