Strawberry, Basil & Lemon Trifle

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Prep 1hr (+ 2hr cooling time)Bake 30minMakes 10-12 serves

Fragrant, sweet and fresh, basil brings something truly special to this festive trifle. Layers of vanilla buttercake soaked with a basil and lemon syrup, creamy basil-infused custard and roasted strawberries make for a wonderful combination in this impressive dessert… I promise one serve won’t be enough!


125 ml (½ cup) pure (pouring / thin) cream 
Small fresh basil leaves, to decorate

110g (¾ cup) self-raising flour
75g (½ cup) plain flour
165g (¾ cup) caster sugar
125g butter, softened
80ml (⅓ cup) milk
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract or essence

Basil-infused custard
500ml (2 cups) milk
125ml (½ cup) pure (pouring / thin) cream
20 medium fresh basil leaves
75g (⅓ cup) caster sugar
2 tablespoons cornflour, sifted
3 egg yolks, lightly whisked
1 teaspoon natural vanilla essence or extract

Roasted strawberries
1kg strawberries, hulled and halved if large
75g (⅓ cup) caster sugar

Basil and lemon syrup
165g (¾ cup) caster sugar
125ml (½ cup) water
10 medium fresh basil leaves
60ml (¼ cup) strained fresh lemon juice


  1. To make the Basil-infused custard, put the milk, cream and basil leaves into a medium saucepan. Bring just to a simmer over a medium heat. Remove from heat and stand for 30 minutes to infuse. Remove the basil leaves. Use a balloon whisk to whisk the sugar and cornflour together in a heatproof bowl. Gradually whisk in the milk mixture until smooth and well combined. Whisk in the egg yolks. Return to the heat and stir constantly with the whisk over medium heat until the mixture thickens and just comes to a simmer. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pass the custard through a sieve into a heatproof bowl. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or until chilled.
  2. To make the Buttercake, preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Grease a 20 x 30 cm (base measurement) shallow cake tin and line the base and two longs sides with one piece of baking paper.
  3. Place both the flours, sugar, butter, milk, eggs and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 3 minutes or until the mixture is smooth, creamy and very pale in colour. Spoon the mixture into the lined tin and spread evenly using the back of a spoon. Bake in preheated oven for 18-20 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Cool for 5 minutes in the tin, then turn onto a wire rack to cool.
  4. To make the Roasted strawberries, preheat oven to 200°C (180°C fan-forced). Toss the strawberries with the sugar in a bowl. Spread over an oven tray in a single layer. Roast in preheated oven for 10 minutes, stirring gently after 5 minutes, or until the strawberries are soft but still holding their shape. Set aside to cool.
  5. To make the Basil and lemon syrup, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and site over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Add the basil, bring to a simmer and simmer for 5 minutes or until reduced slightly. Stir in the lemon juice. Set aside to cool.
  6. To assemble the trifle, use a balloon whisk or a hand held electric whisk on medium speed to whisk the cream in a medium bowl until soft peaks form. Cut the buttercake into 3cm cubes and place half of the cake over the base of a 2-3 liter (8-12 cup) serving dish. Drizzle the cake with half the Basil and lemon syrup. Spread half the Basil-infused custard over the top. Spoon half the Roasted strawberries over the custard and then top with all of the whipped cream. Repeat the layering with the remaining ingredients finishing with the roasted strawberries. Decorate with the basil leaves and serve in large scoops.
Baker's Tips
  • The butter cake can be made up to 3 days ahead of using. Keep in an airtight container at room temperature.
  • The Basil-infused custard, Roasted strawberries and Basil and lemon syrup can all be made up to 3 days ahead of serving. Keep separately in airtight containers in the fridge.
  • This trifle can be assembled up to 8 hours ahead of serving. Top with fresh strawberries, dust with icing sugar and decorate with basil just before serving.


This recipe is from Anneka's SBS Food online column Bakeproof: Christmas Baking with Herbs. Click here for more Bakeproof columns and recipes.

Photography by Alan Benson.