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Just a Trifle

In 1809, Jane Austen, her mother, her sister, and family friend Martha Lloyd moved into Chawton cottage. None of Jane’s work had been published prior to the move, and the time she spent at here was the most prolific and productive of her life. It was there that she revised Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, which she had written some years earlier, and then wrote Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion.

It was also while in this house that Martha Lloyd (who would later marry Jane’s brother, Admiral Sir Francis Austen) compiled her household book, which contained recipes from friends and relations (including the Austen ladies) for everything from pudding and fish sauce to home remedies for shoe black and to alleviate “Hooping Cough”. That book, now in the possession of the Jane Austen Memorial Trust contains the following recipe:

A Trifle
Take three Naple biscuits. Cut them in slices. Dip them in sack. Lay them on the bottom of your dish. Then make a custard of a pint of cream and five eggs and put over them. Them make a whipt syllabub as light as possible to cover the whole. The higher it is piled, the handsomer it looks.
-From Martha Lloyd’s Household Book

A Whipt Syllabub
Take a pt of cream with a spoonfull of orange flower water 2 or 3 ounces of fine sugar ye juice of a lemon ye white of 3 eggs wisk these up together & having in your glasses rhennish wine & sugar & clarret & sugar lay on ye broth with a spoon heapt up as leight as you can.
(From Ed. Kidder’s Cookbook 1720-1740)

From Isabella Beeton’s Book of Household Management, 1861

As you can tell, these recipes call for an extraordinary amount of alcohol. Perhaps this was to counteract the lack of refrigeration. At any rate, here is a modern, non-alchoholic recipe anyone can enjoy:

Fruit Trifle Supreme

1-3.5 oz. pkg. instant vanilla pudding
1-12 oz. golden pound cake, cut into 1 1/2″ cubes
3/4 cup raspberry jam (seedless if possible)
1-16 oz. can of sliced peaches, drained, reserving the juice
2 cups assorted fresh fruit (e.g. sliced strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, sliced Kiwi fruit)
1-8 oz. container whipped topping
Assorted fresh fruit for topping

  1. In a medium bowl, prepare pudding mix according to package directions and refridgerate.
  2. Line bottom of a deep glass dish or bowl with half of the cake slices.
  3. Sprinkle the cake with half of the retained juice from the canned peaches.
  4. Pour half of the warmed raspberry preserves over the cake and top with half of the drained peach slices and half of the fresh fruit.
  5. Spoon half of the prepared pudding evenly over the fruit and cake.
  6. Repeat layers, ending with the pudding.
  7. Top with whipped topping and garnish with the fresh fruit.
  8. Chill at least two hours before serving.
    Serves 12-14

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