Panettone Orange & Almond Trifle

Trifle is one of those desserts that never fails to excite me. This multi-layered beauty deserves far more credit than it typically gets these days. Is it retro? Yes. But are layers of soaked sponge, fruit, custard & cream piled high into in a large glass bowl absolutely amazing? Yes! Traditionally, this British pudding is made from a base of sherry soaked sponge fingers, fruit & custard, although the contents of a trifle vary. These days they are more often than not topped with fresh whipped cream or syllabub, can contain no fruit whatsoever & even come in decadent chocolate or coffee varieties.

Almond topped Trifle

Trifle is one of the thing’s I look forward to eating the most at Christmas, namely my mams Boxing Day trifle, she makes it up with ready-made Swiss roll layers, packet mix jelly combined with a tin of fruit cocktail, tinned custard & fresh whipped cream with almonds on top. It’s not fancy but it’s amazing. There’s nothing to be scoffed at when using ready-made components to your trifle (I’m usually an advocate for home-made I know, but here we can get away with it), in fact, even I keep a tin of custard on stand-by in the cupboard for whenever the trifle mood hits.

Layered Trifle

This year though has been a very different Christmas, meaning that I’ve had to miss out on mams trifle so, to console myself I’ve made my own instead. In a bid to use up some stale pandoro (& a sexy new trifle bowl I received as a present), I’ve added a little Italian twist on this classic, somewhere between an English trifle & an Italian Zuppa Inglese.

Fresh whipped cream on top of trifle

Zuppa Inglese (English soup) is an Italian dessert made by layering custard, sponge cake & crema pasticciera (pastry cream), it’s quite literally Italy’s answer to trifle. Instead of sherry, they use Alchermes, a bright red, spiced herb liqueur & flavour their custard with lemon & chocolate. It’s thought that it originated from Italian royalty (the Dukes of Este, rulers of Ferrara) who asked their cooks to recreate the luscious ‘English trifle’ they enjoyed to much during their visits to the Elizabethan court.

Panettone Orange & Almond Trifle

It would seem I’ve gone full circle with my take on trifle, taking elements & influences from each. You always want to start off your trifle base with something dry & absorbent enough to soak up all of the delicious spirit or juices we add to it, using up your stale pandoro or panettone is perfect for this! I’ve opted for two flavours which are synonymous with Christmas for me, orange & almonds which both work in perfect harmony. Amaretto is instantly soaked up by the sponge layer, topped before being doused in fresh, vanilla custard. A layer of orange-filled jelly adds a welcome pop of colour & contrast in texture before finally being crowned with a layer of freshly whipped cream & jewelled with candied orange peel & the crunch of toasted flaked almonds. Easy to make, easy on the eye & delicious to eat.

(makes one large 88oz trifle bowl)


For the sponge layer:

  • 1/2 panettone or pandoro
  • 3 tbsp amaretto

For the custard layer:

  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 300ml double cream
  • 250ml whole milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

For the jelly:

  • 600ml orange juice
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 6 gelatine leaves
  • 3 satsumas, clementines or small oranges

For the topping:

  • 500ml double cream
  • 1 tbsp candied peel
  • Small handful of flaked almonds


  • Begin by breaking up your sponge into bitesized pieces & layering it all across the bottom of your trifle bowl, pressing is down to create an even layer
  • Next, spoon over the amaretto all across the the sponge & set aside to soak
  • To make the custard layer, in a large clean bowl whisk together the egg yolks & caster sugar until pale
  • Place the cream, milk & vanilla in a large saucepan & set over a medium heat to warm though but not quite to the boil
  • Remove the warmed cream mixture from the heat & gradually pour it over the egg yolks in the bowl, whisking continuously as you do so
  • Return the mixture to the saucepan & gently heat over a medium heat for around 10-15 minutes until the custard thickens, continue to stir it frequently to avoid any lumps developing
  • Pour the custard over the sponge layer & set aside to cool, uncovered until it firms up a little, then place in fridge for at least an hour to firm up some more & develop a light skin on its surface
  • To make the jelly layer, place the gelatine leaves in a wide bowl & cover with cold water, set aside to soak for 5 minutes
  • Whilst the gelatine is soaking, place the orange juice, zest, water & sugar in a medium saucepan & gently heat until all of the sugar has dissolved
  • Remove the gelatine leaves from the bowl of water & use your hands to squeeze out any excess water from them
  • Add the gelatine to the warmed orange juice & stir through until completely dissolved, set the jelly aside to cool to room temperature
  • Whilst the jelly cools, peel your oranges & separate the segments, you can peel the segments , removing the skin from the fruit for a more clear, orange colour or you can leave them as they are
  • Once the jelly has cooled, slowly & carefully pour it over the custard layer, it helps to hold a large spoon over the custard & directly pour the jelly over the spoon to help is disperse more evenly & avoid creating any holes within the custard
  • Gently drop your orange segments into the jelly, ensuring that they are evenly distributed
  • Place the trifle into the fridge to chill until the jelly layer has set (usually an hour or two, depending on your fridge)
  • Finally, place the double cream into a large, clean bowl & use a whisk or a hand mixer to whip it up until it holds its shape
  • Spoon half of the whipped cream over the jelly layer & place the rest of the cream into a piping bag fitted with a star-shaped nozzle & pipe into swirls to finish
  • Lastly, lightly toast your almonds in a frying pan for 3-5 minutes & sprinkle all over the top of the trifle along with all of the candied peel

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