Food & wine

Tawny port and orange trifle

It's a sweet irony that the trifle, described by the late food writer Alan Davidson as perhaps 'Britain's supreme contribution to the dessert tables of the world' should bear a title which suggests it is of such piddling importance. 'This,' he observed, 'surely is carrying much too far the British tradition of playing down the merits of things British'.

Felicity Cloake’s tawny port and orange trifle

Yet I love trifle all the more for its name, which perfectly sums up this easy-going, almost infinitely adaptable pud, happy to play host to tart berries and elderflower liqueur in summer, baked apples and pears and sloe gin when autumn rolls round, and to welcome in juicy winter citrus and nutty Tawny Port at this time of year.

Quick to make and quite content to chill in the fridge while you go out for a bracing Boxing Day walk or sit down for a nap in front of Paddington 2, trifle is ideally suited to the merry chaos of the season – and its many surpluses too.

Indeed, the recipe below is an excellent final resting place for the dregs of both plum pudding and the Tawny Port that may well have followed – but if you inadvertently polish off the entire bottle with your Stilton, then it will work just as well with Madeira, sweet sherry, or in fact almost anything sticky. Unlike your average Christmas, it's very laidback.

Tawny orange trifle

Serves 6


  • Enough leftover Christmas pudding or fruit cake to cover the base of your bowl, or use a packet of madeira cake or boudoir biscuits if you prefer
  • A little a Tawny Port (3-5 tbsp depending on taste)
  • 5 large oranges
  • Good grating of nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 litre thick custard, at room temperature (I favour custard powder, as it sets well, but good ready-made is fine)
  • 300ml cold whipping cream
  • 3 tbsp amaretto or almond extract and icing sugar to taste
  • 2 tbsp flaked almonds, toasted
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate seeds


  1. Break up the pudding or cake and arrange in the base of a large glass dish. Drizzle over some Port, and leave to soak in.
  2. Peel the oranges and cut into thick rings. Arrange on top of the cake and dust with the spices.
  3. Spoon the custard on top of the oranges, cover and refrigerate.
  4. When you're almost ready to serve, pour the cream into a large dish and whisk until beginning to thicken, then whisk in the amaretto to taste (or substitute almond extract and a pinch of icing sugar or honey if you prefer) and continue whisking until the cream forms soft peaks. Spoon on top of the custard.
  5. Scatter the almonds and pomegranate seeds over the top just before serving.
Felicity Cloake

Guest Writer

Felicity Cloake

Felicity Cloake is an award-winning writer specialising in food and drink and has a regular column with The Guardian.

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