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Apple and calvados trifles

Diana Henry / 14 December 2015

These individual trifles with apples and Calvados (apple brandy) make a perfect Christmas or autumnal dinner party dessert.

Apple and Calvados trifle
Apple and Calvados trifle

Chilling time





  • 2 Bramley apples (about 375g), peeled
  • 2 tbs golden caster sugar
  • 150ml really excellent bought fresh custard (I use Waitrose Seriously Creamy Vanilla custard)
  • 55g sponge fingers
  • 5 tbs Calvados or apple brandy
  • 50ml double or whipping cream, plus icing sugar to sweeten, lightly whipped
  • 25g hazelnuts, toasted, cooled and very roughly chopped
  • 2 red skinned dessert apples (for the apples crisps)


First prepare the stewed apples. Just chop the flesh of the Bramley apples (discard the cores) and put into a saucepan with 1 tbsp water and the sugar. 

Heat gently, cover with a lid and cook the apples until they have collapsed. Stir every so often to help them break down and make sure the apples don’t ‘catch’ on the bottom of the pan and burn. Tip into a bowl and leave to cool completely.

Taste the apple puree to see whether it needs any more sugar – remember that all the other elements of the dish are sweet. Whip the cream and sweeten to taste with icing sugar.

To assemble the trifle set out all the components. 

Break the sponge fingers and put into a flat container. Sprinkle the Calvados over these so that it can sink in – you’ll have to leave them for a little while to soften and really soak up the booze. 

Put a layer of the softened fingers in the bottom of each glass, (do it with a spoon if they are very soft) then put a layer of apple puree on top. 

Scatter with half of the hazelnuts. Put half the custard on top. Add another layer of soaked sponge and proceed in the same way. 

Cover each glass with cling film (cover it well or the custard will pick up other flavours from the fridge) and put in the fridge overnight. It will taste better the next day. Reserve the rest of the hazelnuts to put on before you serve.

Now make the apple crisps to decorate the trifle. Using a small, fine bladed sharp knife cut through the first apple horizontally, about ¼ of the way from the top. Now cut the apple into very fine slices – they should be as thin as you can make them, while keeping the slices intact. I won’t pretend this is easy – you need a good knife and you have to hold onto the apple so that it doesn’t slip. 

There is wastage too as you only want slices that have that lovely flower pattern of the pips in the middle so the slices at the bottom and top of every apples are unusable (I just stew or eat the leftover flesh). Somehow this kind of thing can be very satisfying though.

Put the slices onto a sheet of greaseproof paper set on a baking sheet and put it into an oven preheated to 50 C. Bake these for about 6 hours (keep an eye on them) turning the slices over every 1 ½ hours. Once they’re done move them onto a wire rack and keep in a warm dry place to dry out a little more.

Bring the trifles out half an hour before you want to serve them (no trifle is nice ‘fridge cold’). Put the whipped cream on top of the trifle. Decorate with a one or two apple slices and some hazelnuts.


You can, if you prefer, use bought or home made sponge cake for this but sponge fingers are very easy and the leftover fingers keep fine in your cupboard afterwards so you’re not wasting anything.

Don’t feel guilty about using good bought custard – it’s such a hassle to make custard just for a trifle for two of you (and the leftover custard will keep in the fridge for a few days over Christmas. Lovely with mince pies!)


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.