Many of the ‘traditional’ foods we eat around Christmas are English. Yet for generations, English ‘cookery’ has enjoyed a well-earned reputation for ghastliness. Bangers (bready sausages), toad in the hole (bready sausages in bready egg custard), nettle pudding, and spotted dick (now I ask you!).
One of the exceptions to this ghastly Victorian gastronomy is trifle, a spectacular way to use up leftover sponge cake — something the English seem to have stashed in every pantry and cabinet for emergencies. The sorta-stale cake is layered with raspberry jam or jelly, sherry, fruit, custard and whipped cream — the real stuff, not the stuff that splurts out of a can. Made in a cut glass bowl so you can see the layers, it’s also — as Martha Stewart would say – pretty. In serving, you’ve got to be sure to dive down to the bottom for each bowlful in order to get it all.
English Christmas Trifle
1 homemade sponge cake, broken into pieces
1 small packet of raspberry Jello dissolved in 1 cup boiling water with 1 cup sherry
1 15. oz. tin of apricots or 1 10 oz. packet of dried (but soft) apricots, chopped
2 cups custard sauce made with Bird’s Custard Powder
1 cup whipping cream
Break sponge cake into pieces into bottom of a bowl. Dissolve raspberry Jello and allow to cool before pouring it into a crystal bowl. (Too hot and it will crack or shatter the bowl). Once cooled to bathwater temp, pour into cake, drenching all of it. Arrange apricots on top of drenched cake. Make custard according to package directions. Allow to cool, whisking occasionally to prevent lumps, to bathwater temperature (for the same reason as above). When cool enough, cover the cake and apricots with custard. Whip cream and cover the custard with it. Chill completely before serving.