How to make the ultimate Christmas trifle, and one using cheat ingredients

Colm O'Gorman's spectacular trifles reimagine this old-fashioned dessert and give it pride of place on the Christmas table. Pictures: Bríd O'Donovan
How to make the ultimate Christmas trifle, and one using cheat ingredients

Trifles, but not as you know them. 

Plum, chocolate and whiskey cream trifle

recipe by:Colm O'Gorman

This trifle uses mainly store-bought elements. You can either make this trifle up as one large dessert or serve it in individual glasses. I think it looks beautiful served in individual glasses, plus you can make up a portion or two to order in just minut

Plum, chocolate and whiskey cream trifle

Servings

8

Preparation Time

60 mins

Cooking Time

10 mins

Total Time

1 hours 10 mins

Course

Dessert

Ingredients

  • 600g fresh plums

  • 2 tsp sugar

  • Juice and zest of an orange

  • ¾ tsp ground allspice

  • 1 chocolate Swiss roll

  • 500g readymade custard

  • 300ml fresh cream

  • 1 tsp sugar

  • 1 tbsp whiskey

  • A handful of Amaretti biscuits

  • Some dark chocolate

Method

  1. Remove the pits from the plums and cut the fruit into quarters. Pop it into a saucepan along with two teaspoons of sugar, the allspice and the juice and zest of an orange. Bring to a soft boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the fruit softens. You want to the fruit to be soft but to retain its shape, so do not overcook it, about ten minutes should easily do it. Set aside and allow to cool before chilling the compote in the fridge. You can make the compote a day in advance if you wish.

  2. Pour the cream into a large bowl along with the sugar and whiskey. Whisk until it thickens into soft peaks.

  3. When you are ready to serve dessert, spoon a few tablespoons of compote into the base of a glass. Cut a few rough cubes of Swiss roll and add that to the glass. Spoon a generous amount of custard on top of the cake, add another layer of compote and then a generous amount of whiskey cream. Crush some amaretti biscuits and sprinkle them over the cream before dusting the top with a little grated dark chocolate.

    Photographed by Bríd O'Donovan

Caramel and apple trifle

recipe by:Colm O'Gorman

This is a magnificent dessert, a real showstopper, and perfect for Christmas Day. There are several elements to make, but most of them can be prepared the day before you need to serve your trifle. I always make my jelly, custard, and cake on Christmas Eve

Caramel and apple trifle

Servings

10

Preparation Time

3 hours 0 mins

Cooking Time

40 mins

Total Time

3 hours 40 mins

Course

Dessert

Ingredients

  • For the apple jelly:

  • 500ml of fresh apple juice

  • Juice of a lemon

  • 4 sheets of platinum grade leaf gelatine

  • 100ml cold water

  • 100g caster sugar

  • For the date sponge:

  • 175g Medjool dates

  • 300ml water

  • 1tsp bicarbonate soda

  • 50g butter

  • 175g caster sugar

  • 2 eggs

  • 175g self-raising flour

  • For the caramel custard:

  • 150ml double cream

  • 375ml whole milk

  • 1 vanilla pod

  • 4 egg yolks

  • 20g cornflour

  • 100g caster sugar

  • For the apples:

  • 6 eating apples

  • 50g butter

  • 1tbsp soft brown sugar

  • 2tbsp brandy (optional)

  • For the chantilly cream:

  • 500ml fresh cream whipped with 1 tbsp caster sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract

Method

  1. First, make the jelly. Put the gelatine into a bowl of cold water and soak for about ten minutes. Make a syrup by combing the caster sugar with 100ml of water and heating until the sugar is dissolved and the syrup comes to a soft boil. Remove it from the heat. Remove the gelatine from the bowl of cold water and squeeze it to remove any excess water. Add to the syrup and stir it in until it has dissolved.

  2. Allow the syrup to cool to room temperature and then add it to the apple juice. Taste, and if you think it is a little too sweet still, add a little more lemon juice. Remember that the trifle has plenty of sweetness form the other elements, so you do not want the jelly to be very sweet. Pour the jelly into your trifle bowl and once the liquid has cooled, cover it with some cling film and put it in the fridge until it is set.

  3. While the jelly is setting, make the sponge. Preheat your oven to 160°C and line or grease a non-stick baking tin, use one that is the same size as your trifle bowl if possible. Stone and chop the dates and place them into a saucepan with the water and simmer until they are soft. Blitz them with a stick blender or in a liquidiser and allow them cool.

  4. Cream the sugar and butter together until they are soft and fluffy. Lightly whisk the eggs and add them to the mixer a little at a time until they are all well incorporated. Now add the cooled date mixture and stir that in. Sieve the flour and baking soda together and carefully fold that through the batter.

  5. Pour the batter into your cake tin and bake for about forty minutes until the sponge is springy to the touch. Test to make sure it is cooked by sticking a clean skewer into the cake, if it comes out clean, your sponge is ready. Set aside to cool.

