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Classic Scottish trifle recipe, just like your Granny used to make! Jelly, fruit & sponges, topped with custard, then cream, and finished with some sprinkles.

Classic easy trifle recipe. Strawberry jelly, with sponges and fruit cocktail. Topped with a layer of Birds custard and fresh cream. Finished with a sprinkle of hundreds and thousands.

“It’s a trifle! It’s got all of these layers. First, there’s a layer of ladyfingers, then a layer of jam, then custard – which I made from scratch. Raspberries, more ladyfingers, then beef sautéed with peas and onions. Then a little bit more custard, then bananas, and then I put whipped cream on top…”

Hopefully most people got that reference, otherwise you’ll be wondering what an earth this recipe is! (It’s from Friends – “The One Where Ross Got High”, highly recommend watching it for a good Trifle-related laugh).

Rest assured, this trifle most certainly does not include any beef sautéed with peas and onions! In fact, this super simple trifle is hands-down my favourite childhood dessert. And before our Sticky Toffee Pudding took over as the family favourite, I can always recall Granny making a beautiful Trifle for Christmas day.

Easy trifle made to traditional Scottish recipe, featuring fruit cocktail, jelly, custard, cream and sprinkles.

I would always stare in awe at the beautiful Christmas Trifle, in an equally beautiful bowl. A bottom layer of jelly (usually raspberry, as it is Papa’s favourite), packed full of sponge pieces and fruit. Then topped with a layer of sweet delicious custard – my favourite part. Finished with a cloud-like layer of of whipped fresh cream, complete with a generous handful of sprinkles or chocolate flakes.

I would say this Trifle is definitely more along the lines of the supermarket Trifle you can pick up in the fridge, either in individual pots or a less-fancy disposable bowl. It’s definitely not a traditional English trifle, or one of the many varyingly gaudy trifles you’ll see on social media.

In fact, when I first asked Granny about this trifle recipe she laughed, because calling it a recipe is perhaps a bit of a stretch – it’s all about convenience! The decision to serve this at Christmas was mostly due to it being able to be thrown together in a hurry, using very basic elements.

Super easy trifle recipe from Baking with Granny.


Raspberry jelly Papa’s favourite (mine too!). So it was what Granny always used in our house. You can however use whatever jelly you prefer. We generally stick to the squares of jelly but you can use the powdered option too – they usually make the same amount of jelly from each pack.

Trifle Sponges or Sponge Fingers
Traditionally, Granny would use whatever leftover sponge cake she had in our Lorimer Christmas Trifle, with it more often than not being off-cuts from the last sponge cake she’d made before Christmas. But if there wasn’t any sponge cake off-cuts left (Papa the Mouse has an incredible nose for such things!) then she would use a pack of Sponge Fingers or Trifle Sponges instead. You don’t need to be too picky with your quality of sponge, as once it soaks up some of the jelly, it will be delicious regardless. Plus there’s no shame in opting for ease in this Trifle, particularly when making at Christmas – there’s plenty of other things to be worrying about! 

You can use some lovely fresh strawberries or raspberries in your trifle, if you want to make it a bit special. However, in keeping with tradition, I like to use a tin of Fruit Cocktail – just like Granny used to!
One thing to be aware of when it comes to using fruit in jelly is that some fresh fruits will prevent your jelly from setting; these include fresh pineapple, kiwi and papaya. Using these fruits are part of tinned mixture doesn’t seem to have that effect though…don’t ask me why.

My most favourite layer in a trifle! And like everything else in this easy Trifle recipe, simplicity wins. Granny would always use some Birds Custard Powder in her trifles. Mainly because it is quick and simple to make, but also because you have a degree of control as to how thick (or thin) you like your custard to be. Generally speaking you want your custard a little thicker than normal, so it can hold the weight of the cream on top. This can be achieved by adding a smidgen more custard powder than is suggested. However, be careful not to add to much or when you chill your trifle you will end up with slices of custard, as opposed to a normal viscosity of custard. (Ask me how I know!).
Alternatively you can just use a tin or carton of custard, if you really want to go for an easy dessert – just be aware it will be a little runnier.

Double Cream
The final layer of your trifle is the cream. For peace of mind, Granny recommends using whipping cream; as it is easier to whip without the risk of over-whipping. However, I tend to find that whipping cream isn’t as readily available, compared to double cream. For that reason, I have listed double cream as a choice too. Both give fabulous results, just be cautious not to over-whip your double cream! (Or use whipping cream if you’re concerned).

My favourite kind of topping is sprinkles! Whether it’s School Cake or Trifle, sprinkles are always a must! Another alternative that Granny would often use was a chocolate flake, broken into little pieces. But this is where you can get creative and use whatever extra flourishes take your fancy.

Christmas trifle recipe from Baking with Granny. Jelly, sponge and fruit base, with instant custard layer, topped with double cream and sprinkles.

Granny's Top Tips

• If using double cream, stop whipping your cream right before you think you’ve achieved the right consistency. It will continue to thicken slightly as it stands, allowing you to avoid over-whipping it.

Psst…If you want a really easy Trifle, you can actually buy a Trifle Kit which has most of the elements required in a handy little box.

Easy trifle recipe, with jelly, custard and cream.
Super easy trifle recipe from Baking with Granny.


