English trifles offer endless variations

With Mother’s Day coming up, I thought it would be fun to feature a trifle.

This is an old-fashioned British dessert that is perfect for spring or summer and for large groups. It can be simple or over-the-top decadent. A child can easily make this trifle for her mother, or an adult can make it for a casual dinner group. It is sure to impress!

Basic trifle recipe

Preparation time is about 45 minutes with a minimum of two hours in the refrigerator.

Serves: 10 to 12

1 premade cake

2 instant pudding or custard mixes

2 pounds of fresh or frozen fruit

1/3 cup sugar

2 cups heavy cream

Fresh fruit for garnish

1/3 cup sherry wine or juice

Prepare pudding or custard according to directions on the box and let it cool. (I use cream or half-and-half instead of milk.) Or, use the recipe below. Mix the fruit with the sherry or apple juice. Cut the cake into small chunks and place half of them in the bottom of a glass bowl. (A glass bowl shows the layers of the trifle and looks pretty.) Layer half of the fruit on top of the cake and then half of the pudding on top of that. Repeat layering. Whip heavy cream with 1 teaspoon vanilla essence and sugar to make whipped cream. Top the trifle with whipped cream and garnish it with fresh fruit. Chill well before serving.

Taste Combinations

Strawberries and vanilla: Use angel food cake, vanilla pudding or custard and sliced strawberries. Proceed as above, but add 1 teaspoon grated orange peel to the pudding. Top the trifle with the whipped cream and whole strawberries. You can also toast some flaked almonds for decor. Black forest trifle:

Use chocolate cake, frozen raspberries and vanilla pudding or custard. Mix 1 tablespoon raspberry preserve with the sherry or juice. Top it with fresh raspberries and chocolate curls. (Cut chocolate curls with a vegetable peeler.)

Banana creme: Use white, yellow or pound cake, and butterscotch pudding or custard. Fill and top with sliced bananas tossed in lemon or orange juice. (It stops them from going black.) Use grated white chocolate for added decoration.

Homemade custard recipe

3/4 cup sugar

7 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 egg yolks

4 cups milk or cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 tablespoons butter, cubed

Warm the milk with vanilla, but do not let it boil. Whisk sugar, cornstarch, salt and egg yolks together in a bowl until smooth. Add a ladle of warm milk to the egg mixture. Mix it together.

Slowly add the rest of the milk. Return the mixture to the saucepan and reheat it gently, whisking constantly until it comes to a boil and thickens. (It takes about five minutes.) Be careful not to burn it. Add butter and any alternative flavoring, such as 8 ounces finely chopped white chocolate or 70 percent dark chocolate, a tablespoon of lemon or orange zest, a teaspoon of almond flavoring or instant coffee. Mix until smooth.

Transfer it to a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Set the bowl over ice; let cool to room temperature before using.

For the trifle, pour it over the fruit layer when still warm but not hot.