Vegan Black Forest Trifle


It’s about time I posted a recipe for trifle. The UK’s scorching heatwave has eased now, but it’s still summer and nothing beats a chilled dessert. If you’re bored of Calipos and can muster a little strength in the kitchen, I promise this trifle will be worth the effort! The steps aren’t difficult but you do need to allow time for the compote and custard to cool, and then wait a bit for the trifle to set nice and cold in the fridge.

The Trifle Base

So, let’s get down to business. First we need to consider the base. I’m almost certain supermarket vegan sponge fingers aren’t a thing yet; if they are and you see them in the supermarket, by all means use those (and let me know in the comments below). Personally, I like a spongey base for a trifle. I’ve been making my Vegan Jammy Ripple Loaf Cake quite a lot recently and froze one of the cakes in slices. I found about half of one loaf cake provided around 350g which is the perfect amount for this trifle. Of course you can use any vegan sponge as the base – either shop-bought or make your own. Slice it up into fingers or squares and you’re good to go.

The Fruity Bit

I don’t particularly like jelly in trifle, although vegan jelly is easily found if that’s your thing. Here I have put together a very simple sort of cherry compote using a bag of frozen cherries. There’s no way I would consider standing around pitting several punnets of cherries in this weather – or any weather, actually – so I highly recommend seeking out a bag of frozen cherries. I can get a 500g bag for under £2 in Lidl.

The Chocolatey Custard

I know you can buy ready-made vegan custard but it’s so much cheaper to make your own. I use Bird’s custard powder for all my custard needs – from regular pouring custard to creme patisserie. It’s well worth having in the cupboard. It’s nice and does the job. A little cocoa powder, vegan cream and chopped dark chocolate transforms it into a very good chocolate custard. If you can’t get hold of Bird’s then just use cornflour, although you’ll also need to add a teaspoon of good vanilla paste or extract for flavour. Normally I’d suggest adding a pinch of turmeric for colour, too – but as this is a chocolate custard there is no need.

The Creamy Bit

This couldn’t be simpler. Here in the UK we have Elmlea Plant-Based Double Cream which whips absolutely brilliantly. You’ll need a single 270g carton for this recipe. Some will be used in the custard and the rest for the topping. Elmlea Plant-Based is available in most supermarkets and has a very neutral taste that I really like. If you can’t get hold of this, I would suggest seeking out an equivalent vegan whipping cream, or you can do what we used to do – whip the fatty content of a chilled can of coconut milk with a few tablespoons of icing sugar and use that instead. The trifle is minimally decorated with a grated square of dark chocolate.

Comfortably serves 6.  Double up if you have a really large trifle dish (or need to feed more people!)

For The Base & Fruit:

350g – 400g vegan sponge cake, sliced into squares or fingers

350g frozen cherries

50g caster sugar

2 tbsp water

1 tbsp lemon juice

For The Chocolate Custard:

20g Bird’s Custard Powder (got none? Use cornflour, see intro)

10g cocoa powder

50g caster sugar

300ml non-dairy milk

100g Elmlea Double Plant-Based cream (or any vegan cream)

50g dark chocolate

For The Topping:

150g Elmlea Double Plant-Based cream (as above)

A square or two of dark chocolate for grating

  1. Slice up the sponge cake into fingers or squares and arrange at the bottom of a trifle bowl (or any large, deep bowl if you’re not bothered about seeing the layers through the glass). The one I’ve used measures approximately 20cm at the top and is 11cm deep. Cover and set aside for now.
  2. Bring the cherries, caster sugar, water and lemon juice to the boil in a large saucepan. Reduce the heat to a simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until the fruit has fully defrosted and you have a jammy-looking mixture. Transfer to a Pyrex jug or heatproof bowl and leave to cool for a bit.
  3. Now make the custard. In a saucepan, whisk together the custard powder, cocoa powder and caster sugar with approximately 100ml of the milk until you have a smooth mixture. Stir in the remaining milk and cream, then – whisking continuously – bring to to the boil over a medium heat. You will feel the custard thicken at this point. Immediately reduce the heat to a very low simmer and keep whisking for another minute or two.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Keep stirring until the chocolate has fully melted into the custard – this won’t take long – then pour the custard into a suitable jug or bowl to cool for a bit. You’ll need to lay a piece of scrunched up baking paper over the top to prevent a skin forming.
  5. Now the fun bit! After the cherry compote has cooled for around half an hour, pour it evenly over the sponge base. Wait until the sponge has absorbed most of the liquid (leaving a nice jammy layer) before adding the custard on top.
  6. Spoon the cooled chocolate custard on top and spread it evenly. It doesn’t need to be fridge-cold; in fact it’s easier to handle if it’s not too cold.  Now transfer the trifle to the fridge for half an hour while you whip the remaining cream from the tub (150g, or thereabouts.) A few minutes of whisking on the highest speed gives a very satisfactory result – in fact, I don’t think it’s possible to over-whip Elmlea plant-based cream, but don’t quote me on that.
  7. Scoop the cream on to the trifle then grate a little dark chocolate on top. Chill in the fridge for a few hours if possible before eating. It keeps very well for 2 days; any longer and it will start to look a bit soggy.



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