Looking for the BEST Gluten Free Trifle Sponges? I make mine with a simple Genoise Sponge… Perfect for soaking up booze, juice and compote and robust enough to cut and layer with all your favourite trifle ingredients. Or… Use the recipe to make a light, summery cake, layered with whipped cream and fruit. Optional dairy free.
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Gluten Free Trifle Sponges – New Improved Recipe
We all love a trifle. Right? But finding Gluten Free Trifle Sponges that are anything like the ‘old-style’ wheat ones from the shops is a non-starter. So, I’ve been on a mission to make some that are fit for the job.
I’m not talking ‘lady fingers’ or ‘sponge fingers’… But the little packs of rectangular sponges that come in a box. Every supermarket has them… In the UK at least!
And for me, they are particularly nostalgic… When I was a kid, we always had some in the cupboard. They were used for anything from actual trifle, to making ice cream cake, or just slicing and filling with buttercream for a speedy individual treat…. Actually… Lets rewind… We rarely had any trifle sponges left in the cupboard, because I ate them almost daily at one point when I got home from school to an empty house and free reign in the kitchen.
This new and updated recipe for Gluten Free Trifle Sponges is definitely a close replica… And it replaces the old gluten free trifle sponge recipe that has been on the blog since 2013… For anyone who liked the old one, apologies… I decided (after making it at Christmas) that I could do better… So, the old recipe has been consigned to the recipe dump.
What is a trifle? A Brief History!
A trifle is my husband’s favourite dessert. He’s not bothered what sort. But the combination of gooey wet alcohol-infused sponge slathered with custard and cream and paired with fruit, jelly or compote 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 there it was… The beginnings of the modern-day trifle.
Although originally a quintessential English pudding, there are now thousands of variations across the world which vary in flavour and ingredients from continent to continent and country to country.
When I was a child, we always had trifle at Christmas. Trifle is a very ‘Christmas’ dessert! 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 sherry. But as the culinary world has expanded and a whole variety of ingredients have become available, the trifle has developed infinite possibilities.
Why do we need a recipe for Gluten Free Trifle Sponges?
Of course, with so many trifle variations, you would be right to ask… ‘why do we need a specific recipe for gluten free trifle sponges’? And on one level you’re right. Because when making trifle, pretty much any cake will work. Take a look at the Desserts and Trifles Index at Gluten Free Alchemist and you’ll find anything from Banoffee Trifle made with banana cake and Pear & Ginger Trifle made with Jamaican Ginger Cake… There’s Strawberry Trifle made with Angel Food Cake and Raspberry-Lemon Trifle made with Raspberry-Lemon Drizzle Cake.
And then of course… there’s plenty of shop-bought gluten free cakes available these days that would do the job too… Although I personally find most shop-bought cakes over-sweet and gritty from too much rice flour.
And lastly, there is the possibility of using Savoiardi Biscuits (also known as ladyfinger cookies)… These are traditionally used for Tiramisu, although getting hold of gluten free ladyfingers in the UK is like searching for a needle in a haystack. It’s easier to make them… My Gluten Free Savoiardi recipe is perfect!
But as far as I’m concerned… If the wheat-eating community has proper British trifle sponges, then we should have them too! Because trifle sponges are an actual thing. And they are made for a reason… And if that reason is to make great traditional British trifle, that’s good enough for me.
Perfect gluten free Genoise sponge – The traditional trifle choice
But what type of gluten free sponge makes an authentic Trifle Sponge? Well… the general wisdom is that it should be a sponge which is exceptionally light and airy without an excess of weighty fat… And specifically, a Genoise Sponge seems to be the closest to it… A sponge that is absorbent (to soak up the booze and/or fruit juices characteristic of a good trifle)… That once soaked, won’t collapse into a soggy mess… And that is easy to slice both into the pieces and cross sections that are shaped for layering.
The super-light Genoise sponge fits the bill perfectly… A simple sponge made by whisking eggs and sugar over steaming water until it triples in volume… (That’s a lot of air!). After which is folded a little flour and a tiny smidge of enriching melted butter. Well… that seems to be the process followed by all the eminent British celebrity bakers anyway.
While the basic principles of whisking in huge amounts of air is similar to a traditional, classic Swiss Roll Sponge, the latter is usually completely fat free and is whisked without the addition of steaming heat.
The recipe shared here for a Gluten Free Genoise Sponge is adapted from the best wheat-based recipes I have found on the internet… And makes for the lightest and most perfect gluten free trifle sponges. We also now have a recipe for a Gluten Free Chocolate Genoise Sponge too (which I use as a base for Strawberry Mousse Cake).
Is it easy to make Gluten Free Trifle Sponges?
If you have never made a Genoise Sponge or trifle sponges before (gluten free or otherwise), don’t panic. It’s actually super-easy. You will need some basic equipment, as well as a lightness of hand when folding in the flour, but otherwise the process is straight forward and fun. But here’s a few tips to getting the very BEST Genoise Gluten Free Trifle sponges…
- Be sure to prepare your baking tins properly – a) Brush the tin(s) with melted butter. b) Line the base(s) with good-quality non-stick baking parchment (Lakeland Parchment is excellent). c) Dust well with flour by shaking an extra spoon round the tin to coat the sides, before tipping out the excess.