  6. To make the caramel, heat a heavy-based pan until it is very hot. Now add 75g of caster sugar to the pan. Tilt and swirl the pan so that the caramel doesn’t burn until all the sugar melts.

  7. When the caramel is a deep amber colour, pour in the cream. Be careful when doing this as the sugar may splatter a little and the cream will throw off a fair bit of steam upon contact with the caramel. Stir in the cream until it combines fully with the caramel, you may need to return it to a low heat for a few moments to ensure all the caramel melts into the cream. Remove from the heat and set aside.

  8. Put 325ml of the milk in a pan, add the seeds from a vanilla pod, or half a teaspoon of vanilla extract if you prefer. Bring to a gentle simmer.

  9. Add the last 50ml of milk to the egg yolks. Mix the remaining caster sugar and cornflour together in a large bowl, and then add in the milk and egg mixture. Whisk to a smooth paste. The milk should now be close to boiling, so take it off the heat and pour it slowly onto the egg mixture, stirring all the time. When the mixture is nice and smooth, strain it back into a clean pan and stir over a low heat until it thickens. It is ready when the custard coats the back of your spoon. Increase the heat a little until it comes close to a boil, stirring all the time and then reduce again to a simmer, still stirring, for another 3-4 minutes to cook out the cornflour. Finally add the caramel, stir to combine it well with the custard. Pour the custard into a bowl, cover the surface with some cling film to avoid a skin forming and allow it to cool before chilling it in the fridge.

  10. Peel and core the apples and cut them into wedges. Heat a large frying pan over a high heat. Add the butter and when it is melted and foamy, drain the apples and put them into the pan. Fry the apples for five minutes. Now sprinkle over the sugar and allow that to melt into the butter and coat the apples. Cook, turning to make sure they are evenly cooked, for another five minutes or so until the apples soften a little but still retain their shape. Add the brandy and mix that through. Cook for another three to four minutes. Remove the apples from the pan and allow them to cool.

  11. Now that you have all your elements prepared, you can assemble your trifle. Cut the sponge into two halves through the centre. You will use the bottom half as a layer over the apple jelly. Settle that into your trifle bowl snugly. If you did not use a cake tin the same size as your bowl, do not worry. Instead of making a solid layer, you can cut the cake into cubes and layer those over the jelly. You will not get as precise a layer, but your trifle will still look and taste spectacular. Next, arrange your apple wedges around the edge of the bowl. You can leave the centre empty for now, just layer the apple wedges up along the wall of the bowl, I usually get about three layers high using this recipe. Cut the remaining half sponge into pieces and arrange that to fill in the middle of the circle of apple wedges. Now pour over the cold caramel custard, smoothing the surface to give you a nice level layer. Spoon on the Chantilly cream, starting in the middle and then spreading it out across the surface of the trifle. Finally, decorate the surface of your beautiful trifle. I used some store bought amaretti biscuits and iced Christmas cookies to decorate this trifle, before dusting the surface with a little grated dark chocolate.

    Photographed by Bríd O'Donovan

Orange and raspberry trifle

recipe by:Colm O'Gorman

If you want to make this even more seasonal you would swap the strawberries for cranberries, just increase the sugar in the compote to 100g to allow for the slight bitterness of cranberry.

Orange and raspberry trifle

Servings

10

Preparation Time

3 hours 0 mins

Cooking Time

40 mins

Total Time

3 hours 40 mins

Course

Dessert

Ingredients

  • For the orange jelly:

  • 500ml of fresh orange juice

  • 4 sheets of platinum grade leaf gelatine

  • 100ml cold water

  • 50g caster sugar

  • For the trifle sponge:

  • 170g self-raising flour

  • 115g butter

  • 115g caster sugar

  • 2 eggs

  • For the orange custard:

  • 150ml double cream

  • 375ml whole milk

  • 1 vanilla pod

  • 4 egg yolks

  • 20g cornflour

  • 75g caster sugar

  • Juice and zest of one orange

  • For the raspberry compote:

  • 300g fresh or frozen raspberries

  • 50g caster sugar

  • Juice and zest of one orange

  • Juice of half a lemon

  • For the fresh fruit layer:

  • 4 oranges

  • 250g fresh raspberries

  • For the cream:

  • 500ml fresh cream whipped with 1 tbsp caster sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract

Method

  1. First, make the jelly. Put the gelatine into a bowl of cold water and soak for about ten minutes. Make a syrup by combing the caster sugar with 100ml of water and heating until the sugar is dissolved and the syrup comes to a soft boil. Remove it from the heat. Remove the gelatine from the bowl of cold water and squeeze it to remove any excess water. Add to the syrup and stir it in until it has dissolved.

