The earliest trifle recorded was in a book called “The Good Huswife's Jewell” in 1596 but it didn't resemble the trifles we know today. It consisted of thick cream flavoured with sugar, ginger and rosewater and it wasn't until sixty years later that milk was added and custard was poured over alcohol soaked bread.
By the middle of the 18th century, trifles included ratafia (almond-flavoured biscuits) or macaroons soaked in sweet wine, covered with custard and topped with whipped cream. The Victorians doted on trifle and Mrs Beeton, in her classic 1861 book ''Household Management'' gave 4 recipes for trifle and figured the total cost of a trifle at 5 shillings 6 pence.
For the base
4 trifle sponge cakes
4 almond macaroon biscuits
20 ratafia biscuits
4 tbsp sweet sherry
4 tbsp brandy
8oz (225g) fresh or frozen raspberries (defrosted)
For the custard
3 egg yolks
½ pint (275 ml) double cream
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
1 oz (25g) caster sugar
1 level tsp cornflour
For the topping
¾ pint (350ml) whipping cream
2oz (50g) flaked almonds, lightly toasted
sprinkling of raspberries
Cut the sponge cakes in half and break the macaroon biscuits into rough pieces and arrange with the sponge pieces and ratafias in a glass serving bowl. Mix together the sherry and brandy and drizzle over the sponge and biscuit base. Pile the raspberries over the top of the sponge base.
To prepare the custard, scrape the vanilla seeds out of the pod into the double cream, and add the vanilla pod too. Heat the cream in a saucepan over a low heat. Do not let it boil. Remove the vanilla pod. Meanwhile in a basin, cream together the egg yolks, caster sugar and cornflour. Now gradually whisk in the hot cream. Return the custard to the saucepan and over a very low heat, continue to stir until the sauce thickens sufficiently to coat the back of a spoon. Do not let it boil. Remove from the heat and pour the custard over the sponge and fruit base. Shake the bowl a little to settle the ingredients. Cover with cling wrap and allow to cool. Whisk the whipping cream and top the trifle with it, decorate with almonds and raspberries.