A trifle Portuguese

A simple trifle, layering peach, nectarine, Amaretti  and unctuous cream.
Trifle: something of little value, substance, or importance.
 a dessert typically consisting of plain or sponge cake often soaked with wine or spirits 
(as brandy or  rum) and topped with layers of preserves, custard, and cream.

This is going to be a trifle epic but..."Bear with,bear with".It´s worth it´s wait in trifle, and is certainly not one for the faint-hearted foodie.
What a stunning dessert the trifle makes, with its multiple layers that have so many colours, textures and flavours. The English have enjoyed this dessert for over three centuries.  Although the dictionary defines 'Trifle' as being something insignificant, this dessert is anything but. Its beginnings were humble, as the first trifles simply consisted of a mixture of boiled cream and a few other ingredients. It wasn't until the mid 18th century that the trifle started to evolve into the many variants that we have today. This is an example of a trifle recipe from 1852 by Frederick Bishop from "The Wife's Own Book of Cookery" (quoted from Elizabeth David's 'An Omelette and a Glass of Wine')
'Cover the bottom of the dish with Naples biscuits, ratafias and macaroons broken in halves, wet with brandy and white wine poured over them, cover them with patches of raspberry jam, fill the dish with a good custard, then whip up a syllabub, drain the froth on a sieve, put it on the custard and strew comfits over all.' 
(Naples biscuits was the name given to sponge fingers at the time.) (Syllabub being a milk or cream that is whipped with sugar, spirits, spices and sometimes egg whites.) (Comfits are sugar-coated coriander or caraway seeds.).
My first experience of trifle was a throw back to the '80s,when it was bananas and super-tart passion fruit. Nowadays  bananas are out and citrus is in,mandarins or clementines curdling delightfully with the custard.Back then, for reasons known only to the original creator, one added a big blob of jelly.Name one redeeming feature about jelly. No, the fact that both old people with dentures and children after tonsil removal can eat it is not a redeeming quality. So my verdict is jelly is out, sorry kids the party is over.
Last weekend I needed to cater pudding for the thespian´s visiting parents and our army of expat friends.
Trifle calling Portugal.How shall I make it? Every southern European country now has its own version of this classic English pudding. The Portuguese call it Bagatela, the Italians Zuppa Inglese, and the Spanish, Postre de soletillas, crema y naranjas.I settled for my tried and tested favourite from the Marie Claire cookbook by Nigel Slater. A simple combination providing soft fruit, Amaretti di Saronno macaroons and unctuous cream. My offering was a slight twist with the addition of some left over Portuguese orange sponge cake and as apricots were not in season I threw in end of soft fruit season peaches and nectarines.I finished the proceedings off with a scattering of Portuguese pomegranate from our garden.
Trifles are traditionally made in a large deep bowl so you can see all the layers. Many trifle recipes exist and there are very definite opinions as to what should and should not be used in a trifle. There does seem to be a consensus that a layer of cake, usually stale, should be on the bottom of a trifle, followed by spirits, fruit or jam, custard, whipped cream,jelly and decorations. The disagreements begin when you discuss what type of cake, spirits (wine, sherry, or liqueur), fruit (jam), custard, cream,"jelly?" and what decorations should be used. If you do not have a favourite trifle recipe then you have lots of choices as to how you want your trifle to look and taste. 
To begin with, various types of cake can be used for the bottom layer. Most commonly a sponge cake,ladies fingers, or macaroons are used. Sometimes the cake is split in half and a layer of jam, preserves, or puréed fruit is used to sandwich the two pieces of cake together. Once the cake layer is placed on the bottom of the bowl, alcohol is poured or brushed over the cake. Feel free to use whatever spirits you like but it is best if the spirit used complements the other flavors in the trifle. Sherry,Madeira white wine, rum,liqueurs (Grand Marnier, Amaretto, Framboise, Frangelico, Kirsch) are some favorites. The amount of alcohol is dependent on how much liquid the cake will absorb and how strong an alcohol taste you want. (Cakes that are a few days old will absorb more alcohol than a freshly made cake). Next comes the fruit layer. Here again you have choices. You can use cut up fruit (like berries, peaches, pears, kiwi, etc.), a purée  (raspberry, strawberry,apricot, blackberry), jam or preserves, or a combination of all these. 
A topping of creme fraiche and Portuguese pomegranate
Next comes the custard layer. The classic English trifle usually contains custard followed by a layer of whipped cream. However, an alternative is to  replace the custard altogether with a cream filling that can include things like lemon curd mascarpone cheese, eggs, whipping cream, spirits, lemon juice, or chocolate. Depending on what ingredients are used for the cream filling layer, you may not want or need to top this with a layer of whipped cream or creme fraiche.
The size of your trifle bowl and the thickness of the layers will determine whether you need a second layer of cake, spirits, fruit, custard, and cream to fill the bowl.  Don't worry if the layers mix together as this is the way trifles are supposed to look (i.e. the lines between the layers can be uneven and even mix together).  The finishing touch is to decorate the trifle with toppings such as;  fruit, crushed cookies, toasted almonds, candied fruits, shaved chocolate, to name a few. (Crushed Amaretti cookies are sometimes used as a layer in the trifle, as well as for decorating the top.)
Once assembled, the trifle is covered and placed in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours to allow the flavors to mingle. 

