Cake,  Fruit,  Recipes,  Sweet

Trifle Cake

Madeira cake soaked in fruit jelly, sandwiched with egg custard, coated in caramel marshmallow and topped with fresh fruit. Meet the Trifle Cake.

This is a cake not to be trifled with, although do feel free to poke it, a lot.

Are your memories of trifle littered with mouthfuls of alcohol soaked sludge? Has the time Aunty X dropped half a bottle of sherry into the bowl when making it entered into legend? This recipe will change your opinion of trifle.

I’ve been reading many international food blogs for a while now and one type of cake that keeps on cropping up in the US is Poke Cake. Being Irish and never having heard of Poke Cake I resorted to doing a bit of research.  It turns out that Poke Cake is in fact a madeira style cake into which holes are poked with a skewer while warm and then jelly is poured on top.  The cake is then left to cool.

I was on the phone to Mam and was explaining to her the cake that I wanted to make.

“So it’s a trifle really”, she said.

“Yes Mam, sort of but it’s not because there’s no custard and I’m not going to use cream.”

“But to me a trifle has jelly soaked sponge”, she explained.

There started a little idea.

Yesterday morning I got up and made a trifle cake instead of a classic poke cake.  Poked (!) with homemade fresh fruit jelly, filled with homemade (cream free) custard, frosted with caramel meringue, well it’s a very adult sort of dessert. So adult in fact that I think that the only way to improve on this recipe is to do it again with more fresh fruit.

I’m just saying.

Clear the decks to make this cake; it’s not that it’s very time consuming, it’s more that you need space.  The hardest part of making the Trifle Cake is waiting for the various components to cool.  You could make the cake the night beforehand if that makes it any easier. Also this recipe easily feeds 15 people (or a gaggle of hungry neighbours in my case) because I used 20cm springform cake tins.  If you think that that size is far too big for you, then divide all the measurements in half and use small cake pans, but it does make it harder to remove the cakes after it has set.

The meringue frosting is best eaten on the day it is prepared but it will keep on a cool sealed container for 24 hours.


For the Cake

  • 330g plain flour
  • 330g caster sugar
  • 330g butter (or margarine)
  • 6 medium free range eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the “Poke”

  • 200g fresh fruit (you will need extra fruit to decorate if you wish)
  • 150ml water
  • 3 sheets leaf gelatine

For the Egg Custard

  • 2 medium free range egg yolks
  • 300ml whole fat milk
  • 2 tablespoons corn flour
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Marshmallow

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 medium free range egg whites


  • 2 x 20cm springform cake tins (that’s 8″ in old money)
  • Plenty of greaseproof baking paper (greasing and dusting your tins with flour won’t cut it here)
  • Scissors
  • Weighing scales
  • Spatula
  • Sieve
  • 1 small bowl
  • 1 large bowl
  • 1 large flat bottomed saucepan
  • Hand whisk (bell whisk)
  • 1 Skewer
  • Stand mixer or handheld electric whisk


  1. Pre-heat your oven to 175 degrees Celcius.
  2. Line your baking tins well, make sure you have a lining of paper at the bottom and also lining up the sides, as high as the top edge of the tin. This part is really important so don’t skimp corners.
  3. Weigh out all the ingredients for the cake.
  4. Put the butter and sugar into the mixer and using your paddle attachment cream them together until light and fluffy.
  5. Add each egg 1-by-1 beating after each addition so that the mixture doesn’t curdle.
  6. Pour in the vanilla extract and beat for 10 seconds to make sure it is mixed well.
  7. Finally add the flour and baking powder, beat well until you have a smooth batter.
  8. Divide the mixture between the 2 baking tins (don’t worry about smoothing out that will happen naturally).
  9. Place the tins in the preheated oven for 40 mins.
  10. Clean down your surfaces and make a cup of tea.
  11. Pour the 200g of fresh fruit along with the water into the saucepan and heat gently until a slow simmer.
  12. Fill the small bowl with cold water and place the leaves of gelatine inside.
  13. Once the fruit has cooked and begun to break down strain into a large bowl using the sieve.
  14. While the fruit juice is still warm, squeeze the gelatine sheets and stir into the hot mixture.
  15. By now the cakes should be cooked. Check by sticking your skewer into the middle and removing. If it comes back clean then the cakes are cooked.
  16. Remove from the oven carefully and using the skewer poke a number of large holes in each cake. Make sure that you don’t poke all the way to the bottom.
  17. Pour the fruit jelly on top of each cake while they are still warm, taking care to split the jelly evenly between the two.
  18. Clear down your surfaces and leave the cakes to cool completely. This takes about 3 hours or so.
  19. Once your cakes are cool, it’s time to make the egg custard.
  20. Pour the milk into the saucepan along with the vanilla extract and heat slowly until scalding but not boiling.
  21. In the small bowl combine the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour. Don’t throw out the egg whites, you’ll use those for the meringue later.
  22. Once the milk is hot start whisking with the bell whisk and pour in the egg yolk mixture.
  23. Keep on whisking until the egg custard starts to thicken. It will become very thick. This is what you want as you need it to be fairly solid to be a layer in the cake.
  24. Once cooked through and thick pour on top of 1 of the layers of cold cake.
  25. Again leave to cool, this doesn’t take so long, maybe an hour.
  26. To stop the custard from developing a skin, cut a circle of baking paper and place it directly on top of the custard layer.
  27. Clear down your surfaces all over again. There’s a pattern here!
  28. Once the custard is cool it’s time to make the frosting.
  29. Put the sugar into the saucepan and heat on medium.
  30. Keep an eye on the sugar, you don’t want it to burn, you just want it to turn a lovely caramel colour.
  31. Whisk the egg whites (left over from making the custard) to soft peaks.
  32. Once all the sugar has dissolved and you have a liquid and very hot (obviously dangerous so be careful) caramel then pour it steadily and quickly into the egg whites while they are still whisking.
  33. There will be a lot of steam, be warned, that’s from the egg whites cooking in the hot caramel.
  34. Continue to whisk for 5 more minutes and then your marshmallow frosting is complete.
  35. Assemble the cake by putting the custard free layer on top of the layer with custard and frost liberally.
  36. Decorate with fresh fruit and enjoy.

I'm an Irish mother to 2 boys, born & bred in Dublin, Ireland. I like to cook simple & fresh food for the family, with the family on a budget.


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