- Make sure to use large eggs that are as fresh as possible. When I say Large eggs, that is UK large eggs. Depending on where you are, eggs are given different size names. So, check my International Egg Size chart if unsure.
- Whisk the mixture in a LARGE heat-proof bowl set over a pan of lightly simmering water. But make sure that the base of the bowl is NOT touching the water.
- Make sure the eggs and sugar have almost tripled in volume before you finish whisking. That could take up to 10 minutes. Whisking in air is crucial to the rise and texture of Genoise so the mixture needs to be thickened and voluminous.
- Sift the flour before you add it to the mixture. I usually sift it straight into the bowl, but so that it is evenly distributed across the whole surface. Some recipes suggest sifting the flour more than once. I have never found this necessary and the texture seems to remain the same regardless.
- When adding the melted butter to the mix, drizzle round the edges of the bowl (rather than allowing to ‘pool’ in one place) to enable a lighter folding process.
- Fold light and high to keep as much air in the mixture as possible. Using a large metal spoon or silicone spatula spoon can help the process. But be very careful not to over-fold. Once there are no obvious pockets of flour or butter, the folding is complete.
- Be careful not to over-bake. You are aiming for ‘light golden’ and just baked. A skewer inserted will come out clean and the top will spring back.
- If you want the sugary top that packet trifle sponges have… Just tip out onto sugared baking paper while warm. I don’t bother though…
- Make sure the sponge is completely cold before slicing into trifle sponges.
Do I need anything else to make Gluten Free Trifle Sponges?
In addition to the bits of equipment mentioned above, you’ll need some kitchen scales, a baking tin, a hob, a large saucepan and an electric whisk to make these Gluten Free Trifle Sponges.
- Accurate scales are always important in the kitchen. I have a set of dual platform scales which are brilliant for both large and micro-measurements.
- To make my gluten free trifle sponges, I use square loose-bottomed 8 inch (20 cm) baking tin(s). Depending on how deep you want the final sponges, there is usually enough mixture for a couple of flatter sponges, or one deep one.
- Given the importance of whisking lots of air into the mixture for up to 10 minutes… A robust electric hand whisk with a good power-rating is a must.
Can I make Gluten Free Trifle Sponges dairy free?
Yes. These gluten free trifle sponges can easily be made dairy free. The amount of butter in the Genoise is minimal and can easily be substituted for a good dairy free alternative. Alternatively, my recipe for Swiss Roll Sponge is fatless and naturally dairy free and will work well too.
What else can I make with Genoise Sponge?
My Genoise sponge is not just great for making gluten free trifle sponges. It also makes a deliciously light gateau sponge that can be layered with whipped cream, jam and fruit… Just opt to make it in a round tin and slice in half to fill.
But… If you want to make little cakes, this recipe’s perfect for making mini Victoria-type sponge cakes using either a Mini Sandwich Tin baking tin, or some nice deep, sharp, round biscuit cutters to cut from a larger cake.
Have you made Gluten Free Trifle Sponges?
I hope you love my Gluten Free Trifle Sponges. If you make them, let me know what sort of trifle you made (I’m always looking for new ideas for my trifle-loving husband). Or, if you made something else with the Genoise, what did you make? Leave a comment to tell me, rate the recipe and pop a photo on social media so I can see how your amazing bakes and desserts turned out. You’ll find me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.
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Other great trifle recipes on Gluten Free Alchemist you might love…
Trifle Sponges made with a Gluten Free Genoise Sponge
- 8 inch/20 cm square baking tin
- small heat-proof glass (Pyrex) bowl
- oven + hob
- large heat-proof mixing bowl
- large saucepan
- Electric hand whisk
- large metal spoon or silicone spatula-spoon
- cake tester
- 120 g plain gluten free flour blend sifted – I used GFA blend A – See NOTES
- pinch fine sea salt
- ¼ tsp xanthan gum – OPTIONAL ➔ If using GFA Blend A flour, this isn't really needed, but for some more rice-based flours, it will be necessary to provide greater structure.
- 50 g unsalted butter (or dairy free alternative) melted
- 130 g white caster sugar (super-fine sugar)
- 4 large eggs UK large (Canadian ‘Extra Large’; Australian ‘Jumbo’; and US ‘Extra or Very Large’)
- extra melted butter and flour to brush and coat the tins
- Before you begin, be sure to prepare the baking tin: Melt a little butter (or DF alternative) and brush the inside of the tins (base and sides). (See NOTES re tin)
- Base line the tin with good quality non-stick baking paper, cut to size.
- Pop a teaspoon of extra flour into the tin and tip until the sides are well-dusted with flour.
- Tip any excess flour from the tin. Set aside.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
- In a bowl or container, weigh and thoroughly mix together the flour, salt and xanthan gum (if required). Set aside.
