Experiments in tinkering and thought

Apple Recipes – Apple Jam Trifle

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I have been watching Master chef and one of the challenges that came up was trifle.  I have never eaten a trifle, or really even seen a trifle in real life.  What I understood from the show is that it is a dessert with fruit in it.  As far as an exact composition, it is hard to get an exact recipe, and it seems to be mostly because I think the layers vary depending on what people feel like putting in it (if this is incorrect, feel free to let me know in the comments below).

What I eventually determined is that it typically starts from the bottom with a sponge cake layer at the base that can be imbibed with alcohol, usually sherry.  The next layer is some sort of fruit jelly.  The top two layers are then custard and whipped cream.  So the overall dessert is a nice pudding.  I am not sure if that is normally the way it is, but I thought it would be nice to have a gradient of sweetness: the upper cream layers being less sweet, then custard slightly more so, and the jelly most sweet (some of it soaks into the cake).

Finally, as an apple recipe, instead of the (what appears to be the standard fruit) berry jam, we go with apple jam!

Parts of the pudding

Sponge cake – I googled a sponge cake recipe.  There are lots.  One that I found was great.  It is on the sweet side, so if I do repeat it for a pudding, I will definitely put less sugar, maybe half as much (or even less), I am not sure how well this will work since the sponginess of the cake relies on the egg and sugar mix.  I guess more experiments will need to be done (or the coward’s solution: looking for another recipe with less sugar)  Alternatively, since the jam is absorbed into the cake, if the jam is less sweet, it should also have a similar effect of reducing the sweetness.  Lastly, the cake was WAAAY too big compared to the other ingredients.  A cake about 1/3 of the size would have been enough, so the recipe I will put below is what I did, but dividing it by three should be just the right amount.

I did not want to use sherry because I wanted a flavour that would complement the apples.  I thought of a maple liqueur.  When I went to the store, the only maple liqueur I could find was Sortilège.  I looked around some more and found a toasted caramel liqueur (Black velvet), and that seemed like it would be great with it, so I got that.  There was too much alcoholic taste if I soaked the cake in the liqueur alone, so I reduced it a bit in a sauce pan, which gave it mostly just the caramel taste.  Next time I would either reduce it less or mix some of the reduced liqueur with some of the normal one to retain some of the alcohol.

Sponge cake

The entire sponge cake in all of it unadulterated glory.

Apple jam – I have also never made jam.  I was later told that you can make apple jam without putting any sugar in it.  At the same time, it is a dessert, which I would like to be sweet, so some sugar is justifiable.  It was just apple pieces, sugar, lime, and pectin.  I was told that pectin comes from apples (among other things) which made sense due to the gelification of the jelly I made from apple skins.  I suspect the pectin is actually in the skin though, so additional pectin was necessary for it to be somewhat solid.  Next time, I will put much less sugar, because this ended up being the sweetest layer by far, to the point that I found it oversweet.

Apple jam

Apple jam at the end of the cooking, where the apple pieces have become transparent.

Custard – I just looked up a traditional custard recipe, it tasted good, but it was a bit more runny that I would have liked.  I guess perhaps I could have cooked it longer to evaporate more of the liquid, but probably adding a bit more starch would also have done the trick.  Other than that, the amount was almost perfectly equal to the jam. No picture, sorry.

Whipped cream – I did not really put much effort into this as whipped cream is quite basic, the only variables being the amount of sugar (only slightly sweet) and the stiffness of the cream.  I did not take it all the way to maximum stiffness, it was still very slightly runny, and it worked quite nicely that way.

That’s it… recipe!

Recipe – Apple Jam Trifle

Sponge cake

  • 100 mL butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 2 cup cake flour (lower gluten than all purpose flour)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup Black velvet

Apple Jam

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 apples – chopped into pieces about 1 cm x 2 cm x 1 cm
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp pectin
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon


  • 4 yolks
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 570 mL milk
  • 60 mL cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Whipped cream (approximate)

  • 2 cup whipping cream
  • 6 tbsp icing sugar
  • (optional) 1/4 tsp of vanilla extract

Sponge cake

See reference recipe, it is mostly the same.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Whip the eggs until they start foaming.  Slowly add the sugar and continue whipping until the ‘ribbon stage’, which means that it turns to a pale yellow colour and the consistency that will have a small accumulation when dripped onto the rest before it melts back into the rest.  Slowly add the milk and melted butter to the mix until it is fully integrated.

