Black Forest Chocolate Trifle is an extraordinary dessert that is surprisingly easy to make.  Layers of chocolate cake, chocolate pudding and cherry pie filling form a beautiful make ahead dessert that everyone loves!

A sprinkle of cherry brandy (kirsch) or Amaretto (or a little of both!) add extra flavor and sophistication to this fabulous treat with little effort. Topped with whipped cream and cherry pie filling it is a sweet treat!

Black Forest trifle with mint and cherries on top

What is Trifle?

A traditional trifle is an English dessert layering sponge cake, custard, a splash of liquor and often fruit. Layered like a parfait, trifles are the perfect dish to feed a crowd and are best made ahead of time and topped with whipped cream just before serving.

Here, the classic Black Forest flavor combo of cherry and chocolate give it the name. Prepare it in a pretty trifle bowl, present it at the table, then sit back and enjoy the “oohs!” and “ahhs!” There’s nothing trivial about the reaction you’ll get!

Layers of black forest trifle

How to Layer Trifle

This recipe calls for a little liquor, but it is totally optional.  You could leave it out, or substitute non-alcoholic flavorings if you’re serving this to kids. Another possible variation is to use crisp chocolate wafers instead of the cake. Try a sprinkle of chopped nuts on top for some crunch (almonds are a great pairing with cherry).

  1. Place half of the cake in the bottom of the bowl and drizzle with liquor (see recipe below).
  2. Alternate layers of trifle pudding, cherries, and cream.
  3. Top with whipped cream, refrigerate and serve ice cold.

Trifle can be made in any number of flavor combinations. Yellow cake layered with bananas and vanilla pudding is fabulous.

Black forest trifle in a dish with a spoon

Can It Be Made in Advance?

Actually, this is one dessert you want to make in advance – but not too far. A day or two ahead, (or the morning of your meal but at least 4 hours), is optimal to allow the flavors to develop and the ingredients to firm and meld.  You also want to serve it chilled.

To make in advance, refrain from putting the final layer of whipped cream on the top (as the chocolate trifle sits, the top make sink a little bit lower in the dish). Tightly cover with cling wrap and refrigerate. Top with a fresh layer of whipped cream just before presenting.

Leftovers will keep for several days in the fridge, although you might find the cake gets a little bit mushy over time.

Can You Freeze Trifle?

Pudding and cake freeze well, but whipped cream does not, so better not plan on freezing this one. But hey, that’s ok! It’s unlikely you’ll ever have to worry about long term storage of this delectable treat!

Perfectly Layered Trifles & Parfaits

Black Forest trifle with mint and cherries on top
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Black Forest Chocolate Trifle

Chocolaty, fruity and creamy Black Forest Trifle is an extraordinary dessert to die for.
Prep Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Refrigerate 4 hours
Total Time 5 hours 10 minutes
Servings 12
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  • 9x13 chocolate cake baked according to package or recipe directions
  • 30 ounces cherry pie filling
  • 4 ounces kirsch or cherry brandy or ameretto
  • 2 boxes chocolate pudding prepared according to directions
  • 16 ounces whipped topping defrosted


  • Bake chocolate cake according to package directions. Cool completely. Cut cake into 1" cubes.
  • Prepare pudding as directed.
  • Place ½ of the cake in the bottom of a trifle bowl. Drizzle with kirsch if using.
  • Top with half of the pudding, half of the cherries and half of the whipped topping. Repeat layers ending with whipped topping.
  • Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. Garnish with sprinkles or shaved chocolate if desired.
5 from 26 votes

Nutrition Information

Calories: 403 | Carbohydrates: 69g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 566mg | Potassium: 269mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 34g | Vitamin A: 173IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 91mg | Iron: 2mg

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

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Black Forest trifle in a dish with mint has garnish and a title
Black Forest trifle in a dish with shaved chocolate and whipped cream with a title
Black Forest trifle in a dish and in a bowl with a title



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Holly Nilsson is the creator of Spend With Pennies, where she creates easy, comforting recipes made for real life. With a passion for nostalgic flavors and simplified techniques, Holly helps busy home cooks create delicious meals that always work. She is also the author of “Everyday Comfort,” which promises to inspire even more hearty, home-cooked meals.
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  1. Haven’t made this fabulous looking trifle YET, but I have made a lot of different trifles. I’ve often wondered if, rather than having two (or more) layers of everything in a standard trifle bowl, it could be made with one layer of everything in a 13″ x 9″ baking dish? I’d love to take this to a family gathering and I think it’d be easier to serve that way. Thoughts?

  2. Hello;

    Can you tell me how many 8 oz cups this would make? If you have that information that would be fantastic. Thank you so much.

    1. Hi Liz, I am sorry. I don’t have that information. But maybe another reader has tried and can offer some advice.

  3. Hi,
    I am looking to make this for young children. Can you suggest what I could substitute for the Kirsch? Thanks! Love your recipes.

    1. I haven’t tried it so I can’t say for sure Sara, but I would try substituting cherry juice. It will make it sweeter though so you may want to reduce the amount. If you try it I would love to hear how it turns out!

  4. I’m making your trifle for a group that has a lady expecting a baby. I have read that cherry juice is a good alternative to Kirsch, but it’s suggested that I reduce the amount of sugar used. Because sugar is not in your recipe, nor can I reduce the sugar in a boxed chocolate cake, do you have any idea how sweet this recipe would come out? Short of making a cake from scratch, do you have any other ideas?

    1. Hi Sherry, I have not tried this recipe by substituting cherry juice so I am not sure how sweet it would come out but would love to hear how it turned out for you!

  5. Bake chocolate cake according to package directions. Cool completely. Cut cake into 1″ cubes.
    Prepare pudding as directed.
    Place ½ of the cake in the bottom of a trifle bowl. Drizzle with kirsch if using.


    1. As you are preparing the pudding to package directions you can use either cooked or instant. I prefer instant as it’s quicker.