NZ Forest Native Birds

Laraine’s Special Brandy Trifle

Guests positively pounced on this colourful trifle over Christmas 2003. While I think the brandy is worth the expense at Christmas, using all fruit juice on ordinary days is better for the budget.

Half of the three-minute sponge recipe; freeze the other half
Jam, preferably home-made and preferably red (plum, raspberry, strawberry) or purple (blackcurrant, blackberry)
1 to 1½ cups thick custard sauce. It needs to be thick enough not to be absorbed by the sponge
1 packet lime jelly crystals (the green makes a nice contrast) dissolved in 250ml (1 cup) boiling water and with the addition of 1/4-1/2 tsp citric acid, or to taste
Frozen or fresh fruit of your choice or 1 can of fruit in unsweetened fruit juice
¾ cup (approx.) of half fruit juice (I used freshly squeezed orange) and half brandy mixed (or other alcohol such as rum or sherry).
150 ml double cream, stiffly whipped.

I prefer fresh cake to stale, and home-made to bought. I make the cake beforehand, wrap it and freeze it. Only half this cake recipe is needed to fill the average glass bowl used to serve family-sized desserts. You can use bought sponge if you must, but my philosophy is that an inferior ingredient makes an inferior dessert. For the custard sauce I use a good rounded tablespoon of custard powder (Edmond’s brand) to one cup of milk, but your custard powder might not be the same as mine. Sweeten it as you normally like it.


  1. Make the custard and let it cool. Place plastic wrap over the surface to stop a skin forming.
  2. Dissolve the jelly crystals in the boiling water, making sure none of the gelatine remains undissolved and adding the citric acid. (Jellies are always far too sweet; at least New Zealand ones are.) Let it cool and then refrigerate it until it has half set but will fall out of the bowl if tipped. If it’s still liquid the cake will absorb it.
  3. Spread the half-cake with jam and cut in pieces.
  4. Place half the pieces in glass dessert bowl and sprinkle over half of the mixture of alcohol and fruit juice.
  5. Add some of the fruit. If using canned peaches, nectarines or mandarines, cut half of them up and leave half to decorate the top of the trifle.
  6. Spoon half of the custard and half of the partly-set jelly over the sponge and fruit, add the rest of the sponge and spoon over the rest of the fruit juice and alcohol, cut-up fruit, jelly and custard.
  7. Finish off with the whipped cream and the rest of the sliced peaches, nectarines or mandarines in a decorative circle around the edge of the bowl, or with berries of your choice. (If you live in Australia or New Zealand and are making the trifle for Christmas, strawberries give a very seasonal colour to the trifle.)

Don't sweeten or flavour the cream. There is already enough sugar in the other ingredients and why spoil such a delightful product by adulterating it? Refrigerate at least long enough for the jelly to set properly before serving. I like to take it out of the fridge and let it sit for a while before serving.


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