Blackberry Trifle with Luscious Custard Filling

Don’t you just love a trifle dessert? Trifles are perfect for every kind of event, elegant or casual. A mixture of red and blue berries also makes them perfect for Independence Day. This blackberry trifle definitely fits the bill.

Blackberry Trifle with Luscious Custard Filling
This blackberry trifle is a perfect dessert for the 4th of July — or anytime!

A Fresh Take on an Old Family Recipe  

We have a slew of blackberries this year.  I have been thinking of ways to use these berries so as not to waste even one. I was looking back at some family recipes and came across this trifle that is absolutely extraordinary.

When I saw the recipe, what appealed to me was the custard filling. I could just taste the cold filling with those reduced berries soaked into the spongy cake. With that taste in mind, I couldn’t wait to give it a try.

I have changed a few things up in this trifle recipe. However, for the most part, it is a very old recipe that has been handed down through the generations from my grandmother’s mother.

Blackberry Trifle in front of red chicken coop with Camilia Plants Blooming
Nothing Beats this Trifle. Nothing!

Sponge Cake for Trifles: the perfect combination

Traditionally, sponge cake is used for trifle desserts. The cake is firm enough to hold its shape while it carries the flavor of the berry sauce and holds up under the weight of the custard. 

What’s the Difference Between Regular Cake and Sponge Cake?

  1. Sponge cake gets its fat content from the eggs. Most sponge cakes will contain little or no oil or butter.
  2. Sponge cakes have a higher egg to flour ratio. 
  3. There is always hand folding in of egg whites into the cake batter. To keep it light and airy you want to be gentle  folding in the well beaten egg whites to ensure the cake rises in the oven properly. 
  4. Most of the time, no leavening is required. For safe measure I have used a little baking powder in the recipe. 
Close up of Blackberry Trifle in font of chicken coop with lots of greenery
Blackberry Trifles are my kid’s favorite “cake” for their birthdays in the summer.

Is the Filling a Custard or a Pastry Cream

I loosely call this filling a custard in that it is made with eggs, sugar, and milk (ingredients for a traditional custard), but in all actuality it becomes a pastry cream one I add the cornstarch. I’ve made it both ways. 

If I am serving this dessert right away, I will stick to a custard without the cornstarch, but if it is going to be a while, which I am inclined to wait since I like the berry sauce to permeate the cake, I will add the cornstarch to aid in the custard holding its shape. It thickens it a bit. 

If you don’t know by heart anything else in this recipe, knowing the custard/pastry cream recipe by heart will serve you well. 

You can make coconut cream pie, as well as a  base to the chocolate meringue pie!

Now let’s talk Blackberry Sauce

For a true blackberry sauce, you will only need blackberries, sugar, a pinch of cornstarch and salt. 

Since we mostly forage for our fresh berries, I don’t often have enough blackberries and will need to mix strawberries or blueberries into the mix. It’s fine to do this. This sauce is incredible with any mixture of berries. That’s what I do with my Easy Berry Sauce, which I serve on everything from venison loin to ice cream.

I recommend that you taste the mixture before it leave the heat on the stovetop to make sure it is sweet enough. It really all depends on the berries. 

Adding that touch of salt will really bring the berry flavor out, so don’t forgo that ingredient. 

Berry Trifle on Porch Railing with Field Behind it
What an amazing way to use up the extra eggs the chickens are laying!

Blackberry Trifle: Easy to Make Ahead

Making the separate components ahead cuts down on time making it the day of an event. The entire family can get involved. 

One of the things I love about trifle desserts is the fact that everyone can take a part in the preparation. That’s because the trifle has five distinctly separate components. Another thing is that trifle is a great make-ahead dessert. In fact, it tastes even better the next day or two after making it.

In our kitchen, Scott took over preparing the blackberries. Graylyn (my 14-year-old) made the whipping cream. Mary (9) and I made the cake, Anna (7) and I made the custard, and I made the sherry drizzle. It seems like a lot, but even if I had been the only one in the kitchen, it would be worth it. I really don’t think it would have taken me very long.

Red, White, and…Blackberry Trifle!

This Blackberry trifle is a “must” for your Fourth of July celebration! Scott said that he wanted it for his birthday cake this next December!! It really must be a winner because he has never veered off of his usual Homemade Nut Pie with Ice Cream. Get in that kitchen and whip this up and watch your family and friends light up with the fireworks!

