Cherish the Most Wonderful Time of the Year with Apple Trifle and Saffron Custard

Is it too early to start thinking about Christmas? Of course not! The holiday season is fast approaching and what better way to celebrate with your friends and family than with this festive dessert!

saffron custord trifle

In this twist on the English classic, saffron takes a double role: in the poached apples, and in the custard. Instead of apples, you can also use pears that hold their shape well such as Bosc, Anjou, or Bartlett.
Serving the trifle in portion-size glass bowls is especially nice if you serve it to guests, or if you don’t have a special trifle bowl, or large glass serving bowl with a flat bottom.


  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 Zaffrus saffron powder capsule or 1/3 teaspoon Zaffrus saffron threads
  • 4 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 2 to 3 apples or pears, peeled, cored, and sliced about ¼ inch thick

    For the custard:
  • 1 cup milk (2% or whole milk)
  • 2 Zaffrus saffron powder capsules or 2/3 teaspoon Zaffrus saffron threads
  • ½ vanilla bean, split open lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 3 egg yolks

    To assemble the trifle:
  • 1 package ladyfingers or sponge cakes
  • 6 tablespoons apple brandy or Calvados (or apple cider for a non-alcoholic version)

    For the topping:
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar, to taste
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds
  • Zaffrus saffron honey (optional)

saffron custord trifle zaffrus

  1. Combine water, sugar, saffron and cardamom pods in a wide saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the apple slices and reduce the heat. Simmer uncovered until the apples are soft but not falling apart, about 10 minutes. To ensure even cooking, gently stir them a few times. Remove from the heat and let it cool.
  2. Heat the milk with the saffron and the vanilla bean in a small saucepan. If using saffron threads, remove the pan from the heat and let it steep for 10 minutes, then strain the milk and return it to the saucepan.
  3. In a small bowl, stir sugar, cornstarch, and egg yolks until smooth. Off the stove, slowly pour the egg mixture into the milk while whisking constantly. Return the pan to the heat and cook over very low heat until the custard thickens, whisking constantly. Once thickened, remove it from the heat immediately. Let cool.
  4. Cut the ladyfingers or sponge cakes to size to cover the bottom of a large glad bowl r individual glass serving bowls. Place the cooled apple slices with their cooking liquid on top. Drizzle with the apple brandy (1 tablespoon per individual serving).
  5. Remove the vanilla bean from the custard and spread the custard over the apples
  6. Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Add confectioners’ sugar to taste and continue whipping until stiff. Top the custard with whipped cream.
  7. Toast the almond slices in an ungreased frying pan until lightly browned. Let cool and sprinkle over the whipped cream.
  8. Cover the trifle and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Just before serving, drizzle with Zaffrus saffron honey if desired.

zaffrus custord trifle saffron

Makes 6 servings

Photo Credit: Ted Rosen