Sunday, 5 May 2013

Trifling with Gluten Free Trifles.....

My husband's favourite desert is trifle. He's not bothered what sort, but the combination of gooey wet alcohol filled sponge combined with custard and/or cream floats his boat.

According to Wikipedia, the earliest known recipe for trifle was published in 1596 in England and consisted of a thick cream with sugar, ginger and rose water. About 60 years after this, someone thought to add eggs to the cream and the resulting custard was poured over alcohol soaked bread. And so we had it,  the beginnings of the modern-day trifle. Originally a quintessential English pudding, there are now hundreds of variations across the world which vary in flavour and ingredients from continent to continent and country to country.

When I was a child (if my memory serves me right), we always had trifle at Christmas. The sponge was always soaked with sherry and the cream was always topped with toasted almonds. That was our tradition. If I'm honest, it doesn't bring back great memories as I was never too keen on the sherry. But as the culinary world has expanded and a whole variety of ingredients have become available, the trifle has developed infinite possibilities. 

For this post, I am featuring a couple of my favourites. A delicious gooey, oozy, lemon and berry trifle which uses lemon curd and a fruit compote alongside Italian Limoncello to soak the sponge. And a variation on Italian Tiramisu, using gluten free sponge instead of Italian biscuits and Brandy instead of Marsala

A good trifle sponge should be absorbent........ It needs to soak up and hold lots of juice or booze without collapsing into a soggy mess. The sponge that I use for trifle is slightly more dense in texture than other cake sponges I make and gives more of a grainy bite to the finished pudding. It is also easy to slice into the smaller pieces essential for layering with all the other ingredients and holds together perfectly.

Gluten Free Trifle Sponges


210g gluten free flour blend (I use blend B from this post)
25g ground almonds
¾ teaspoon xanthan gum
2 teaspoons GF baking powder
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
175g unsalted butter (room temperature)
175g caster sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla essence
3 large eggs (room temperature)
4 tablespoons milk


  1. Base line an 8 inch square baking tin with baking paper.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C / 350 F / Gas 4.
  3. Weigh and mix together the flour, almonds, xanthan gum, baking powder and salt in a medium sized bowl and set aside
  4. In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla essence until light, pale and fluffy
  5. Add and beat in the eggs one at a time, ensuring they are well mixed.
  6. Add the milk and gently fold in.
  7. Add the flour all at once and gently fold into the wet ingredients until JUST combined. Be sure not to over-mix. The mixture should form a soft dropping 
    consistency. If it seems too thick, add a little extra milk.
  8. Spoon the mixture into the baking tin and smooth the surface.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes until a skewer comes out clean and the top of the sponge springs back when pressed.
  10. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning on to a wire rack.
  11. Allow to cool completely before slicing into trifle sponge sized rectangles. Cross-slice each piece so that they are half the thickness of the original cake.
  12. Store in an airtight container or freeze until ready to use.

 Lemon & Berry Trifle

This has been adapted from a recipe card that I picked up years ago on a visit to Waitrose. I have added the compote and used my gluten free trifle sponges, but otherwise it is essentially the same. It is tangy, boozy, sharp and sweet all at the same time, with a nutty pistachio topping.

Ingredients - filling & topping

trifle sponge batch as recipe above
3-4 tablespoons of good quality lemon curd (preferably home made)
3 tablespoons Limoncello liqueur (or use apple juice for a non-alcohol version)
200g fresh raspberries
250g mascarpone
500g good quality vanilla custard
300ml double or whipping cream
2 tablespoons pistachio nuts - chopped


200g raspberries
200g blueberries
200g strawberries
30g caster sugar
80-100ml water

Method for Compote

  1. Core the strawberries and chop into small pieces. Place in a saucepan with the blueberries and raspberries.
  2. Add the sugar and 2 tablespoons of the water. Bring to the boil over a moderate heat, stirring.
  3. Turn the heat down so that the mixture is simmering. Stirring intermittently, allow the mixture to continue cooking until the fruit has softened and broken down. If the mixture looks like it is thickening too much, add water a further tablespoon at a time, until the fruit has a consistency of sauce which is not too runny, but is still easily pourable.
  4. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.

Putting it all together

  1. Spread a thin layer of lemon curd on each of the trifle sponges as you go.
  2. Using either a large glass/clear serving bowl or smaller individual serving bowls, place a layer of trifle sponges in the base, drizzling Limoncello liqueur (or juice) across the sponge and top with dollops of compote.
  3. Place further layers in the same way until the bowl is about a third to a half full. Ensure you leave enough room for a thick layer each of custard and cream.
  4. Using an electric whisk, beat the custard and mascarpone together in a bowl until smooth.
  5. Spoon and spread the custard mix over the top cake-compote layer, ensuring it is fully covered.
  6. Whisk the cream in a separate bowl until is has a soft dropping consistency and leaves a trail.
  7. Spread the cream on top of the custard.
  8. Decorate with the remaining raspberries and chopped pistachios (I also sprinkled a little freeze dried raspberry powder on mine)
  9. Chill in the fridge until ready to eat.


The filling for this version has been adapted from the authentic Italian cooking bible, The Silver Spoon (2005) - Phaidon Press. It is rich, creamy, delicious and truly decadent. I used Brandy as I didn't have any Marsala in the cupboard, but it seemed to work just as well. I just left out the alcohol for my daughter's portion.


trifle sponge batch as recipe above
4 egg yolks
2 egg whites
150g icing sugar
400g Mascarpone
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
150ml freshly brewed extra strong coffee, cooled
3 tablespoons brandy
150g plain chocolate, grated


  1. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar and vanilla essence until pale and fluffy.
  2. Gently beat in the Mascarpone.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
  4. Fold the egg whites into the egg-mascarpone mixture, until fully combined and smooth.
  5. Place a layer of trifle sponge on the base of a large clear serving bowl or in smaller individual serving dishes.
  6. Drizzle brandy and coffee into the sponge, until moist.
  7. Cover with a layer of mascarpone cream and sprinkle a fine layer of grated chocolate on the top.
  8. Continue to layer as above, ending with a layer of mascarpone cream and sprinkle of grated chocolate.
  9. Chill in the fridge for about 3 hours before serving.

 Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013 unless otherwise indicated.


  1. They look delicious! Trifle is one of my favourites. For some reason I only usually make them at Christmas. Must make one this summer

  2. Thanks Katie. They are! Not sure why trifle is brought out mainly at Christmas when it's such a fab pud. and you can make some great fresh summery ones......


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