Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, April 3, 2015

A trifle bit of strawberries, whiskey, and preachers ...

Kay's Cooking Corner

Kay Bona

I figure you are really wondering about where this story might be going, huh? Well, this past month, mom decided she wanted to entertain in her new home, so she hosted an after-Sunday church luncheon for a few of her friends, two of which were the music minister and his wife.

She planned the menu but wasn’t sure what to have for dessert. That’s where I came in; I volunteered to make her dessert. (I already had one in mind.)

One of my very favorite desserts – to make and eat – is Strawberry Trifle. I love the creaminess of the pudding and the angel food cake, and the strawberries just make it look so fresh and summery.

The strawberries in markets right now aren’t the best, but once you add the other ingredients, you won’t notice they aren’t the sweet tasting, home grown ones that will arrive in a few months.

There are several different ways to make Strawberry Trifle. You can make the full-on fat version, or easily change it up for diabetics or those on diets. Try using low-fat milk (2 percent), Lite Cool-whip, and Sugar-free Instant Vanilla Pudding. That reduces both the sugar and the caloric content.

You can get quite creative with this, and it’s such a breeze to make, I consider it almost the perfect dessert. If it just had some chocolate in it somewhere …


Strawberry Trifle

2 quarts fresh strawberries

1 pre-made angel food cake (or you can make your own)

1 6 oz. box instant vanilla pudding

2 cups milk

1 large container Cool Whip, thawed

1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds 

Wash, hull, and slice strawberries. Set aside. Using pudding and milk, make pudding according to package instructions. After pudding has set, combine half of the Cool Whip with the pudding.

Tear up the cake into chunks and layer on the bottom of a clear glass bowl, or if you have one, a trifle bowl. Cover with some of the pudding mixture. Place a layer of strawberries on top of the pudding. Continue until you have used up all ingredients.


Trifle has quite a lengthy and somewhat amusing history. Check it out:

Trifle (TRI-fuhl) – The word “trifle” comes from the old French term “trufle,” and literally means something whimsical or of little consequence. A proper English trifle is made with real egg custard poured over sponge cake soaked in fruit and sherry and topped with whipped cream.

The English call versions of this cake a Tipsy Cake or Pudding, Tipsy Squire, Tipsy Hedgehog, and Tipsy Parson.

The first trifles were much like an old confection of pureed fruit mixed with cream. Many puddings evolved as a way of using leftovers, and trifle originated as a way to use stale cake. The English Trifle is a close cousin of an Italian version called Zuppa Ingles (English Soup), and also seems distantly related to a Spanish dessert called Bizcocho Borracho.

It was in the mid-1700s that cake (or biscuits), alcohol, and custard were combined in the trifle bowl. The recipe for trifle (and many of its now heirloom glass dishes) came to America via the British, who settled in the coastal South. Its popularity remained firm with Southerners, who loved indulgent desserts. Supposedly, it was called Tipsy Parson because it presumably lured many a Sunday-visiting preacher off the wagon. Southern women prided themselves on their elegant table settings, and considered a cut-glass trifle bowl to be mandatory.

In the fourth edition of “Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy,” the trifle is recognizable, though there’s still no fruit: 

“Cover the bottom of your dish or bowl with Naples biscuits broke in pieces, mackeroons broke in halves, and ratafia cakes; just wet them all through with sack, then make a good boiled custard, not too thick, and when cold pour it over it, then put a syllabub over that. You may garnish it with ratafia cakes, currant jelly, and flowers, and strew different colored nonpareils over it.” 

Prior to the cookbook called “American Cookery, or the Art of Dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry, and Vegetables, and the Best Modes of Making Pastes, Puffs, Pies, Tarts, Puddings, Custards, and Preserves, and All Kinds of Cakes, from the Imperial Plum to Plain Cake,” by Amelia Simmons, colonists in America were still relying on cookery books written and published in England. This was the first cookbook authored by an American and published in the United States. In this cookbook, Simmons describes a trifle:

“A Trifle – Fill a difh with bifcuit finely broken, rufk and fpiced cake, wet with wine, then pour a good boil’d cuftard (not too thick) over the rufk, and put a fyllabub over that; garnith with jelly and flowers.” (Obviously, there was no “s’ in her alphabet. That, or she’d already had too much trifle when she wrote this!)

In 1861, Oliver Wendell Holmeswaxed positively poetic about the dessert, calling it “That most wonderful object of domestic art called trifle … with its charming confusion of cream and cake and almonds and jam and jelly and wine and cinnamon and froth.”

However you make it, just have fun! Be assured I made trifle for my mother’s guests without sherry, wine or “froth!” I certainly didn’t want to be the one to knock a preacher off the wagon!

Kay Bona is a staff writer for the Hamilton County Herald and an award-winning columnist and photographer. Contact her at kay@dailydata.com.