Sunday, 12 February 2012

Vegan Strawberry & Cherry Sago Trifle

Trifle has been something that has been on my to do list for a while - I have been working out the easiest way to veganise all the different elements for a while. The cake is easy, the cream is easy, the fruit is already vegan. So that leaves jelly and custard. I am currently still experimenting making my own vegan jelly - and have not yet perfected it, so for this trifle I used a packet of vegan jelly which I bought online (I've included a photo later on), the brand I used wasn't really that good - as the jelly set very runny. This is ok for trifle as it's all in there together anyway - but it certainly wasn't a very good substitute for jelly and definitely wouldn't have worked in molds or just to eat straight. I will keep working on my vegan jelly recipe using agar agar and keep you updated! The custard I found difficult until I had an epiphany one night when eating a big bowl of sago - sago is a very similar consistency to custard plus it's beautiful and creamy and actually easier to make than custard.

Fortunately all these trifle thoughts I was having coincided with 2 events: firstly a surprise birthday party I was holding for a friend, and secondly, the Holiday Recipe Club Valentine's Day Blog Hop. For this blog hop our host, Erin, chose the theme ingredients of beef, strawberries and heavy cream. Now, if you've read this blog before then you'll know you're going to be getting a recipe with strawberries - because beef and heavy cream just aren't a party of my vegan diet! However, this trifle is piled with delicious fluffy cream so is quite appropriate in the sense that it is really the closest thing to heavy cream a vegan is ever going to get.

Trifle is actually the perfect party dessert because it's generally huge by nature and also because almost all of it is done the night before. For a totally stress free party you should prepare the cake, sago custard, jelly and cherry mixture the day before and remember to put your coconut cream in the fridge minimum overnight (the more time the better so if you can do this a couple of days in advance then even better - I just keep a couple of cans in the fridge at all times). Then all you need to do is assemble it and whip the coconut cream for the top. You can then put it together a couple of hours before your guests show up and put it back in the fridge and it is totally amazing!

Strawberry and Cherry Sago Trifle

The Cake
1 cup soy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup canola oil
½ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp orange extract (optional)
1 ¼ cups wholemeal plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarb soda
½ tsp salt
2 tsp arrowroot
Strawberry jam

Sago Custard
2 x 400ml tins coconut milk (or cream is fine too)
4 cups water
1 ¼ cups sago (tapioca pearls)
½ cup sugar

Fruit & Jelly
1 packet Vegan strawberry jelly
3 punnets strawberries, washed
600g cherries, washed and pitted
1 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch

Coconut Cream
2 cans coconut cream, chilled in the fridge overnight (minimum- a few days is optimum)
2 tablespoons soft confectioners sugar

To Make:
The Cake:
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
2. Combine the soy milk and apple cider vinegar and set aside for a few moments to curdle.
3. Add the sugar, canola oil and extracts and mix well (I use a whisk for this).
4. Sift in all other ingredients and mix well to combine.
5. Line a medium sized lightly greased square baking dish with baking paper. Pour in the cake batter.
6. Bake for 20 minutes – or until golden on top and a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
7. Set aside to cool completely (you can work on one of the other trifle components while you wait).
8. Once cooled, cut into smaller, more manageable sections and slice in half lengthways.
9. Spread strawberry jam between the 2 halves and stick them back together. Cut into cubes that are about 2cm squared and set aside for later.

The Sago Custard:
1. Heat the water and coconut milk in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer.
2. Add the sugar and the sago. Reduce the heat as low as it goes and allow to simmer gently (with you stirring frequently) for about 30 minutes, or until sago is cooked and the custard is starting to thicken (it will thicken even more on cooling so don’t worry if it is a bit runny).
3. Pour into a bowl or container and allow to cool.
4. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours (optimum is over night).

Fruit and Jelly:
1. Prepare the jelly to the directions on the packet. Refrigerate overnight.
2. Halve and pit the cherries.
3. Place the cherries with ½ cup water and the sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.
4. Mix the cornstarch with ½ cup cold water until you have a smooth and watery mixture.
5. Stir the cornstarch mixture into the cherries and simmer for another 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Allow to cool and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (best over night).

