Rhubarb & Elderflower Trifle

Rhubarb & Elderflower TrifleIt’s rhubarb season = happy days!

I made this yesterday as a friend was coming for dinner. It was really delicious so I thought I would share the recipe & some general tips for making trifle. I love making it as you can really play around with the flavours & components & even if it is a disaster & turns into a bowl of slop it is still tasty, tasty slop. A trifle never goes to waste.

When I was a kid trifle was not considered a very grown up dessert, despite the booze. I think that is because in the 80s it was generally made with canned fruit cocktail, instant jelly, packet custard & squirty cream. It was all kind of artificial. Now don’t get me wrong, I love cheap artificial desserts, French Fancies are still one of my fave cakes but I also enjoy a more grown up trifle like this one.
Rhubarb & Elderflower Trifle

Making trifle is easy, basically if you can make jelly, you can do it. For me, the basic components must be:






It doesn’t need to take all day, buy some fresh custard, trifle sponges or madeira cake, use fruit which does not need cooking & hands on time can be less than half an hour. It mainly needs time to set. Here I cooked the fruit as raw rhubarb is not appropriate in a trifle, everything should be soft.

Sherry was of course the traditional booze in trifle but here I thought it would overpower the elderflower so I chose some Rose wine instead. I poached the rhubarb in the wine & elderflower so that it was still really tangy & then made the jelly sweet to balance it. When making a trifle you should aim for half to be jelly & sponge & a mixture of tangy & sweet flavours.

I did not soak the sponges in the alcohol as the wine flavour would be too strong so I turned the poaching liquid into jelly & soaked the sponges in that. If you do not boil the poaching liquid it will not burn off too much alcohol so the booze still comes through but it is subtle. If you want an extra booze kick add soak a little gin into the sponges. It is not too highly flavoured & goes really well with elderflower.

Making jelly is really easy. The general rule of thumb is to use 100ml of liquid for each sheet of gelatine. For trifle I use a little more liquid so the jelly is a bit softer. Make sure the liquid tastes good before adding the gelatine – your jelly is going to taste exactly the same.

This is a perfect summer dessert. It is light & yet comforting. Gooseberries are a great substitute if you don’t like rhubarb.Rhubarb & Elderflower Trifle

Rhubarb & Elderflower Trifle


You will need a bowl/serving dish of about 1 litre

250g rhubarb
200ml Elderflower cordial
250ml Rose or white wine
50ml water
1-2 tbsp sugar
5 leaves gelatin
100g trifle sponges or madeira cake/plain sponge

500ml custard

300ml Whipping cream
2tbsp Elderflower cordial


1. Cut the rhubarb into inch long pieces.

2. Place the elderflower cordial, wine & 50ml water in a pan over a medium heat. Bring it to barely simmering & add the rhubarb. Do not boil.Rhubarb & Elderflower Trifle

3. Slowly poach the rhubarb until soft. Remove it from the poaching liquid & leave to cool. Taste the liquid as this is going to be the jelly so make sure it is quite sweet as the rhubarb is going to be tangy. If it needs sugar add it now & bring the liquid back to simmering.

At this point you can put your gelatine leaves into cold water to soften while you prep the liquid

4. Make sure you have 550ml of liquid by measuring it – some will have evaporated during poaching. It is important for setting the jelly.

At this point you are going to make the jelly layer. I did it in 2 sections but that is not necessary if you can’t be bothered or don’t have time to wait for it to set twice. If you are doing it all at once just add all the gelatine to the liquid, put the fruit & sponges in the bowl & pour the jelly over.

The general rule of thumb when making jelly is to use 100ml of liquid for each leaf of gelatine (or veggie equivalent). For trifle I use slightly more liquid to give a softer jelly.

5. For the first jelly layer measure out 22oml of the poaching liquid into a heat proof bowl & add 2 leaves of softened gelatine. Make sure to give them a good squeeze to get as much water out as possible. Put the bowl over a pan of simmering water & stir until the gelatine has dissolved.

6. Put a layer of sponge in the bottom of your bowl & slowly pour over the jelly. Leave it in the fridge for about 1 hour to set.

7. Once the first layer is firm place the rhubarb pieces on top in a layer & make the rest of the jelly (as above) with 330ml of the cooking liquid & 3 leaves of gelatine. Pour this over the fruit & leave to set for 2 hours.Rhubarb & Elderflower TrifleRhubarb & Elderflower Trifle

This is basically the main preparation finished. Once the jelly is set add the custard & whipped cream. I usually buy fresh custard for this as it is easier. Whip up your cream & add it on top of the custard. This should be done quite quickly so that the custard does not get a skin. Then decorate with hundreds & thousands, grated chocolate or whatever is appropriate (or in the cupboard). ENJOY!

Rhubarb & Elderflower Trifle

by Sally

One response to “Rhubarb & Elderflower Trifle

  1. Pingback: Blackberry Trifle -·

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