Written by Bertie Bowen


I Make the Best… Trifle

After a snap poll of Standard Issue staffers, we came to the conclusion everyone has a signature dish they’re willing to brag about. When it comes to trifle, Bertie Bowen does not piss about.

All photos by Eddie Bowen.

All photos by Eddie Bowen.

Name: Bertie Bowen

I Make the Best…. Trifle, or ‘Nanny Garner’s FAMOUS TRIFLE’

Fuller dish description: My trifle is traditional. No fancy frills or modern touches, just plain old English trifle how yer nan used to make. And literally how my Nan used to make – it’s her recipe.

When did you first make it? It’s a recipe passed down from my Nan who has just turned 90 and is still going strong (although last time she made her trifle a few years ago it was noted I had now taken the trifle crown. Just saying…).

When did you realise it was the best? (and who has certified it as such?) It must’ve been the first time I made it, around nine years ago at a barbecue roof party in Hackney. My best friend Holly and I have a longstanding promise to make each other a birthday dessert every year. This was her request that year.

Everyone at the party told me it was the best they had ever EVER eaten. Ever ever. OK, there may have been some daytime, sunshine-powered drinking involved and not being in a very sober situation myself my memory may be slightly wobbly, but still, I am sure it was a damn good trifle.

trifle ingredientsHow often do you make it? Not often these days, I am not actually a trifle fan myself. Also, I see it as strictly a summer pud only. You cannot make a trifle in winter. I made three ginormous trifles for my friend’s wedding (instead of a wedding cake) and they were all eaten within about 20 mins. Again, there was obviously a hell of a lot of booze involved (inside and accompanying the trifles).

Have you ever tasted anyone else’s version of this, which had you worried? I actually HATE all trifle with the exception of my trifle (and Nanny Garner’s back in her heyday). I have tasted many other trifles, all of which are revolting, from the supermarket value versions to the fancy restaurant takes on the dessert. I say don’t mess with it too much and definitely never EVER involve jelly… bleurrrghh.

Is this the only thing you make well? I had a mince pie-off with my fella one Christmas. I made my own mincemeat from scratch. We all agreed it was a draw… Definitely a DRAW.

Raspberry Swiss roll – without the cream! (I usually use two small, cheap supermarket brand Swiss rolls.)
Tin of raspberries in juice (NOT syrup)
Vanilla custard (the vanilla pod, shop-bought type is fine)
Fresh cream, whipped
Fresh fruit: strawberries, raspberries or blueberries (or combo)

raspberies, Swiss roll and juice

If I am totally honest, this can barely be called a recipe – it is simply a matter of layering.

1. Cut the Swiss roll into slices roughly 1.5cm thick and layer the bottom of a large glass bowl.

2. Using a sieve, separate the raspberries from their juice – keep the juice.

3. Layer raspberries over Swiss roll.

pouring the sherry4. Pour away about half the juice and replace with sherry. The amount you put in is up to you but I usually use a few shots… then a few more – probably double the amount you’d expect.

5. Pour liquid over the sponge/raspberry layers.

6. Spoon over the custard.

7. Spoon over the whipped cream.

8. Add your fresh fruit.


Find out what our other contributors make best of all here.


Enjoyed this? Help Standard Issue keep going by joining our gang. Click here to find out how.

  • googleplus
  • linkedin
  • rss
  • pinterest

Written by Bertie Bowen

Stylist, writer and mother living in East London. A clompy shoed, curly haired, Radio 4 enthusiast. www.mothershoppers.com