Trifle has an image problem. It’s a quintessential English dessert but its use of alcohol-soaked sponge, layers of fruit, jelly, custard, and cream can feel a bit old fashioned to some consumers.

“Trifle is a loved dessert, popular in boomer and sandwich generations, but perhaps less known by Gen Z audiences,” notes Courtenay Jones, test baker for Zeelandia UK.

“As a traditionally pinned festive dessert, past iterations of trifle presented in large glass bowls were often associated with family sharing and dinner party consumption,” she continues.

But as tastes and eating patterns change, is this centuries old festive favourite at risk of falling out of favour with younger generations? What can bakers do to reinvigorate the humble trifle?

A trifle by another name

The good news is nostalgia, often with a twist, is a long-standing trend among bakery consumers. But serving up a bog-standard trifle won’t do the trick.

“Presenting trifles in different formats, such as individual pots and cake jars, has made it more accessible to purchase and eat as a singular dessert, therefore appealing an indulgent sweet treat for the on-the-go consumer,” Jones believes.

M&S was one of those to find success with this format, rolling out a trio of cake jars in 2021 in Raspberry Ripple, Trillionaire’s, and Colin the Caterpillar varieties with other flavours following at a later date.

The retailer also unveiled a Trifle Caked Alaska – a trifle and baked Alaska hybrid with layers of sugar-soaked sponge, creamy custard semifreddo, raspberry sauce and whole raspberries, topped with soft peaked mallow and toasted almonds – as part of its 2023 Christmas range. It has even taken the concept into fully loaded ice cream.

Tesco, meanwhile, added Jam Trifle Buns to its line-up for summer last year. Although definitely more bun than trifle, they embraced the classic flavours with a swirl of raspberry jam filling and topped with vanilla flavoured icing as swell as a sprinkle of sugar pearls for some added texture.

Cupcakes with big swirls of cream and jam on top

Source: Zeelandia UK

Cupcakes are another way bakers can utilise trifle flavours in new formats

Jones also highlights a recent innovation by London-based Humble Crumble which just a few weeks ago released a limited-edition Trifle Crumble. It comprises chilled strawberries, raspberries, and cranberries, topped with classic shortbread and cold custard, finished with vanilla mascarpone cream, raspberry gel, and freeze-dried raspberries.


Sweet sustainability

Other bakers can embrace the limited-edition spirit and tackle food waste at the same time.

“Trifles are perfect for using bakery leftovers and, therefore, an ideal solution for bakers looking to reduce food waste at a time of rising costs,” Jones says. “From using up cake cut offs, brownie bites or even pieces of doughnut, bakers can flex their creativity by transforming day-old confectionery lines into profitable products, while using seasonal flavours to inspire trifle creations all year round.”

To help bakers with creativity, Jones offers up a few variations on the humble trifle:

  • Spring: Lemon & Blueberry Trifle – layer cake with a blueberry filling, fresh cream, and cold patisserie custard flavoured with lemon extract
  • Summer: Jelly & Cream Trifle – layer cake with raspberry jelly, fresh cream, and cold patisserie custard
  • Autumn: Caramel Spiced Apple Trifle – cake, ideally flavoured with speculoos, layered with caramel, mixed with chopped apple and spices, custard, caramel, and finished with fresh cream
  • Winter: Black Forest Trifle – chocolate layer cake with black cherry filling, chocolate custard and fresh cream

Four single portions of trifle with cream and sauce on top

Source: Zeelandia UK

Notably, the winner of the Platinum Pudding competition to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s jubilee in 2022 was a lemon Swiss roll and amaretti trifle, suggesting there is appetite for flavours beyond red fruits.

A move away from the classic fruit flavours is also drawing in younger generations, as is a DIY aspect which allows for the creation of treats from things already in the cupboard. This has led to some interesting TikTok posts, Jones says, highlighting one in which someone used store brought ingredients such as the Cadbury Dairy Milk Pots of Joy, brownie bites or chocolate Swiss roll, and squirty cream to create a quick and easy dessert.

It seems there’s still plenty of life between the layers yet. As Jones concludes: “New flavours, formats and a baker’s eye for sustainability are reinvigorating the classic dessert and increase popularity for younger audiences.”