Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Trifle with Plum Compote and Vanilla Custard

Events in Britain have been capturing our news space for some time now. It started with a certain Royal Wedding last year, then the Jubilee Celebrations over the summer and now for the 'Greatest Sporting Event' of our times. So, in the spirit of the Olympics due to be inaugurated in London day after tomorrow, I share with you my version of the classic English dessert, the Trifle. It has even been listed as one of the 'Top Ten Great British Dishes'!!

A trifle is a layered dessert, that starts off with a layer of cake, soaked in some spirits, followed by layers of fruit (jam), custard and cream. The best part of it is that you can play around with your choices on the type of cake, fruit, custard or even spirits that should be used.

So, when it came down to me deciding on the layers of my version of the trifle, I knew there had to be fresh fruit. I zeroed in on plums, the one stone fruit that I have not worked with this season. To figure out my other layers, I looked for flavours that paired well with plums. I came across this beautiful resource online, that informed me that plums pair well with cinnamon and vanilla.

Keeping that in mind, I decided on a regular, vanilla pound cake and a vanilla custard for the other layers. As for the plums, I found this gem of a recipe for a plum compote by model-turned-cook book author, Sophie Dahl. The recipe caught my eye, not only because it uses fresh plums, but more so because it is flavoured with cinnamon and star anise.

A trifle is about getting all the components ready, because once done, they just have to be layered. No fancy technique really!! The plum compote takes no more than 15 minutes to make. In the interest of time and convenience, you can cheat with this recipe and use store-bought cake and 'custard-powder' custard. Stop wrinkling up your noses, all ye purists out there!!!

A traditional trifle is made in a large bowl. But, there is something rather ungainly about a trifle when it is spooned out of the bowl and put on a plate. There just isn't a pretty way of doing it!! So, with my penchant for individual dessert servings, I went for individual trifle glasses.

My earlier encounters with trifles had left me unimpressed with their insipid layers of cake, jelly, custard and cream. I was a trifle-sceptic going into this dessert. But, such is the power of fresh fruit in a dessert that I am now a surprised convert.

That plum compote is what makes this trifle a winner. The slight tart taste of the compote on account of the plums contrasts beautifully with the other sweet layers and prevents this dessert from being cloyingly sweet. The addition of cinnamon and star anise adds a completely new, exotic dimension to a regular fruit compote. The vanilla custard harmonises and lightens the dessert by toning down the intensity of the compote.

Even if you decide not to make this trifle, I'd tell you not to miss out on the plum compote. It celebrates the fruit beautifully and can be paired with Greek yoghurt or ice-cream for an easy and light, summer dessert.

The trifle with its layers of different textures and flavours in a way represents the multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society that is modern Britain today. And, I think, no other city in Britain celebrates that better than London - an apt choice to host an event that celebrates "the spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play"!! Nothing more to say except "Let the Games begin"!!!


Trifle with Plum Compote and Vanilla Custard

makes 2 medium-sized trifle glasses (but also depends on the size of your glasses)

  • Slices of Vanilla pound cake (can be shop-bought/your own recipe/I've given a recipe for an eggless pound cake, below)
  • 1 cup Vanilla custard (shop bought/made with custard powder/simple recipe given below)
  • 1 cup Plum compote (recipe given below)

Assembling the Trifles
  • Take the slices of vanilla pound cake and cut them into small bite-sized pieces. Place a small handful of the cake pieces and place them at the bottom of each trifle glass.
  • Take some of the compote syrup and drizzle it over the cake pieces. Then, spoon some of the plum from the compote syrup and place it as a layer over the cake layer.
  • Spoon a layer of the vanilla custard to cover the plum layer.
  • Repeat the three layers in the same order all over again, starting with the cake.
  • If you like, you can top it all with a layer of whipped cream.
  • Do not worry if the layers seem to merge at places. It is meant to be.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours, before serving, so as to allow the flavours to mingle.

Eggless Vanilla Pound Cake

Recipe adapted from the blog, Sailu's Kitchen

makes one small 2" x 3" x 8"-inch loaf pan (this recipe can easily be doubled)

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, sieved
  • 1/2 cup yoghurt
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp powdered sugar (I simply whizzed regular sugar)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup refined oil
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 

Cooking Directions
  • Pre-heat oven to 200 deg C. Grease and line the baking tin
  • Cream the sugar and yogurt until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add baking powder and baking soda and combine. Leave the mixture aside for 3 minutes. You will find that bubbles appear.
  • Add vegetable oil and vanilla essence and combine well. Now, slowly add the flour(in 4 lots) and blend with the wet ingredients.
  • Bake in preheated oven at 200 degree C for 10 minutes, reduce temperature to 175 deg C and bake for 20-25 minutes or till a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
  • Cool on a wire rack.

Plum Compote

Minimally adapted from this recipe by Sophie Dahl, courtesy: BBC Food website

makes one cup of compote

  • 150 ml boiling water
  • 100 gms caster sugar
  • 250 gms red plums, stones removed
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 star anise

Cooking Directions
  • Heat a large saucepan with the boiling water. Add the sugar and let the mixture bubble for 30 seconds.
  • Add the plums, cinnamon sticks and star anise and simmer for 8-10 minutes. Taste some of the syrup to check if you would like to add some more sugar.
  • Remove the plums, and simmer the sauce, stirring gently until the syrup thickens.
  • Pour the syrup over the plums and leave to cool, before use.

Vanilla Custard

Minimally adapted from this recipe by Merrilees Parker, on the BBC Food website

makes one cup of custard

  • 150 ml milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg yolk, only
  • 1/2 tbsp caster sugar

Cooking Directions
  • Heat the milk and allow to just come to the boil.
  • In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar.
  • Pour the hot milk over the egg yolks whisking vigorously. When completely mixed in, return to the pan.
  • Stir over a low heat until the mixture thickens sufficiently to coat the back of a spoon. This will take 5-6 minutes.
  • Pour into a bowl and stir in the vanilla extract. Allow to cool, before use.



  1. Yum! That looks like a delicious way to celebrate the start of the olympics.

    1. It was!! You just have to try the plum compote... it was so vibrant!!

  2. These look extremely delicious!

  3. trifle-sceptic :)
    that one made me smile!
    I am the same when it comes to trifles, I need to try the plum compote.I love the color and anything with cinnamon is a sure winner for me
    Beautiful pictures my friend

    1. Thank you Sawsan!! :)
      honestly till now trifles were all about soggy cake and insipid, cloyingly sweet layers... and thats why this plum compote was such a refreshing change.. such a vibrant colour and beautifully exotic in its taste.. do try it.. u wont be disappointed!!

  4. What a gorgeous trifle! I love all the layers! The plum compote sounds incredibly decadent! :)

    1. Honestly Anuradha.. i was quite surprised on how good it tasted!! Do try the plum compote before the plums leave the was a delight!!!


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