Nigel Slater´s Marie Claire perfection
The recipes I have included here are from Italy Portugal Spain and England. Don't be afraid to make up your own trifle recipe, using whatever cake, fruit, jam, and cream you have around. Heavy whipping cream (maybe whipped with a little mascarpone cheese)?  Don't be afraid to use your imagination and improvise. Use individual glasses or, for larger groups, a pretty glass bowl, as you want to see all those beautiful layers.

Apricot Amaretti trifle 
Serves 6-8

455g/1lb apricots
255g/9oz Amaretti biscuits
6 tablespoons sherry or sweet madeira
455g/1lb strawberries
230g/8oz mascarpone
2 free range eggs, separated
60g/2oz caster sugar
230g/8oz crême fraiche or thick double cream
Halve the apricots, remove the stones and place the halves in a shallow pan of simmering water and cook for 4-5 minutes,until the tip of a knife will slide through them effortlessly. Drain and allow the fruit to cool.
Place the amaretti in a large glass bowl. sprinkle over the sherry.Purée half the apricots in a blender and rub through a sieve. Pour the apricot purée over the amaretti biscuits.
Scatter the remaining apricots and the starwberries over the purée. Beat the mascarpone and the egg yolks in a bowl till creamy, beat in the sugar, then beat the egg whites until stiff and fold in gently.
Place the trifle in the fridge for at least 4 hours for the flavours to blend together. Spread the crême fraiche or cream over the top of the trifle.

The next recipe "calls for some tonic wine and a sponge finger" 
Spanish trifle 
(Sponge finger,cream and orange dessert)


5 Navel Oranges
50ml/ 2 fl oz Cointreau
Curaçao or other orange flavoured liqueur
300g/11oz sponge fingers
500ml/18fl oz milk
150g/5oz caster sugar
60g/2oz caster sugar
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 heaped tablespoon cornflour
sunflower oil, for brushing
6 glacé cherries halved

Prepare this dish the night before you intend to serve it. peel the oranges, reserving the rind of one of them, then thinly slice on a plate in order to catch the juice. Rinse out acake tin with water and drain, then arrange the orange slices on the base and around the sides.
Pour the juice into a shallow dish and add half the liqueur and 2 tablespoons of water. Make a layer of sponge fingers on top of the oranges in the base of the tin, dipping them first in the juice mixture. Line the sides of the tin with sponge fingers, again diping them  first in the juice mixture.Pour the milk into a saucepan and add the reserved orange rind and half the sugar. Heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, and bring to the boil. Beat the egg yolks  with the remaining sugar, the flour,cornflour and the remaining liqueur in a bowl, then stir in a few spoonfuls of the hot milk. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the pan and simmer, stirring constantly, for about 4 minutes, until thickened. Remove the pan from the heat, remove and discard the orange rind and stir until cold.Pour half the custard into the cake tin, make a layer of sponge fingers (not soaked), add the remaining custard and and make a final layer of sponge fingers( not soaked). Brush foil or greaseproof paper with oil and cover the tin. Put a lid or plate that is slightly smaller than the diameter of the tin on top so that it rests inside the tin and add a light weight. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours before serving. To serve, remove the lid or plate and carefully take off the foil or grease proof paper. Run around bladed knife around the edge of the tin and turn out on to a serving dish. Decorate with the cherries.

Italian trifle
Serves 6
500 ml Confectioners custard
1 teaspoon cochineal
2 tablespoons rum
250g/9oz sponge cake sliced

100ml/3.5 fl oz double cream
mixed crystallised fruit
chocolate chips or fruit berries

Reserve 250ml/8fl oz of the custard.Mix the cochineal with 1 tablespoon of water in a shallow dish. Mix the rum with 1 tablespoon of water in another shallow dish. Arrange a layer of sponge cake on the base of a broad glass bowl, sprinkle with the cochineal mixture and pour on a layer of custard. Make another layer of sponge cake, sprinkle with the rum and pour on another layer of custard.Continue making alternating layers, ending with a layer of sponge cake. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.Remove the bowl from the refrigerator and leave to stand for about 10 minutes.meanwhile stiffly whip the cream.Spread the reserved custard on top of the last layer of sponge cake. Fill a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle with the whipped cream and use to decorate the trifle, then add crystallised fruit and chocolate chips or fresh berries.


  1. Congratulations on your great blog and the decision to make a living here!
    “O cozinheiro este algarve” is a great window case for our local culture and in particular a wonderful personal opinion about Portugal and Portugal’s gastronomy. My name is Verónica Paixão and I am one of the food passionate people writing the blog www.aportuguesedish.com that we recently created to display the best of our gastronomy. Every week, based on a dish, will tell the story of a restaurant and the persons that make it come alive. We’ve been to Algarve this week and trust it won't be the last!
    We’d love to add your blog to our blogroll and have ours included in your suggested blogs. Have a look around and let me know!
    Kind regards,
    Verónica Paixão

  2. Thank you so much for your kind words, Veronica.
    I have sent you a personal message to your email address.I hope you will come and visit Casa Rosada when you return to the Algarve.I have started reading through some of your posts and find not only the recipes but the stories quite fascinating.


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