Rhubarb trifle


Rhubarb trifle

This is my take on one of the great retro classics. Trifle originated in Britain and was fashionable in both Sweden and the UK in the 1960s, but like a lot of the retro classics is being revisited and brought up to date. I wanted to give my version a Swedish touch although I have never had trifle in Sweden, so this is how I think Swedes ought to make it!

Rhubarb and strawberries are a common combination in Sweden, because the sweetness of the strawberries combines well with the tartness of the rhubarb. Ginger and orange are two other flavours that bring out the best in rhubarb, so much so that I virtually never cook rhubarb without using both.

For the topping you can use whipped cream, as was common when my mother made trifles in the 1960s, but I prefer a healthier version using reduced fat mascarpone and fat-free yoghurt, which gives the trifle a subtle sourness which I like and I hope you will too. John Duxbury


Recipe summary for a Swedish inspired rhubarb trifle


A tray of fresh organic free-range eggs

• Replace the topping with whipped cream if you are concerned about the risk of using raw egg, although the risk is very low indeed if you are using fresh organic free-range eggs.

4 dishes of rhubarb trifle

• The recipe below makes sufficient for a 2 litre (2 quart) trifle dish, sufficient to serve 12-16 people. I often make a half quantity in 4 smaller trifle dishes. Each one is ideal for sharing between two people.

Crushed ginger biscuits for a layer in rhubarb trifle

•  Choose crunchy ginger nut biscuits (cookies) or shortbread with steam ginger. (Swedish ginger biscuits, such as Annas Pepparkakor, are good for flavour, but they don't crumble very well.)


900 g (2 lb) rhubarb, washed and cut into 1 cm (½ inch) lengths
4 tbsp   caster (superfine) sugar
2 tbsp   potato flour (starch) or cornflour (corn starch)
2   large oranges, zest and juice
300 g (10 z) strawberries, hulled and halved
24   small sponge fingers (savoiardi)
3 tbsp   orange marmalade
2-3 tbsp   orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier
150 g (5 oz) crunchy ginger biscuits (cookies), crushed


600 ml (2½ cups) whipping cream
6   egg yolks
4 tbsp   caster (superfine) sugar
2 tsp   vanilla sugar
2 tsp   cornflour (corn starch)

Mascarpone topping

2   egg yolks
75 g (⅓ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
1 tbsp   vanilla sugar
500 g (2 cups) mascarpone, ordinary or low fat
300 ml (1¼ cups) Greek or Turkish yoghurt, ordinary or low fat


1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F, Gas 4, Fan 160°C).

Rhubarb, orange zest, caster sugar and potato flour

2. Place the sliced rhubarb in a large roasting tray. Scatter over the orange zest and then spoon over the caster sugar and the flour (starch). Cover with aluminium foil and bake for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and leave to cool a bit. Add the strawberries when the rhubarb is still slightly warm and gently stir to mix.

3. Meanwhile, to make the custard, place the cream in a saucepan and bring almost to the boil. Whisk the egg yolks, sugars and cornflour (corn starch) in a bowl until combined. Gradually pour the hot cream into the egg yolk mixture, whisking until incorporated. Return the mixture to the pan over a low heat and stir continuously with a wooden spoon until thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Do not boil. Transfer the custard to a bowl to cool, covering with clingfilm (food wrap) to prevent a skin forming.

Trifle sponges sandwiches together with marmalade

4. Spread one side of each sponge finger with marmalade and stick them together in pairs to make twelve sandwiches. Cut each sandwich into four and place them in the bottom of the trifle dish(s). Pour the orange liqueur and the orange juice over the sponge sandwiches, leave to soften for a few minutes and then gently level the top of the biscuits.

5. To make mascarpone topping, use an electric mixer to whisk the egg yolks and sugar until tripled in volume (about 2 minutes). Add the mascarpone and yoghurt and whisk the mixture until evenly incorporated.

6. To assemble the trifle, pour the cooled custard over the sponge fingers, top with the crushed biscuits, add the majority of the rhubarb, but keep some back for a garnish, add the mascarpone topping and then garnish with the remaining rhubarb. Cover and chill for 2 or 3 hours, but then take out of the fridge 30 minutes or so before serving.

Other garnishes

Rhubarb trifle garnishes with chocolate curls

• Chocolate curls,

Rhubarb trifle garnished with roasted pecan nuts

• Roasted pecan nuts. (To roast the pecans: spread them out on a tray and put them on  in a pre-heated oven at 180°C (350°F, gas 4, fan 160°C) for 7 minutes.)
• A light dusting of cocoa powder.


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