A trifle is a thing of no consequence, and how it also came to be the name of one of Britain’s most beloved dishes is the cause of some debate. Early trifles were more like fools (puréed fruit mixed with sweetened cream), and it took about 250 years for them to develop into the layered mixture of cake, fruit, custard and cream that usually forms the basis of the modern dish. The late 19th century was a sort of heyday for them, and Avis Crocombe would certainly have had a few variations in her repertoire. Like so many very common dishes though, she did not write one into her manuscript book: it would have been so familiar to her that she would not have needed a recipe. The amounts are thoroughly flexible, as are the contents. In the spirit of the time, we’d encourage you to play around with substitutes in this loose recipe, to make your own version. The key, as with so many Victorian recipes, is not to skimp on the alcohol.