Christmas Past: Retro Boxing Day Trifle

contains nothing of nutritional value :)

If, like me, you are a child of the 1980s, it’s likely that part of your childhood Christmas celebrations would have involved crowding round to a relative’s house for a retro buffet of leftover turkey, cheese and pineapple on sticks, hula hoops and sausage rolls. The centrepiece of our family Boxing Day buffet was a legendary trifle. I would always have at least 4 portions before falling asleep on the pile of coats in the spare room.

Trifle is up very high on the list of things I miss since going gluten free (along with proper flaky pastry and not looking like a mad lady in restaurants) so for my first Gluten Freek Recipe Challenge I am recreating a proper 1980s trifle. The interweb is full of decadent trifles made with homemade vanilla custard, fresh fruits and posh toppings. Not so my retro trifle – which chiefly relies on convenience & tinned foods, can be made in advance for the big day and definitely doesn’t have any sherry in. I also made a video for your multimedia viewing pleasure :)


  • 4-6 slices of slightly stale gluten free sponge cake or cupcakes cut into small cubes
  • 2 x 410g tin of sliced peaches (or your preferred fruit)
  • 1 x 135g packet of raspberry jelly (or your preferred flavour)*
  • 75g custard powder*
  • 50g sugar
  • 1.2l milk
  • 300ml whipping cream
  • Hundreds & thousands*

*make sure the brands you use are gluten free, as some aren’t.

Makes: 1 large trifle, or 8 small trifles.


  1. Put Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’ on repeat play.
  2. Make the jelly to packet instructions – I prefer to microwave the pieces for 1 minute with 100ml of water, then add cold water to make 1 pt. For an extra fruity jelly, substitute half of the water for the juice from the peaches or some fresh fruit juice. Leave the jelly to cool and slightly set – this prevents it from soaking into the cake too much.
  3. Start to layer your trifle: pieces of fruit, then chunks of cake. When the jelly has cooled and started to thicken, pour evenly over the sponge, and pop in the fridge to fully set.
  4. Meanwhile: make the custard to packet instructions – these quantities will give a nice thick custard. Leave this on the side to cool.
  5. Whip the cream – you want nice soft peaks that can be spooned.
  6. When the jelly is set and custard is cool, layer on your custard. Leave to set fully in the fridge. Finally spoon or pipe on the whipped cream.
  7. Just before serving, finish with a liberal sprinkle of hundreds & thousands (this will prevent the colours leaking into the cream).
  8. Serve – I recommend avoiding getting any fruit in your portion, and adding canned whipped cream and ice cream before the grown-ups notice.

Possible Adaptations:

  • Change the fruit or jelly for your preferred type or flavour (but bear in mind that frozen fruit isn’t usually as sweet as tinned/fresh)
  • If you don’t dig the jellified sponge, add your custard layer first and leave to form a slight skin before layering the jelly.
  • Not a custard fan? Why not use Angel Delight for extra 80s points?
  • If you really must put the sherry in the trifle – sprinkle it over the sponge to soak in before the jelly

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