Sift the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder.  Put all the flour and sugar and mix into the eggy mix.  Finally, add the vanilla.

Pour into a mould covered in wax paper and cook at 25 minutes at 350 F, then reduce the heat to 325 F and cook for another 40 minutes (or until cooked, as indicated by a springy centre).

Apple Jam

Dissolve the sugar in the water in a fairly deep sauce pan (it tends to bubble up a lot) and heat to boiling.  Add the chopped apples, lime juice, and pectin.  Keep boiling until the temperature reaches about 105 C, about 30-40 minutes.  The apples should be transparent at this point (as shown in the picture).  Add the cinnamon in a few minutes before you remove from heat.

Vanilla Custard

See reference recipe, it is also mostly the same.

In the mixer, mix the yolks, sugar, and corn starch.  Make sure it is fully smooth and lump-less because this will determine the smoothness of you custard.  I suspect small lumps here led to a less than perfectly smooth custard for me.  In parallel, heat the milk and cream in a sauce pan, bringing them to a boil.  Slowly add the hot cream mix into the egg mix.  Once fully mixed, return to sauce pan and heat until desired thickness (I heated for about 15-20 minutes).

Whipped cream

In the mixer, whisk the cream on high until it starts to get thicker.  Add the sugar and continue whisking until it become fairly stiff, but not too stiff.  I do not really know how to describe it other than ‘do not over-whisk’.

Reduced Caramel Whisky

Put about 1/2 cup of black velvet into a sauce pan and heat until most of the alcohol has evaporated (determined by taste) 1/3 to 1/2 way.  In practice, I would just boil it for a bit, then tasted a piece of sponge cake soaked with it to see how it was.  If over-reduced, just add some of the original whisky back until desired taste.

Pudding it all together

I put it in small personal sized glasses, and I thought it looked quite nice.  The glasses I used were wider at the top, so it made cutting the cake a bit more complicated, but after a few tries, I got the shape down pretty well.  You want to cut the cake pieces slightly larger than the size of the glass; this way you can be sure it will stay visible at the edges.  The cake should stay spongy despite a bit of compression (stress on ‘a bit’).  Spoon in the reduced black velvet onto the little pieces of sponge.

Sponge in glass

After the sponge comes the jam.  For thickness, ideally I wanted even layers, but as long as the layers were distinguishable, that was good enough.  For taste and texture though, I wanted each portion to have at least a few pieces of apple, so that was my priority.  The custard on top of it will fill in the voids anyhow, so you can just make sure there is enough for taste, but not enough to overpower the other flavours.

Sponge and Jam

The next step is the custard.  Since the jam was not perfectly flat, and the only other thing left to add is whipped cream (which we can sculpt outside of the glass), we can fill most of the rest of the space that is left.  I left about 2 millimetres from the top of the glass for the cream.

Sponge-jam-custardLast but not least is the whipped cream.  I did the preparation with the whipped cream at the very last minute.  I wanted to be absolutely sure that everything else was cool before I added the cream, so I actually put them in the fridge when my guests arrived (about 30 minutes before serving dinner).  That way, they cooled for about 1-1.5 h in the fridge.  This was enough for all of it to be quite cool.  I whipped the cream just before serving, and put it on top with a very simple shape, but you can sculpt it to your heart’s desire.  Finally, I put a light dusting of cinnamon on top, mostly for the look.

If you try it out or even if you have made trifle before let me know what you think I should change or what I could do to make it better, I would certainly be open to suggestions.  See you next time!

Final Trifle


Author: Tinker

Eric is a jack of all trades, working in drug formulations in a small biotech company, and integrates aspects of biology and chemistry in several research and development projects. He earned a PhD in Chemistry at Université de Montréal, following a Masters degree in chemistry and a bachelors in Biochemistry from McGill university. His interests and hobbies are very diverse and typically center around experiments of some sort: electronics, coding, cooking, construction/woodworking, plants, acrobatics. He has been practicing tai chi and kung fu intermittently for the last decade, for which he also gives classes to children.

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