  2. Allow the syrup to cool to room temperature and then add it to the orange juice. Because this jelly uses oranges it can be quite sweet, so taste it and if you think it needs it, add some lemon juice to balance out the sweetness, a few tablespoons will be plenty. Pour the jelly into your trifle bowl and once the liquid has cooled, cover it with some cling film and put it in the fridge until it is set.

  3. While the jelly is setting, make the sponge. Preheat your oven to 170°C and lightly grease a 20cm non-stick baking tin.

  4. Sieve the flour. Cream the sugar and butter together until they are soft and fluffy. Lightly whisk the eggs and add them to the mixer a little at a time until they are all well incorporated. Gradually add the flour and beat that in until you have a thick batter.

  5. Spoon the batter into your cake tin and level the top. Bake the sponge for about forty minutes until a skewer comes out clean. the sponge is springy to the touch. Set aside to cool.

  6. To make the custard, put 325ml of the milk in a pan, add the seeds from a vanilla pod, or half a teaspoon of vanilla extract if you prefer. Bring to a gentle simmer.

  7. Add the last 50ml of milk to the egg yolks. Mix the caster sugar and cornflour together in a large bowl, and then add in the milk and egg mixture. Whisk to a smooth paste. The milk should now be close to boiling, so take it off the heat and pour it slowly onto the egg mixture, stirring all the time. When the mixture is nice and smooth, strain it back into a clean pan. Add the zest and juice of an orange and stir them to combine. Place the pan over a low heat and keep stirring until the custard thickens. It is ready when the custard coats the back of your spoon. Increase the heat a little until it comes close to a boil, stirring all the time and then reduce again to a simmer, still stirring, for another 3-4 minutes to cook out the cornflour. Pour the custard into a bowl, cover the surface with some cling film to avoid skin forming and allow it to cool before chilling it in the fridge.

  8. Make the raspberry compote. Place 300g or raspberries, the sugar, orange juice and zest and lemon juice in a saucepan over a high heat. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. If you want to add a little boozy flavour, add a tablespoon of Cointreau or any other orange liqueur at this stage. Simmer the compote for about 10 minutes until the fruit has broken down and started to thicken. Remove it from the heat and when it has cooled just a touch, add another 50g of fresh strawberries. Allow the compote to cool completely and then store it in the fridge until you are ready to assemble your trifle.

  9. Cut the tops and bottoms of the four fresh oranges. Using a sharp knife even downwards strokes, cut away the peel and pith to reveal the flesh. Use a small knife to separate the segments from the membrane and set them aside.

  10. Now that you have all your elements prepared, you can assemble your trifle. Cut the sponge into cubes. Arrange half of the sponge cubes in a layer over the jelly. Toss in some more fresh raspberries and then spoon over the compote. Add a layer of the fresh orange segments and a final layer of sponge. Next, pour the cold orange custard over the sponge, smoothing the surface to give you a nice level layer. Spoon on the Chantilly cream, starting in the middle and then spreading it out across the surface of the trifle. Finally, decorate the trifle. Some of my almond macaroons are perfect with this trifle, along with some more fresh raspberries and some candied orange peel or even a few fine strips of fresh orange zest.

    Photographed by Bríd O'Donovan

Almond macaroons

recipe by:Colm O'Gorman

Crisp on the outside with a soft and chewy centre, these almond macaroons make a lovely edible Christmas gift and are fabulous as decoration for a trifle.

Almond macaroons

Servings

20

Preparation Time

5 mins

Cooking Time

20 mins

Total Time

25 mins

Course

Baking

Ingredients

  • 225g ground almonds

  • 120g caster sugar

  • 2 egg whites

  • Some blanched almonds and flaked almonds to finish

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 160°C fan/180°C/Gas Mark 4. Put the ground almonds and sugar in a mixing bowl and stir to combine.

  2. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites lightly, just until they are foamy, and add them to the almond and sugar mixture. Stir everything together well to combine into a sticky mixture.

  3. Time now to shape your macaroons. Keep a bowl of clean water next to you and use it to lightly wet your hands as you go. Dip your fingers into the water and wet your hands a little. Now roll a heaped teaspoon of the mixture into a ball between your palms.

  4. Put it onto a non-stick baking tray and flatten it slightly to from a thick disc. Repeat until you have used all the mixture, you will get about 20 macaroons form this recipe.

  5. Finally, press a whole blanched almond or some flaked almonds into the top of each little disc. I like to a top half of mine with a whole almond and the rest with flaked almonds as I think the mix of both looks lovely.

  6. Pop the tray into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on them for the last few minutes, they are done when they are just starting to turn golden brown at the edges.

  7. Do not over bake them, you want them to be soft and chewy in the centre. When they are done, remove from the oven and allow them cool on a wire rack.

  8. Store in an airtight container once cooled and they will keep for a week or so.

    Photography by Bríd O'Donovan

More in this section

Lifestyle
Newsletter

The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

Sign up