This easy Cranberry Trifle Recipe has soft cake layered with sweet-tart cranberries and a creamy homemade custard.  Trifles are best made ahead of time making them the perfect desserts for potlucks or holiday meals!

Between the combination of sweet creamy custard and fresh tart cranberries, this beautiful trifle is perfect for any time of year!

Cranberry Trifle in a clear dish

What is a Trifle?

A trifle is a traditional British dessert containing layers of soft cake and custard. Trifles often contain layers of fruit and/or liquors and are topped with whipped cream.

Trifle Preparation

I love serving trifles for dessert, especially when I am cooking for a crowd!  They’re always gorgeous, easy to make and the best part is that you make them ahead of time!

This cranberry trifle features a homemade sweet-tart cranberry sauce and a from-scratch custard layered with your favorite cake!  You can assemble this up to 2 days ahead of time but I’d recommend adding the whipped cream & decorations just prior to serving.

close up of sugared cranberries in a white bowl

How to Make a Trifle

So this trifle can be prepared by making each layer from scratch or using store-bought pound cake, vanilla pudding, and cranberry sauce. To be honest, it’s best made homemade.  If you are short on time, the most important part is the cranberry sauce as it’s more tart and fresh than a store-bought version.

  1. Prepare cake
  2. Prepare cranberry sauce
  3. Prepare custard (learn how to temper eggs here)
  4. Layer and refrigerate

You’ll want to allow at least 4 hours for the trifle refrigerate. This allows the cake layers to soak up the sauces a bit and all of the flavors to blend.

Toppings for Trifle

I don’t add toppings until just before serving which keeps it fresh and pretty! You can use whipped cream, whipped topping or even shaved white chocolate and fresh cranberries as a topping. I topped this recipe with Sugared Cranberries and added a little bit of orange peel to make it pretty.

Cranberry Trifle garnished with orange peels

Of course this trifle can be made in any bowl, pan or dish but a trifle bowl is my favorite way to layer it.  Trifle bowls are inexpensive but allow you to see all of the layers which makes a beautiful presentation. We use our trifle bowl for all kinds of desserts, snacks and even for layered salads so it doesn’t just sit in the cupboard!

More Cranberry Recipes You’ll Love

Cranberry Trifle in a clear dish
4.97 from 26 votes↑ Click stars to rate now!
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Cranberry Trifle Recipe

This easy cranberry trifle features soft cake layered with sweet tart cranberries and homemade custard. This beautiful dessert is perfect for any time of year!
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 16 servings
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Cranberry Layer

  • 24 ounces fresh cranberries 2 packages
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Custard Layer

  • 1 ⅓ cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 ½ cups 2% milk
  • 9 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon butter


  • 1 9x13 white cake baked, cooled and cubed
  • Whipped cream for decorating
  • Sugared Cranberries for decorating


Cranberry Layer

  • Combine all cranberry layer ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook uncovered about 10 minutes. Cool completely. Discard cinnamon stick.

Custard Layer

  • Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a large saucepan. Whisk in milk. Stir over medium-high heat until mixture reaches a boil, let boil 2 minutes while stirring.
  • Whisk egg yolks in a small bowl. Slowly add 1 cup of the hot milk mixture at a time to the eggs while whisking. Return the mixture to the sauce pan and stir over medium heat until thick and bubbly. Let boil 2 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla.
  • Cool in the saucepan for 15-20 minutes stirring occasionally. Pour into a large bowl and place plastic wrap on the surface. Refrigerate until completely cooled.


  • Place half of the cake cubes on the bottom of a trifle bowl. Top with half of the cranberry mixture and half of the custard. Repeat layers.
  • Top with whipped cream and candied cranberries if desired.
4.97 from 26 votes

Nutrition Information

Calories: 387 | Carbohydrates: 77g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 136mg | Sodium: 404mg | Potassium: 178mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 54g | Vitamin A: 290IU | Vitamin C: 5.8mg | Calcium: 182mg | Iron: 1.5mg

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

Course Dessert
Cuisine American

Must-Try Trifle Recipes

Recipe Adapted from Taste of Home
CranBerry Trifle with writing
CranBerry Trifle with title



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Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!
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Recipe Rating


  1. I’m guessing when you say add 1cup to the egg yolks for the milk mixture, you mean “at a time”? So I would still add it all in total?
    Sorry if it’s a dumb question.

    1. That is right, Carrie! In step 2 of the custard layer we “Slowly add 1 cup of the hot milk mixture at a time to the eggs while whisking.”. You will slowly want to add the entire hot milk mixture to the custard this is to prevent the egg yolks from heating too quickly and turning into scrambled eggs instead of a smooth custard. Enjoy!

  2. Hi there, I would love to include oranges in this recipe. Do you think adding orange zest to the cake would be the way to go? Or an orange custard layer? Or even fresh mandarin layer?

    1. I think orange would be a delicious addition to this recipe Casey! For more orange forward flavor I would try the orange custard or fresh oranges. If you try it I would love to hear how it turns out!

      1. Hi Holly!

        Thanks for the advice on incorporating the orange. I added a layer of drained canned mandarin oranges on top of the cake layer and beneath the cranberry jelly layer. Two 15oz cans of mandarin oranges (1 can per layer) went really well with the cranberry jelly and the custard. The layers looked beautiful with a kind of ombré sunset coloring. Definitely recommend!

        Happy holidays!

  3. Absolutely beautiful and delicious! I tweaked the recipe to suit family taste and it was a winner! My two year old grandson licked his bowl and asked for more will definitely make again.5 stars

  4. Hi! I’m planning on serving this Christmas Day. I was wondering how far in advance I could make each component? I would assemble everything Christmas morning, but I’m just trying to make life easier :)

    1. The cake can be made months ahead and frozen. The cranberry sauce should be great for up to 4 days and the custard can be made the day before. Merry Christmas!

  5. This looks scrumptious! I have a question – could I use an instant pudding mix? And if so, would I need more than one package of mix?

    1. Hi Amzie, we haven’t tried using instant pudding instead of the custard but I am sure you could! You would probably need two prepared boxes, maybe three if you want to do a thicker layer of pudding. Let us know how it turns out!

      1. Ok, I tried it. I used a purchased pound cake, 2 packages of instant pudding(cheesecake favor) and homemade cranberry sauce. Turned out pretty good. The only cheesecake pudding mix I could find was sugar free and it kinda had that artificial aftertaste. I think next time I will use 3 packages of instant vanilla pudding and an orange pound cake. Thanks again for your help. Wishing you a very blessed New Year!

      2. Mmmm, an orange pound cake sounds like a delicious substitution Amzie! Happy New Year to you too!

    1. All 4 1/2 cups is added in step 1. The mixture is then heated and 1 cup of that heated mixture is slowly added to the eggs.

  6. I made this for Thanksgiving. So delicious. The only thing I did different was I added 4oz of softened cream cheese at the end. It didnt change the custard just added a little creaminess to it. Great recipe!!5 stars

    1. Pound cake is a bit denser and sturdier. A regular white cake would taste great, but it may be a bit softer than with pound cake. Enjoy Lara!