The good old faithful trifle

To celebrate 275 years of extraordinary auctions, Sotheby's has created a cookbook dedicated to 18th-century English food, which includes this delicious trifle...

How to make a trifle like The Georgians

While trifle has a pedigree going as far back as the 16th century, it was the Georgians who added jelly to the mix (then made with the gelatine from calves feet). Trifles, like many desserts of the period, also contained lashings of alcohol, which was probably a good thing in an era without mass refrigeration. 18th-century trifles were also lavishly decorated and presented as table centrepieces, sometimes with the jelly and custard components served as two separate freestanding parts, each charmingly shaped in elaborate moulds. Perhaps the most famous version at the time was the ‘whim wham’ – a Regency trifle that was rather light on the jelly, but heavy on the alcohol.         

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Serves 6 to 8

FOR THE SPONGE (UNLESS USING SHOP-BOUGHT)

  • 165g unsalted butter, softened
  • 165g caster sugar
  • 5 free-range eggs, beaten
  • 145g plain flour, sieved
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons raspberry jam, preferably homemade

FOR THE RASPBERRY JELLY

  • 700g ready-made raspberry purée or, to make your own, 550g raspberries and 35g icing sugar – either way, keep back about a quarter of this purée for building the trifle (see below)
  • 100ml water
  • 1 lemon (or ½ lemon), zest and juice
  • 6 gelatine leaves

FOR THE CUSTARD (FLOURLESS)

  • 6 or 7 gelatine leaves
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 5 free-range egg yolks
  • 1 vanilla pod, split, and its seeds
  • 300ml full-fat milk
  • 600ml double cream

FOR THE WHIPPED ALMOND CREAM

  • 300–500ml whipping cream, according to your preference
  • 70g caster sugar (optional)
  • 1 small teaspoon almond extract

FOR ASSEMBLING THE TRIFLE

  • 3 punnets (125g each) of fresh raspberries
  • 150g bought raspberry purée or about 120g homemade, from raspberry jelly ingredients (see above)
  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon natural Greek yoghurt
  • drizzle of sweet sherry
  • a few sprigs of mint to garnish (optional)
  • freeze-dried raspberries to garnish (optional)

The sponge, jelly and custard may be made a day in advance

Sponge

You can buy sponge but it’s so easy to make. Preheat the oven to 175ºC (155ºC for a fan oven). Line a 15–20cm baking tray with greaseproof paper, taking it all the way up the sides.

In a mixing bowl or food processor, beat together the butter and sugar, then gradually add the eggs and beat till light and fluffy.

Now sieve in the flour and baking powder, slowly folding them into the mix. Pour into the baking tray and bake for 15–20 minutes, testing with a sharp knife to check when it’s done: the blade should come out clean, with no mixture sticking to it.

Once cooked, remove the sponge from the baking tray and rest on a wire rack. Then cut it into squares. Slice these through the middle, spread with jam and form them into small sandwiches like mini Victoria sponges. Set aside till you are ready to build the trifle.

Raspberry jelly

If making your own purée, put the raspberries and icing sugar in a saucepan over a medium heat till the berries start to soften and the juices release. Remove from the heat and blitz using a hand blender until smooth, but don’t overdo it  or the seeds will break down and discolour the purée. Pass through a fine sieve and add a squeeze of lemon if you like.

Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for a few minutes.

Put about three-quarters of your raspberry purée in a pan (keeping the rest for dressing the fresh raspberries), with the water and lemon juice and zest, and bring to the boil, then stir in the gelatine. Pass through a fine sieve and place in the fridge for at least 2–3 hours so that it is partly set.

Custard

First soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for a few minutes.

In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar and egg yolks with the vanilla seeds. Beat till creamy and fluffy.

Put the milk, cream and vanilla pod in a saucepan on a medium-high heat, and bring to the boil. Squeeze the excess water out of the soaked gelatine and add to the pan, then pour slowly over the creamed sugar and egg mix, whisking as you go – you don’t want scrambled eggs.

Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and place it on a medium heat, mixing continually, until it reaches 75ºC – don’t let it boil. Take it off the heat, pass through a fine sieve into a bowl, and chill in the fridge for at least 1½ hours.

About 1½ hours before serving

Take the jelly out of the fridge and set aside at room temperature (if it is too solid to pour, either leave at room temperature for longer or cut it into chunks).

Dress most of the raspberries in 150g of raspberry purée (or 120g if homemade) and caster sugar, and let them sit for 30 minutes or so. Keep back a handful of raspberries to garnish.

Take the custard out of the fridge. It will have set, so give it a good whisk, adding a tablespoon of Greek yoghurt to lighten up the mix. Then put it in a piping bag and set aside.

Make the almond cream by whipping the cream, sugar and almond extract in a mixing bowl or food processor till it forms stiff peaks. Put it in a piping bag – with a fancy nozzle if you choose – ready for building the trifle.

This recipe is for a standard-sized family trifle but it can equally be served in small glass bowls. Place the sponge pieces in the bottom of the bowl(s) and drizzle with sweet sherry, making sure they are well soaked. Then add the raspberries, and the jelly mix. Put in the fridge to set for about 30 minutes, then pipe the custard on top, and again leave briefly in the fridge to set. Finally, pipe on the whipped cream and garnish with raspberries, mint sprigs and freeze-dried raspberry if you like.

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The Art of Cooking: A Contemporary Twist on Georgian Fare is out now and available to purchase from Hatchards Piccadilly and Sotheby’s Restaurant (020 7293 5000; 34-35 New Bond Street, London, W1A 2AA) RRP. £40

The Art Of Cooking: A Contemporary Twist on Georgian Fare