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 4 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
Servings 8

Ingredients  

  • 1 9×13 white or yellow cake or 1 angel food cake
  • ¼ cup cream sherry or orange juice, orange brandy, or rum
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • maraschino cherries and slivered almonds for garnish optional

Custard (or use vanilla pudding, see notes)

  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 4 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 cup light cream
  • 3 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Berries

  • 2 pints fresh strawberries
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons raspberry jam

Instructions 

  • If the cake is not baked, bake according to package or recipe directions. Cool completely and cut into 1-inch cubes.

Strawberries

  • Slice strawberries and sprinkle them with sugar. Add raspberry jam and stir to combine. Let sit at room temperature at least 1 hour.

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.

Notes

  • 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 4 votes↑ Click stars to rate now!
Or to leave a comment, click here!

Nutrition Information

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

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close up of ingredients to make Trifle with finished dish and writing
Trifle with strawberries and whipped cream with a title
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About the author

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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