2013 Vegan Christmas Collection: Trifle and desserts

In large or individual bowls, or even in shot glasses, trifle with sponge, fruit, jelly, custard and cream is sure to please children of all ages!
Ah, the 1970s: the decade that brought us such culinary delights as Dream Topping, Quick-Jel and boil-in-the-bag rice... and all this convenience food was happening at the same time as Mediterranean package holidays revealed an exotic new world of dishes like moussaka, paella and spaghetti Bolognese. (Simultaneously, though, the vegetarian and wholefood movements were seriously taking off, with restaurants like Cranks.) British cookery would never be the same again. In those days before the kiwi fruit and the carambola graced our tables, such desserts as baked lemon cheesecake, rum babas and banana splits were just about as good as it got. Forget "real" trifle with fresh dairy cream and amaretti or sherry-soaked cake- this is trifle as I remember it from the 70s, with custard, jelly and fruit; only vegan and without the booze. (One year my aunt merrily poured way too much of the stuff in and rendered it probably the most dangerous dessert ever; definitely not for children!) If you fancy re-living childhood parties and Christmas teatimes but without animal products then this recipe is definitely for you!
We made enough trifle with this recipe to satisfy 6 of us as dessert and still had a bowlful left over, so I'd say it probably serves at least 10. The main thing with trifle is that you have to be patient, and not be tempted to hasten the procedure by adding the custard layer before the jelly is set and cooled. Then you end up with a mess. A delicious mess, but a mess all the same. Apart from that, though, trifle is a breeze.

We will now take you through the various stages of making a trifle:
The Sponge and Fruit Layer:
You will need 2 or 3 pieces of fresh fruit, chopped/ sliced thinly (we couldn't bring ourselves to use tinned, so here's where we diverge from tradition). To make the sponge, you will need a 1/4 quantity of this recipe. (There will be some left over, but we're assuming that won't be a problem for you...) Make the cake in the bottom of a small loaf tin or square mould, and bake for 15 mins at 180C. They say that it's even better to use day-old cake, but we think fresh is best. When the cake is baked, cool it and cut into small fingers or cubes, according to the size of our bowl(s). Put the fruit and sponge pieces in the bottom. We used a banana and a nice ripe pear, but something like strawberries, raspberries, mango or peach would be really delicious too. The only fruits you can't use are citrus and pineapple, as their acids will stop the jelly from setting.
The Jelly:
In the UK, Holland and Barrett sell a vegan jelly, and also look for halal jelly from Asian groceries, where we bought ours this time. (Ahmed brand.) It's cheaper, comes in a wider variety of flavours and colours, but does contain artificial flavours and colours. We used two packets of Ahmed strawberry jelly, made with 800ml boiling water. It does set quite quickly; always a bonus.
The Custard:
Bird's custard powder is vegan, and you can use your favourite plant milk. We used soya today, but coconut or almond would have been great too. We followed the instructions on the tub, but made it slightly thicker, using 4 tabs custard powder, 4 tabs beet icing sugar (white cane sugar gets filtered through bone charcoal- yuck!) and one litre of unsweetened soya milk.
The Cream:
Now here's some magic: Put a can of coconut milk in the fridge for several hours (or even the freezer if you make sure it doesn't actually freeze). Then open the can and spoon the thick, fattier part into a bowl, leaving behind the liquid at the bottom of the can. Using a hand blender, whip until firm. As long as you keep it chilled, it will hold its shape beautifully, and you can even pipe with it. Who needs Dream Topping now?
The Decoration:
Glace cherries, grated dark chocolate or any sprinkles you may find that don't contain animal products will look great! Remember, don't go for anything too tasteful or artistic- think anything your mum would have made circa 1976.

If you would like some more dessert ideas, click on the links to see these recipes:

This is a  Vegan Thursdays post


  1. Ya know, I've never had trifle before (vegan or pre-vegan). But just from the look and the name, it sounds like something I should try. It just sounds so magical, stuff only found in fairy stories. Kind of like Turkish Delight from Narnia.

    This is the second time that I've heard about Bird's Custard powder recently....I'm gonna have to look into that stuff.

  2. Yes, trifle is magical- it came about in England nearly 500 years ago and was originally cream flavoured with ginger and rosewater. Then eggs were added and it became custard poured over sherry-soaked bread. By Victorian times, jelly was also an ingredient. I could have made something a little more historically accurate, but the type of trifle I made reminds me of being an exited little kid at Christmas...

  3. Love Bird’s custard powder, I used it in the Ms. Cupcake’s nanaimo bars! Trifle looks so tasty with all sorts of yummy layers!


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