Kitchen

How to Make a Trifle

A Trifle with layers of fruit, cake, and custard or pudding makes the perfect dessert any time of year.

Cubes of cake soak up the goodness from fruit and custard. Add a drizzle of liquer (or don’t!) and layer in a clear glass bowl for a pretty presentation.

close up of a Trifle

What is a Trifle?

Trifle is an English dessert often made from liquid-soaked cubes of cake layered with fruit and custard or pudding.

The first trifle I ever made was for my brother-in-law and his brother at Christmas. It was a dessert their English mother made for them often.

It’s an easy-to-make but visually impressive dessert! Both light and decadent, it’s the perfect ending to every meal.

Why We Love This Dessert

  • Trifle is an easy recipe for new-ish (and seasoned) home cooks that looks impressive on any table!
  • Made ahead, the flavors blend and make it taste even better!
  • The variations are endless, using seasonal fruits and easy-to-make custard or pudding.
Trifle ingredients with labels

Ingredients in Trifle

Trifle is a colorful combination of liqueur-infused cake, fresh fruit, and custard. It’s always served in a specialty trifle bowl that’s clear but any clear glass bowl will do. Liqueur can easily be switched out for orange juice, honey, or even a flavored coffee syrup.

Cake – Use a store-bought pound cake, angel food cake or bake a packaged mix. Any cake will do! Experiment with other flavors like yellow cake, gingerbread, or a simple white cake. Some trifle recipes also call for sponge cake or even ladyfingers which are cookies often used to make tiramisu.

Fruit – Fresh strawberries (or any fresh berries) work well and we use seedless raspberry jam or jelly. Try blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, sliced peaches or bananas.

Custard – Custard is traditional in an English trifle and actually easy to make from scratch. You can also use ready-made vanilla pudding or homemade tapioca pudding. Feel free to add extracts to custard or pudding, like banana, orange, lemon, rum, or brandy.

Variations

  • Use chocolate cake or even brownies to turn this into a chocolate trifle (caramel or crushed Oreos are a great addition). Use chocolate pudding in place of vanilla.
  • Replace the custard layer with no bake cheesecake, this simple cream cheese mixture adds some extra richness. in place of the custard layer.
  • Try other flavors of pudding if using a boxed mix (like banana pudding) or stir some lemon curd into the vanilla pudding.
  • Stir in other fruits like fresh raspberries or peaches.
  • Garnish with fresh mint, crushed pecans or additional berries.
adding ingredients to dish to make a Trifle

How to Make a Trifle

This berry trifle has an impressive presentation and leaves a sweet impression.

  1. Macerate berries by sprinkling with sugar and adding a bit of jam (per the full recipe below).
  2. Prepare custard (or make instant vanilla pudding). Cube cake.
  3. Place half of the cake cubes in a dish or large glass bowl.
  4. Drizzle with half of the sherry, brandy, rum, or orange juice.
  5. Layer with sliced strawberries & half the custard. Repeat the layers again.
  6. Whip the cream with powdered sugar & spread over the top of the trifle. Cover & refrigerate.

Tips for Trifle

  • Use any kind of cake you’d like. A softer cake will sink a little bit and soak up more of the juices.
  • You can use homemade custard, vanilla pudding or use a custard powder like Bird’s (we use this for Nanaimo bars too!). If using instant vanilla pudding, I add about 1/4 cup extra milk per package.
  • The fruit can be anything you’d like, we prefer macerated fruit (mixed with sugar and rested) because we like the sauce.
  • If made ahead of time, depending on the cake, it can sink a bit in the dish. For this reason, I like to add the whipped cream topping just before serving.
  • It’s really hard to mess up a trifle, have fun and enjoy! 🙂
finished Trifle with strawberries and whipped cream on top

Storing Leftovers

Keep leftover Trifle in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Trifle does not freeze well, but it will be gone in no time anyways!

Our Favorite Fruity Desserts

Did you make this easy Trifle? Leave us a comment & a rating below!

close up of a Trifle

5 from 2 votes↑ Click stars to rate now!
Or to leave a comment, click here!

Trifle

Trifle is such a fresh & easy dessert with layers of white cake, strawberries, & custard!

Prep Time 20 minutes

Cook Time 20 minutes

Chill Time 6 hours

Total Time 6 hours 40 minutes

Custard (or use vanilla pudding, see notes)

Custard

  • Whisk granulated sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Stir in egg yolks, milk, and cream.

  • Heat to a boil over medium-low heat while constantly stirring. Let boil for 1 minute while whisking.

  • Remove from the heat and stir in butter and vanilla and pour into a medium bowl.

  • Cover with plastic wrap allowing the wrap to rest on the surface of the custard and refrigerate to cool completely, at least 2 hours.

Assembly

  • Place half of the cake cubes in the bottom of a large glass bowl or trifle dish. Drizzle with half of the liquor or orange juice.

  • Top with half of the strawberries and half of the custard mixture. Repeat layers once more.

  • Whip the cream and powdered sugar together. Spread over the trifle.

  • Garnish with maraschino cherries and slivered almonds if desired.

  • Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

  • The homemade custard will make 4 cups, use 2 cups per layer.  Use instant vanilla pudding mix in place of custard if desired adding an additional 1/4 cup of milk per package of vanilla pudding.
  • Use any kind of cake you’d like. A softer cake will sink a little bit and soak up more of the juices.
  • If made ahead of time, depending on the cake, it can sink a bit in the dish so I like to add the whipped cream topping just before serving.
  • It’s really hard to mess up a trifle, have fun and enjoy! 
  • Trifle will keep in a covered container in the fridge for up to 3 days. It will not freeze well. 

5 from 2 votes↑ Click stars to rate now!
Or to leave a comment, click here!

Calories: 618 | Carbohydrates: 78g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 214mg | Sodium: 245mg | Potassium: 481mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 59g | Vitamin A: 1183IU | Vitamin C: 71mg | Calcium: 275mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.

Course Cake, Dessert
Cuisine American
close up of ingredients to make Trifle with finished dish and writing
Trifle with strawberries and whipped cream with a title
close up of Trifle with a title
close up of Trifle with writing

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