Blackberry Trifle with Luscious Custard Filling

I was looking back at some of my recipes and came across this blackberry trifle that is extraordinary — especially the custard filling.
5 from 1 vote
Course Dessert
Cuisine English


Sponge Cake:

  • 1 1/3 cups cake flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 6 large egg whites (reserved from custard filling)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter


  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 6 large egg yolks (reserved from sponge cake)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 1/2 inch pieces

Blackberry Filling:

  • 10 cups blackberries (divided for reduction, whole pieces, and garnish)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • pinch of salt

Whipped Cream:

  • 1 1/2 cups cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Sherry Drizzle:

  • 1/2 cup drinking Sherry
  • 1/4 cup sugar


For the Cake:

  • 1.Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees, grease a large baking sheet (18 by 12-inch) that is rimmed, and line with parchment paper. . Grease parchment paper or spray lightly with cooking spray.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder together. Add oil, water, egg, and vanilla into flour mixture and mix well.
  • Whip egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed on a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment for about 2 minutes,then increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form , about 2 more minutes.
  • Fold 1/3 of whipped egg whites into the cake mixture. Repeat until all of the egg whites have been incorporated into the batter.
  • Spread batter into prepared cookie sheet and bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. The cake will be done when it sprains back when pressed lightly in the center of the cake.
  • Remove cake from oven and transfer to a wire rack letting cake cool for about 5 minutes. Remove cake from pan by inverting cake onto the wire rack. Remove parchment paper and allow to cool completely.
  • Once cake is cooled, cut cake into three inch square pieces.

For the Custard:

  • In a heavy saucepan, stir together the 3 1/2 cups of the milk and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat then remove milk from heat.
  • Meanwhile, whisk remaining milk and sugar into a bowl. Add cornstarch, egg yolks, and a pinch of salt to the milk an sugar mixture and mix well.
  • Add one cup of the hot mixture to the cool mixture whisking instantly. Return tempered mixture to the mixture in the saucepan.
  • Return saucepan to the stove and cook over medium heat whisking constantly until very thick (about 5 to 8 minutes). Remove saucepan from heat, add vanilla, and butter one piece at a time until incorporated.
  • Pour into a bowl, place a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled before using (about an hour).

For the Fruit Filling:

  • Reserve 9 to 12 blackberries for garnish for later use. Divide the berries in half placing 1/2 of remaining berries in a heavy saucepan and the other 1/2 berries in a bowl.
  • Add sugar and cornstarch to the saucepan with the berries and place over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. While the berries are cooking, mash them with a potato masher to add the fruit juice to release from the berries.
  • Pour the blackberry sauce into the bowl over the whole blackberries.

For the Whipped Cream:

  • In a large bowl, whip cream, sugar, and vanilla on medium-low speed with a mixer until stiff peaks are just about to form. Set aside.

For the Sherry Drizzle:

  • In a small bowl, mix Sherry and sugar until well blended.

For the Assembly

  • Spoon about one cup of custard into the bottom of trifle bowl.
  • Layer about 10 pieces of cake around the bottom of the trifle then place 2 in the center. Drizzle the Sherry mixture over the cake pieces. Spoon half of the blackberry mixture over the cake then half of the custard mixture, then half of the whipping cream. Repeat layering with cake, Sherry drizzle, blackberry mixture, custard, then whipping cream. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (8 hours). Garnish top of trifle with reserved blackberries and serve!
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Tried this recipe?Let me know how it was!

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  1. Kate Wilson says:

    Oh my gosh, I just about died looking at that. Looks delicious!

    1. Stacy Harris says:

      Girl, it is too good for words! You have got to try this. We made it twice this week.

  2. Oh my Lord, my mouth is watering. So beautiful and looks elegant. I have a trifle bowl! $9 from Goodwill, 50% discount for my senior status! Am so gonna do it this weekend.

  3. This looks so good! Trifles are so nice because they don’t have to look perfect, but taste delicious!

    1. Thanks. I think this may be my all-time favorite dessert!

  4. Thanks for sharing! How far ahead of time can I make it?

    1. You will love this recipe. You can make it 2 days ahead or so. It’s good to at least do it the night before too!

  5. 5 stars
    Can’t wait to try it!!! Looks heavenly!!!

  6. Hi Stacy, what can I use in place of the sherry? (non-alcoholic) Looks delicious! I love that all the components are homemade.


    1. Just use water to make the simple syrup and it will be great.

  7. Will the cake be really thin?

    1. Yes. It is more thin than a regular cake because I bake it on a baking sheet, which is larger than a cake pan. It works great though!! Hope you love the recipe!

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