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


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. Just a quick note to let you know that the Cranberry Trifle I made by your recipe yestetday was a hit! I used sugared cranberries as a topping and placed a little Santa Claus in between the berries. So Christmas-ish!! The flavours are perfect together as well. Thank you very much!!5 stars

  2. Just came back from a party where I took the trifle. It was a hit. Everybody loved the balance between sweet and tart. I’ll be making this recipe again for sure!

  3. Could you use an angel food cake made from the whites you’ll have after making the custard? Or would it be too soft and sponge-y to support the layers?

    1. I haven’t tried this with angel food cake so I can’t say for sure. It might be a little bit too soft to hold up. If you try it, please let us know how it goes!

  4. I made this for a tea-party bridal shower I hosted, and it went over fabulously! Besides the scones, this was the only thing I didn’t have any left of. Everyone asked for the recipe! It was delicious and so easy to make. Thank you!5 stars

  5. A spectacular dessert for the Christmas table! Beautiful and it tasted so good; the cranberry complimented the sweetness of the custard and cake. I will make this again.

    1. Custard is more like pudding and not as sweet as frosting. I would worry that cream cheese frosting would be far too sweet in this recipe

    1. I’ve only made this recipe as written but I’m sure it would work. You’ll just want to ensure it had a nice thick pudding-like texture.

  6. I’ve never had one and was wondering how do you serve this to your guests. I’m assuming that you cannot serve like a nice piece of cake..?

    1. No, it can’t be cut like cake. You serve it in a bowl, it’s a little less pretty in the bowl but very delicious.