British royalty have a long-held tradition with commemorative food.
When Queen Victoria ascended to the throne in 1838, her coronation was celebrated with the creation of the Victoria sponge — a jam and cream cake that can still be found in almost every shop in the UK.
When Queen Elizabeth II took the throne in 1953, it was celebrated with the creation of “coronation chicken” in her honor.
With the Queen celebrating her 70th year on the throne as Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, it seemed only fitting that the incumbent monarch’s milestone was set to be celebrated with a new recipe.
Ahead of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, a competition was held to find a pudding recipe to commemorate the occasion.
Held by British luxury food institution Fortnum & Mason, applications opened for all ages across the UK, asking home bakers to submit a recipe fit for the event that could have a similar legacy to the Victoria sponge.
With over 5,000 submissions received, according to Fortnum & Mason, it then had to narrow it down to just five recipes ahead of a final bake for a judging panel, which included “Great British Baking Show” judge Mary Berry.
Home-baker Gemma Melvin had the winning recipe, impressing the judges with her lemon Swiss roll and amaretti trifle.
The recipe was heavily inspired by lemon possets, a cream-based dessert served at the Queen and Prince Philip’s wedding, as noted by Melvin in the televised final, “The Jubilee Pudding: 70 Years in the Baking.”
After looking at the recipe and ingredients list, it was clear I was going to have to take some shortcuts.
After the winning entry was announced, I was excited to make it. However, after seeing the official recipe posted by the BBC, I was surprised by how complex it was.
The recipe serves 20 people and uses over 2 pounds of sugar. It also expected home bakers to make every element from scratch — from the Swiss roll to the St Clement’s jelly and white chocolate bark.
The BBC says it takes over two hours to prepare with a cooking time of 30 minutes to an hour — I calculated it would take closer to five hours altogether.
I had to make some substitutions too, halving the recipe measurements and opting for storebought alternatives at every avenue.
With all of the substitutions calculated, here’s what you’ll need to make the trifle for around 10 people.
To make the shortcut and time-friendly version, here’s what you’ll need:
- One store-bought lemon Swiss roll
- One box of amaretti cookies
- 10 fluid ounces of custard
- Sachets of lemon and orange Jell-O
- Two cans of tinned mandarins, around 300 grams, or 10.5 ounces, each
- 22.5 grams, or 0.85 ounces of caster sugar
- Quarter-ounce of arrowroot, about 1 sachet
- Lemon quarter, juice only
- 16 fluid ounces of heavy cream
- One bar of white chocolate, about 100 grams or 3.5 ounces.
The first step is to create the St Clement’s jelly.
Within the original recipe, the jelly is made from scratch with both lemon and orange flavors. However, this can be easily achieved by mixing half of both store-bought jelly varieties.
Make the jelly as per the instructions listed on the packaging, allowing it to cool fully.
While cooling, take your store-bought Swiss roll, slice it into half-inch-thick slices, and layer it around the side of the bowl.
Use the remaining pieces of the Swiss roll in thicker slices to make sure there are no bare spots on the bottom of the bowl.
While the official images released by Fortnum & Mason and Melvin served the pudding in a traditional trifle dish — a transparent dish usually elevated by a stem — I used a glass mixing bowl I already had at home.
Once fully cooled, pour your jelly mixture over the Swiss roll pieces, before placing the bowl into the refrigerator until set, which should take around three hours.
Make sure the jelly goes above the level of the cake pieces.
However, while pouring, the Swiss roll promptly dislodged itself from the side of the bowl to then start floating in the mixture. I tried to push it back down with a spoon but it wasn’t cooperating.
Once completely set, pour the fresh custard over the jelly layer.
The original recipe asks for you to make your own egg custard from scratch. However, British store-bought custard can be just as good as homemade without the added stress.
To make the mandarin coulis, take one of your cans of fruit and drain it fully, before adding it to a saucepan with the caster sugar.
On medium-low heat, mix in the sugar and bring the mixture up to heat, stirring frequently.
You’ll want to keep cooking the mandarins until they’ve broken down entirely.
While it’s heating up, mix the arrowroot with a few tablespoons of cold water, before adding it to the mandarin mixture.
Once the mandarins have completely broken down, add the arrowroot to the saucepan and start to stir immediately.
You should notice that the mixture starts to thicken slightly. Once at that stage, turn the heat off entirely.
While cooling, take the second can of mandarins, drain them, and add to the coulis, which should still be thickening.
The second can of mandarins will help add texture to it, as the other fruit will have entirely broken down and reduced.
Once fully cooled, pour it on top of the custard as the penultimate layer.
The layer of coulis shouldn’t be too thick, but the full chunks of mandarin should help bulk it up.
For the heavy cream, whip it until it reaches soft peaks.
I over-whisked my cream by around 30 seconds meaning it ended up being too stiff, but it wasn’t the end of the world.
Once at soft peaks, start to spread the mixture over the top of the coulis as the final layer to the trifle.
Despite following the recipe, I actually didn’t have enough cream to cover the full layer of coulis.
This may have been due to me over-whipping the cream, but I think this could also be a fault of the recipe, as I was short by a pretty significant margin.
After a few hours of work and patience, the Platinum Jubilee trifle is ready to eat.
Once finally completed, I took a little moment to admire the hard work that went into the trifle.
Compared to the photos of the official version created for the competition, I was pretty happy with how close mine looked and felt.
Especially compared to the colors of a classic British trifle, which tends to use berries and red coloring, like the BBC’s recipe for a classic trifle, the orange and yellow definitely made the dessert look the part.
Despite taking every shortcut, it had still taken around 4 or 5 hours from start to finish.
It was a pretty mid-tier dessert, and not worth the effort in my opinion, even with all of the shortcuts.
While it looked nice in the bowl, the dessert quickly suffered from the same fate as all trifles once they’re served, collapsing into a multi-colored gloop.
In terms of taste, it wasn’t bad at all, but nowhere near worth the effort I put in. Aside from the cookies, it was just a spectrum of varying soft layers.
I think I’d like the Platinum Jubilee trifle if I could buy it in a store, but knowing the effort I had put in made me a little resentful.
For such a perfectly average dessert, I’m surprised the competition organizers expect people to spend hours making everything from scratch. And even with a halved recipe, I’ll be stuck eating bowls of unsatisfying trifle for days.