Recipe: Cranberry & Grand Marnier Trifle

I was feeling rather wistful for Mum’s English sherry trifle the other day. She’d make one for the Christmas feast in case someone didn’t like our traditional English Christmas pudding which to me was unimaginable, so I always had a helping of both.

Her trifle consisted of Bristol Cream Sherry-soaked sponge fingers that were layered with peaches, bananas and sometimes raspberries, then topped with a good vanilla custard sauce, lashings of whipped cream and a flourish of flaked almonds on top. She’d scatter those tiny silver sugar balls over the whole thing for a really festive look.

Anyway, nostalgia isn’t what it used to be so here’s an ‘Americanized’ version of an English sherry trifle that’s made with cranberries. As cranberries go very well with oranges, I replaced the sherry with Grand Marnier, so this dessert isn’t really suitable for young children as Grand Marnier is considerably stronger than sherry. Not that it’s very alcoholic overall but I don’t recommend feeding it to humans under the age of three.

The result is pretty, a bit boozy and luxurious. Perfect for a special occasion (such as Christmas). I used Trader Joe’s  soft sponge lady fingers for the base layer. If you’re British and in a hurry, by all means skip the crème Anglaise part and make up a batch of custard from a packet, using full fat milk.

Serve the trifle in individual martini glasses or in your prettiest cut glass crystal bowl.

Cranberry & Grand Marnier Trifle

Cranberry & Grand Marnier Trifle


(Serves 8)


3 1/2 – 4 oz (90g) of sponge fingers (aka boudoir sponge fingers or lady fingers)

9 oz (250g) of fresh cranberries

5 1/2 oz (150g) of (caster) white sugar

4 tablespoons of Grand Marnier liqueur

8 tablespoons of freshly squeezed orange juice

Finely grated zest of 1 medium orange

20 oz (570ml) of cream (for the sauce layer)

1 vanilla pod

6 large egg yolks

2 teaspoons of cornstarch (flour)

10 oz (285ml) of whipping cream for the topping

To decorate: toasted flaked almonds, silver sugar balls, pomegranate seeds or whatever you preferCranberry Grand Marnier Trifle


Put the cranberries in a pan with 5 fl oz (150ml) of cold water and the orange zest – bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add 3 1/2 oz (100g) of the sugar, stir well and cook for another 8-10 minutes. Set aside.

Mix the Grand Marnier with the orange juice. Layer the sponge fingers in the bottom of your serving bowl (or divide them among individual glasses). Sprinkle the Grand Marnier/OJ mixture over the sponge fingers as evenly as possible. Layer the warm cranberries on top of the sponge. Cool.

For the custard sauce layer – pour the cream (not the cream for the topping) into a heavy pan. Split the vanilla pod, scrape the seeds into the cream and add the pod as well. Over a low heat, bring the cream to barely a simmer.  Turn the heat off and discard the whole pod.

While you’re heating the cream, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until they’re pale and voluminous. Whisk in the cornstarch to blend thoroughly, then pour the heated cream over the yolks, whisking constantly. Pour everything back into the saucepan and over a low heat, continue to stir (don’t allow it to boil), until the mixture thickens.

Cool the sauce a bit then pour it over the cranberries. Cover and chill (Layer some cling film over the custard to prevent a skin from forming). To serve, whisk the whipping cream until soft peaks form, then spoon it over the cooled custard.

Cranberry & Grand Mariner TrifleDecorate the trifle with whatever you want to decorate it with. I used silver sugar balls and toasted flaked almonds that I’d tossed in a little edible gold dust.

Happy Holidays!





About edibletcetera

I'm passionate about food; I cook, photograph, eat...then writes about it in that order. I'm also an occasional restaurant critic and caterer; a former newspaper columnist; author; social media/marketing communications; world traveler; dog lover; skier...and wit, (according to those who know me).
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4 Responses to Recipe: Cranberry & Grand Marnier Trifle

  1. Trevor says:

    Yup. Nostalgic. I could eat three of these…right now!

  2. Monique says:

    You are an amazing writer! And whatever you write about it taste as good as your words on paper!

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