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Happy belated 4th (aka July 6th)!

July 6, 2009

This past Independence day, I celebrated my freedom by eating hot dogs and various grilled meats with my compatriots. Amongst the smorgasbord of meat, there was a dessert or two and I may have had one or two helpings of each. In particular, I was impressed with my pal Rebecca’s holiday themed trifle (see picture above). The recipe for her delicious and adorable trifle is below, but, first, let’s do a little Internet research (aka ‘Googling’) and figure out what the heck a trifle is.

According to Wikipedia, that compendium of ambiguity and misinformation, the first trifle was made in 1376 in a book titled “The good huswife’s Jewell.” At first, I thought “cool, trifles are old and I like old stuff.” Being the good little researcher I am, however, I clicked on the citation which led me to another recipe blog site. The site, What’s the recipe Jim, states that the “very first known recipe was published in 1956 in a book called “The good huswife’s Jewell.” Oh, that’s disappointing and not as cool. Apparently, instead of being the dessert of kings of yore (my imagination is boundless), some frumpy housewife messed up a cake and cleverly threw it all in a deep bowl and topped it off with alcohol.
With all due respect to Mr. Jim, the spelling in that title is suspect. So, I dug a little further into my research (meaning: I used Google Scholar) and found Stefan’s Florilegium, a neat site dedicated to acquiring Medieval primary sources including a great list of cookbooks. It has a .org domain and so is surely legit, or at least that’s what I’m telling myself and you good people. It has actual transcripts from the cookbook in question, which was written in 1596 (yay, still old!).
Here’s how a good huswife of merry olde England would have made her trifle:

To make a tarte that is courage to a man or woman

Take twoo Quinces, and twoo or three Burre rootes,

and a potaton, and pare your Potaton, and scrape

your rootes and put them into a quart of wine,

and let them boyle till they bee tender,

& put in an ounce of Dates, and when they be boyled

tender, Drawe them through a strainer, wine and all,

and then put in the yolkes of eight Egges,

and the braynes of three or foure cocke Sparrowes,

and straine them into the other, and a little Rose water,

and seeth them all with suger, Cinamon and Gynger,

and Cloves and mace, and put in a little sweet butter,

and set it upon a chafingdish of coles betweene two

platters, and so let it boyle till it

be something bigge.

Hm, I think I’d leave out the “braynes of three or

foure cocke Sparrowes.” Seems like it would take

away from the deliciousness of the other ingredients.

In conclusion (by the way, never end a paper this way), here’s what we have learned:
  • Wikipedia “authors” not only write incorrect information, but they can get your hopes up. Jerks.
  • Google Scholar does a better job, but I should probably use the library.
  • Trifles can have alcohol!
  • Women in the 1950s felt a strange desire to add alcohol to family desserts.
  • Medieval women of a certain class were literate, ‘good’, and made fancy desserts. Sound like my kind of broads.
The following modern recipe for Rebecca’s trifle came from Taste of Home.


  • 1 package (3 ounces) berry blue gelatin
  • 1 package (3 ounces) strawberry gelatin
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 2 cups cold milk
  • 2 packages (3.4 ounces each) instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 carton (8 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed, divided
  • 1 pint fresh blueberries
  • 1 quart fresh strawberries, quartered
  • 1 prepared angel food cake (8 inches), cut into 1-inch cubes


In two small bowls, combine each gelatin flavor with 1 cup boiling water. Stir 1/2 cup cold water into each. Pour each into an ungreased 9-in. square pan. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until set.
In a large bowl, whisk milk and pudding mixes for 2 minutes. Let stand for 2 minutes or until soft-set. Fold in 2 cups whipped topping.
Set aside 1/4 cup blueberries and 1/2 cup strawberries for garnish. Cut the gelatin into 1-in. cubes. In a 3-qt. trifle bowl or serving dish, layer the strawberry gelatin, half of the cake cubes, the remaining blueberries and half of the pudding mixture.
Top with blue gelatin and remaining cake cubes, strawberries and pudding mixture. Garnish with reserved berries and remaining whipped topping. Serve immediately. Yield: 16-20 servings.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Angela VandenBroek permalink
    July 6, 2009 4:55 pm

    Mmmm… yum yum… I am sorry I missed that, I will have to try making it!

  2. Molly permalink
    July 8, 2009 3:39 pm

    And it was DELICIOUS. She hath made a tarte that was courage to a man or woman.

  3. Sarah Ferstel permalink
    July 8, 2009 4:00 pm

    Ha! Molly, I'm glad you caught that quote. It was my favorite!

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