Clementine & chocolate trifles

by Ed Smith

Ed Smith’s festive alternative to Christmas pud

When constructing this recipe, I made a number of variants—with jelly, compote and simply fresh fruit—and we (the royal we) came to the unanimous conclusion that jellied is best. Advantages include an extra cold base to the trifle, aesthetics, and the fact that having jelly in a dessert means you get to suck stuff through your teeth at the dining table. Pretty convincing, eh?

The recipe is a clementine one—this fruit is festive. Suffice to say, there’s booze in the form of Cointreau-soaked chocolate muffins, and a naughty custard laced with mascarpone and dark chocolate. Suits dinner party eating, as it’s for individual portions and easily done in advance.


10-11 clementines
10g caster sugar
2½g gelatin leaves, normally 1½ leaves
2 chocolate muffins, day-old
30ml Cointreau
100g dark chocolate—save 10g for decoration
250ml mascarpone
250g custard—good quality pre-made is fine
200g double cream


Make the jelly base for the trifle the night before you need it (or at least 3 hours before). Extract the juice from 4 clementines—I find the best way to do this is whizz them up in a blender, then push the mush and liquid through a sieve. You should have approx 200-230ml of liquid. If you need more liquid, juice another clementine until you have 230ml (max). Put the liquid in a milk pan, add the sugar and gently warm (don’t boil).

Put the gelatin in cold water for 3 or 4 mins. Remove. Squeeze out any excess water, add to the now warm clementine juice and whisk until the gelatin is dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat.

Peel 2 other clementines and slice into 3mm thick rounds across the length of the segments. Break up the slices and divide the little pieces of clementine equally between your 4 serving glasses. Once the clementine juice is tepid, pour this over the fruit. Let it cool to room temperature, cover with clingfilm and leave it to set in the fridge overnight, or at least 3 hours.

The remaining stages involve a bit of assembly—you could assemble and eat straight away, or put it together in advance and leave in the fridge for at least half a day. Maybe do the final decoration just as you serve.

Once the jelly is set, cut the muffins into 1cm cubes. Place them in a bowl or on a plate and spoon over the Cointreau. Let the stale-ish sponge soak up the alcohol for 30 mins.

Peel the remaining clementines. Cut 2 clementines into small pieces as you did when making the jelly. Cut the remaining 2 into thin slices to decorate the top.

Break 90g of chocolate into a mixing bowl and place this over a saucepan of simmering water. Don’t let the bowl touch the water. Allow the chocolate to melt (without stirring). Remove from the heat. Scoop the mascarpone into a mixing bowl. Add the chocolate and beat it into the mascarpone with a wooden spoon or spatula. Add the custard to this and fold everything together. Avoid temptation to drink this.

With a balloon whisk, whisk the double cream just beyond ribbon stage and no further. It will set up more as you spoon in, and particularly if you leave it in the fridge; and I think it’s nicest if the cream topping to a trifle is light, not stiff.

Now assemble everything. Place the Cointreau-soaked sponge on the set clementine jelly in each of the glasses. Fill in any gaps with the little pieces of clementine. Next, spoon in the chocolate custard. Level this with the back of a tsp or small palette knife.

The next layer is the lightly whipped double cream. Divide this evenly between the glasses, top with the thin rounds of clementine and finally grate the remaining 10g of dark chocolate over the top of the trifles (assuming you didn’t eat it).

Words and image: Ed Smith