The brand of vegan jelly I used - it set pretty runny and I probably wouldn't use it again.

Coconut Cream Topping:
1.  Refrigerate the 2 tins of coconut cream over night.
2. When you open the tin you will notice that the top is a very solid thick cream. Scoop out all of the solid thick cream on top (you can reserve the rest of it to use in another meal – like a curry).
3. Put the thick cream into a bowl and mix well using a hand held electric mixer. Move the beaters up and down to try and get as much air into the cream as possible. Add the sugar and beat until it pretty much resembles thick cream.

To Assemble:
1.  Wash and trim the strawberries. Cut in half (if they are big strawberries you may need to slice them).
2. Layer the bottom of a large glass bowl with the squares of cake.
3. Cover with the jelly.
4. Press strawberry halves around the outside to make a layer which is visible through the glass (see the pics if you’re not sure what I mean). Sprinkle a few bits in the middle as well.
5. Next, layer half of the sago custard over the top.
6. Next, layer the cherry mixture over the top of that.
7. Spread the rest of the sago mixture over the cherries.
8. Spread a punnet of strawberries over that (or however many strawberries you have left – remembering to keep some aside to decorate the top).
9. Finally, the last layer is the coconut cream topping.
10. Decorate with the remaining strawberries.
11. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.

Serves about 15 (with no seconds – so serves about 7-8 people with seconds!).


  1. I love trifles! They are so comforting and versatile! I've never heard of sago pudding but i'm intrigued. Good luck on your vegan jelly endeavors!

  2. I have used Natural Desserts brand with great success. They have a few fruit flavours and an unflavoured packet as well.

    Powdered agar-agar also makes a great gel. It can be found in Asian markets and some natural food stores also sell it. (I advise against the flakes though, I have never gotten good results from them.)

    1. Thanks! I have used agar agar powder to make jelly before but as I have not specific recipe I have never been sure of the quantity. Often with agar agar the risk is the jelly setting too firm. What ratio do you use to get a jelly that sets like gelatine jelly?

  3. This dessert looks incredible! I love that it is dairy-free too.

  4. I am glad that one of the ingredients met with your vegan diet! It looks gorgeous.

    1. No worries Erin - I did my best to cover "heavy cream" as well - in my own vegan way :)

  5. Who doesnt love a trifle. Wow! You also make it vegan. WHat is not to love about that? Thanks for sharing with us.

    1. Thanks Veronica - it was delicious! Unfortunately I made it for a party of about 10 people so it all got eaten up!! I would have liked some leftovers so that I could have enjoyed it even more the second time around!

  6. That is one pretty trifle! And way to make it healthy and vegan.

    1. Thanks! I'm really glad you liked it - even though this is not much of a 'steak and potatoes' kind of blog :)

  7. Just came to you searching for a recipe just like this one. Great blog; I;ve got my work cut out looking through previous posts now! One question, how do you use the tapioca? Is it like a cornflour or does it dissolve like agar? I've not seen it used in recipes before now.

    1. Hi, you are thinking of tapioca starch or flour, which is very similar to cornstarch. This recipe uses sago, which is more like the tapioca balls that you get in the bottom of Asian Bubble Tea. I'm not sure about your local area, but sago should be fairly easy to find at your local supermarkets or Asian grocers.

      See my recipe for Rhubarb and Apple Sago Parfait to see what the sago looks like before and after cooking: (

  8. You forgot to put the measurements for the oil in the cake part of the recipe!! This caused me to use the wrong amount and completely ruin the process!!

    So annoying. Please check your recipes before posting them.

    1. Thanks for pointing that out, I have corrected it now. I'm sorry, blogging is a time consuming and involved hobby from which I get no remuneration, so sometimes details slip though the cracks even with a proof read. If you are unsure about anything in my recipes, feel free to contact me and I will do my best to help.

  9. Magic recipe, thank you for sharing.
    Made it today for a lactose intolerant family member. I cheated and used ready made jam rolls for the cake. The whole family loved it.

  10. I love this recipe. trifle is one of my favorites, thanks for sharing this.