The Malakoff Trifle

The Malakoff torte is a refined item of patisserie, which allows the more experienced and skilful dessert maker to show off his or her talent. But we're not going there. Instead we're going back to 1970s England where a much less refined and more relaxed dessert with a vaguely similar set of ingredients turned up on the menus of a number of restaurants. Sponge fingers, cream mixtures, perhaps some almonds or chocolate and plenty of rum were piled into colourful dishes and plonked in front of grateful punters. Being the 1970s, it was a seriously rich and indulgent dessert but it was also a seriously tasty one. Shortly afterwards tiramisu became fashionable and, following a brief but gooey skirmish, the Malakoff Trifle was history. (Actually, it may not have been called a ‘trifle’ at the time - I can only remember the Malakoff bit of the name).

This is my tribute to that abandoned dessert. I've made it a little lighter by not using buckets of whipped cream, although I'm not pretending that this is diet food. I've used a combination of quark and fromage frais as the ‘cream’ layer here because it gave me the texture I was looking for but you could use just fromage frais or even yoghurt. I've also cut down on the booze content, although it still has a distinct rum flavour. Nobody cared much about excess booze or fat in the 1970s.

You can either put this together in a single attractive dish and spoon out as much as you fancy or make individual desserts, which is a little bit fiddly but appealing. It should produce 4 individual desserts but I got carried away and made 2 larger ones. Since this is quite rich, if you do make 2 larger desserts, then I think you should supply 2 spoons per dessert and suggest sharing. After all, these days we do worry about excess.
Malakoff Trifle
80 g unsalted butter, softened
110 g icing sugar
1 egg, separated
60 g plain chocolate
80 g quark
80 g fromage frais (one with around 4% fat is probably best)
½ tsp vanilla paste or extract
2 tbsp caster sugar
10 – 12 sponge fingers (boudoir or Savoiardi)
10 tbsp milk or almond milk
2 tbsp dark rum
Grated dark chocolate or chocolate-coated popping candy to decorate

Cream the butter and the icing sugar together thoroughly. Beat in the egg yolk. Melt the chocolate, allow it cool a little and beat that in as well.  (If you make this chocolaty cream ahead of time, store it in the fridge, but let it warm up a little before assembling the dessert).

Beat the quark, fromage frais and vanilla together briefly. Whisk the egg white until it’s just forming firm peaks. Whisk in the caster sugar one tablespoonful at a time. Fold the egg white into the fromage frais mix.

Mix the rum and milk together in a shallow dish. Break each sponge finger into 3 or 4 pieces. Dip a few pieces of sponge finger in the milk and rum mix. Don’t leave them there too long – you don’t want them to collapse completely and turn to mush. Place the soaked sponge in the bottom of a small dish or glass. Spread a layer of the chocolate butter cream over the sponge, pressing it down a little to fill any gaps. Top this with a layer of the fromage frais mixture. Dip some more sponge finger pieces and repeat the process of creating the layers until you get near the top of the dish or glass and finish with a layer of the fromage frais mixture. If you make this in a single, larger dish it might be easier to avoid trying to create too many layers – it can get a bit messy. The idea is that the chocolate butter cream will be a relatively firm layer around the softer sponge with a lighter fromage frais mixture between or on top.

Decorate the top fromage frais layer with grated chocolate or try sprinkling on some chocolate-coated popping candy for a bit of a change. Keep in the fridge until needed but take it out fifteen or so minutes before serving.


December’s We Should Cocoa challenge hosted by Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog asks us to combine chocolate and alcohol. I think this should fit the bill pretty well in a retro kind of way.


  1. It looks fabulous!
    I love these 1970’s desserts. During the early years of my first marriage we hold dinner parties for friends, thinking we were ever so sophisticated, serving grilled grapefruit as a starter and almost certainly Blue Nun wine at some point!
    I don't remember Malakoff trifle but frequently served sherry trifle, without the jelly of course, as jelly was too common! All desserts would have lashings of piped cream swirls on top.
    And we were all as thin as broomsticks! Ah, those were the days!

  2. Looks amazing... My wife is a big fan of trifle. I'll pass the recipe to her.

  3. I don't remember sophisticated desserts in the 70s - apart from my very daring chocolate mousse I made once for one of my mother's dinner parties. My mother was definitely a pudding person with suet puds being her speciality. Loved them. However, had I the fortune to have come across your Malakoff Trifle, I think I would have been very happy - I certainly would be now. Lovely to have an entry from you for We Should Cocoa - I've missed them.

  4. Interesting to use quark and fromage frais, I'd never have thought to use them instead of cream. Sounds like a wonderful dessert!

  5. I love 70s desserts, having feasted on them for breakfast as a child the mornings after Mum threw a dinner party. Happy memories, and from how wonderful this looks I'd say it's time for a revival.

  6. This is perfect for my taste, saved and will certainly make when we get back home. yum yum. Diane

  7. I don't remember this trifle, but it looks good. One to try.

  8. This is a glorious trifle, and fits the bill for the festive season, greatly look forward to trying out : )
    Best wishes, Ozlem

  9. I must confess as an 80's baby I've never heard of it..however your trifle does look fab, anything with rum also is win win! Loving the idea of popping candy too - I do happen to have some here...


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