- In a small heat-proof bowl, melt the butter (covered and in a microwave set to medium on 30 second bursts works well). Set aside.
- Get ready a large heat-proof bowl and a large saucepan with an inch or two of water (over which the bowl sits snugly, but doesn't touch the water).
- Bring the water to a very low simmer.
- Weigh the sugar and crack the eggs into the large heat-proof bowl and whisk continually using an electric hand whisk (set over the barely simmering water) for 7 to 10 minutes.
- Keep whisking until the mixture is pale, has almost tripled in volume and a lasting trail (of a few seconds) can be formed on the surface when the whisk is lifted.
- Remove from the heat, before sifting the flour across the surface and gently drizzling the melted butter round the edge of the bowl.
- Quickly and gently fold the flour and butter into the mixture using light and high sweeps with a large spoon (in a circular folding motion), retaining as much air as possible. Fold until the mixture is even, but be careful not to over-mix.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared baking tin (to a maximum of about two-thirds full) and very gently smooth the surface.
- Bake for about 20 to 30 minutes until well-risen and light golden. The top should just spring back when pressed and a cake skewer inserted will come out clean. Keep a close eye and check minute by minute at the end to be sure it isn't over-baked.
- Leave the sponge to cool in the tin for 5 to 10 minutes, before removing and transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. To ensure moisture is retained, cover with a clean tea towel while cooling.
- Once completely cold, the sponge can be cut and used for trifles. Or if preferred, cut and/or filled as a standard light sponge cake.
© 2019-2023 Kate Dowse All Rights Reserved – Do not copy or re-publish this recipe or any part of this recipe on any other blog, on social media or in a publication without the express permission of Gluten Free Alchemist
Gluten Free Trifle Sponges shared with
- Cook Blog Share Week 20 2021 with Melissa Traub
- Fiesta Friday #380 with Angie and Spades, Spoons and Spatulas
- Blogger’s Pit Stop #270
- Full Plate Thursday #536 with Miz Helen’s Country Cottage
- What’s for Dinner #316 with The Lazy Gastronome
Hi there want to make this for Christmas and was wondering can I substitute coconut sugar,I don’t use white sugars, for the caster sugar thanks can’t wait to try the recipe
That’s an interesting question and the answer is I am not 100% sure. In theory it’s possible, although coconut sugar is coarser and feels heavier to work with (and will obviously darken the colour of the sponges too). If you can use golden caster sugar, that would be a slightly less refined option, which is finer.
Otherwise, you could always test a half-batch to see how well it works.
Best wishes and Merry Christmas
Took your advice and used golden caster sugar and they came out perfectly hope you gave a lovely Christmas too 🎄🍾🤶Cheers Jill
Fantastic. That’s great to hear. Thank you so much for letting me know.
Enjoy and have a great break xx
Just done a trial run with this super recipe and took a chance and cooked it in the microwave. Worked a treat and as I want it for a trifle it doesn’t matter that it wasn’t browned. Going to enjoy eating the trial run with some different toppings as small cakes.
Wow! I’ve never tried baking it in the microwave. What a great idea!
I’m so pleased that they worked well for you. Enjoy and thank you xx
Melanie K says
Hi, I’m planning to make this and use it as the base for a layer cake for my gluten-free friend’s birthday! One question…do you know if the sponges would keep alright for a day or two if wrapped tightly and left at room temp? Making it ahead of time would save me a lot of hassle on the day of the party.
Thanks so much for the thorough and well-explained recipe. It’s really helpful for those of us who are newer to GF baking!
You’re very welcome. Glad to have helped.
Yes. They should be fine, providing they are well-wrapped. Definitely don’t put them anywhere near the fridge though 😂 and I wouldn’t recommend longer than 2 days x
Helen at the Lazy Gastronome says
Fun history! I love learning the history of food. And I like your Stonehenge stack in the photo! 🙂 Thanks for sharing at the What’s for Dinner party. Have a great week.
Me too Helen… I always love to know where food has originated and got to where it is today.
Thank you for hosting as always and have a great week xx
Corina Blum says
These look delicious and it really is a lovely treat to have homemade sponge in a triffle. My mum always used to make her own sponges for triffles and it does make a difference!
Thanks Corina. It definitely makes a difference and since you can’t buy GF ones, they have become a bit of a ‘necessity’ for some trifles. xx
Okay, I have to ask. Do you own a bakery? I cannot imagine eating all these delicious bakery goods and not weighing a 1000 pounds! One of my fondest memories is of my English second cousins making trifle. It was also one of my mother’s specialties. Thank you for bringing it to Fiesta Friday.
Ha ha! No bakery… But fortunately I have a daughter who has friends who are all teenagers… So maybe yes… A free bakery!
Trifle is rather British… Quite possibly one of our most delicious exports xx
Gluten Free Alchemist says
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……
They look delicious! Trifle is one of my favourites. For some reason I only usually make them at Christmas. Must make one this summer