5 from 8 votes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: British, Scottish
Servings: 6


  • 1 pint Jelly ((approx.))
  • 1 tin Fruit Cocktail ((415g))
  • 4-8 Trifle Sponges or Sponge Fingers
  • 1 pint Custard ((approx.))
  • 300 ml Double or Whipping Cream
  • Sprinkles or Chocolate Flake


  • Start by preparing your jelly, as per the pack instructions. This will be dependant on the kind of jelly you are using, but generally this will involving dissolving the jelly mixture in boiling water and topping this up with cool water.
  • Pour your jelly mixture into your trifle bowl. Add your trifle sponges/sponge fingers, breaking them in half if you feel necessary. The sponges may try to float at first but they should stay in place once they start to soak up the jelly mixture. Drain the juice from your fruit cocktail, before adding to the jelly mixture also.
  • Refrigerate your jelly base as per the jelly packs instructions (usually a few hours). Once the jelly has set, prepare the custard as per the pack instructions. If using a powdered custard, add a little extra powder to allow your custard to be a little thicker.
  • Let the custard cool a little before pouring it over your jelly base. spread the custard to the edges of the bowl and allow to cool completely in the fridge.
  • Once your custard has cooled and set slightly, prepare your cream. In a large bowl, whip your cream until you have stiff peaks (ie. it's thick, creamy and can hold it's own weight). be cautious not to overwhip your cream.
  • Spread the cream on top of the custard layer, bringing it right to the edges. Alternatively you can pipe your cream on, if you are feeling creative. Finish your trifle with some sprinkles or crushed chocolate flake.
Tried this recipe?Tag @bakingwithgranny or use the hashtag #bakingwithgranny!
Classic easy trifle recipe. Strawberry or raspberry jelly, with sponges and fruit cocktail. Topped with a layer of Birds custard and fresh cream. Finished with a sprinkle of hundreds and thousands.

18 Responses

  1. Hi Amy
    What grest timing ! I had decided to make a trifle this xmas as an alternative to the Xmas pudding so will use your recipe. I was about to phone and say there was an error in the recipe then when read on and realised it was intentional !!

  2. This is the same recipe that has been used by my late mum and myself for years and years for Christmas…..and I now use the bowl that mum made her Christmas trifles in too …memories

  3. 5 stars
    My mother made this very trifle for years and it’s the same for me nowadays! She always cut trifle sponges in half lengthwise and then sandwiched the pieces together with raspberry jam before adding the fruit and raspberry jelly, our favourite!

  4. This is how my gran made trifle back in the 1970s. We all loved it but she used a jam Swiss roll instead of sponge fingers but it didn’t have buttercream in the Swiss roll just jam. Lovely

  5. At Christmas, we girls were in charge of making the trifle as it’s very easy! Your one is exactly what we made. We always had Christmas pudding with custard AND trifle afterwards! In the 1950’s, portions were smaller and we were always hungry! When I lived in Canada, the francophone women I worked with had never heard of trifle and would ask me for the recipe. That was impossible to give them as we girls just made it, without a recipe!

  6. 5 stars
    I’ve been making this trifle every Boxing Day for 30yrs or more . We have a buffet and it gets the centre piece. on the table we all love it. especially the kids

    1. How do you make the trifle with sherry please. My Mum use to do it that way and sadly she has recently passed away suddenly and I’ve been requested to make it with sherry bit can’t remember how she die it :(

      1. Hi Cindy
        I have been making this recipe for 50+ years and it’s always a winner.
        Sherry is poured onto the sponge/swiss roll (whichever you choose to use). The addition of sherry can make the jelly break up slightly the day after – that’s if you ever have any leftovers! Hope this helps.
        I also add some evaporated milk in the making up of my custard as it makes it extra creamy. Its all personal choice as the recipe can be tweaked according to taste. Enjoy!!

  7. I recommend adding 2 tbsp of powdered sugar and 1 tsp of vanilla extract into the whipped cream. Delicious.

  8. 5 stars
    Your story here reminded me about the French women I worked with in Canada who used to ask me for the recipe for trifle, as it sounded really good! Back in the day, my Mum used to get me or my sisters to make it as it’s so easy! There was no “recipe”! This year I volunteered to make a trifle for a free lunch at church for homeless folks. I was told definitely no booze in it! And they want an old-fashioned trifle – just like this one.

  9. My recipe is
    Jam swiss roll or trifle sponges spread with jam.
    Soak sponges in drained

    fruit juice and sherry.
    Cover with cooled custard which is flavoured with vanilla essence then finished with thick cream

  10. 5 stars
    “when it comes to using fruit in jelly is that some fresh fruits will prevent your jelly from setting; these include fresh pineapple, kiwi and papaya. Using these fruits are part of tinned mixture doesn’t seem to have that effect though…don’t ask me why.”

    Ok, I’ll let you in on a secret…these fruits from a tin are cooked.. This kills the digestive enzymes in the fresh fruits “digest” or breakdown the protein in the jelly. This is why jelly doesn’t set up with these fresh fruits added.

    I’ve been looking for this basic recipe for trifle a long time and so happy to find yours!

  11. “Justa like a mama used to make”..very simple, but tasty. An alternative is our “McMurrays Mush” chocolate chip cookies soaked in sherry..cover with whipped cream, do this 3 times and finish with grated chocolate.
    Either eat as a dessert or a great hangover cure the following morning. Xx

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Hi! I'm Amy

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Hello, I’m Amy, the voice-behind and creator-of Baking with Granny.

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