A classic trifle looks impressive—and tastes even better. But this desert is surprisingly easy to make. It’s ideal for any spring or early summer gettogether. You can prepare the components ahead and assemble your fruit trifle the day you plan to eat it. Enjoy!
Trifle dates back to the 1700s when stale cake or cookies were combined with alcohol and custard. In 1861, the author Oliver Wendell Holmes called it a “charming confusion of cream and cake and almonds and jam” among other things.
We have come a long way since then, but the basic idea of a trifle remains the same. There’s no one “right” recipe for a trifle. It’s more of a formula. You can tweak that formula until you find one that you like. You need cake, fruit, and cream. But the flavors are up to you!
It’s best to make this dessert in a large, tall dish made from clear glass so that everyone can admire the layers. If you don’t have a trifle dish, you can usually find one at a thrift store for a few dollars.
Alternately, you can make individual trifles in wine glasses or water goblets. Whatever you choose, people will be too busy eating it to complain about the presentation!
Some people prefer a trifle made with angel food cake, which gives the dessert a much lighter texture (as well as less fat). Others believe that pound cake is the way to go! A few folks might even choose ladyfingers or Nilla Wafers.
Personally, I think a homemade vanilla pound cake is the best choice. Punch up the flavor with a little almond extract and lemon zest, and you’ve got a cake base that’s good enough to devour plain. But store-bought cake works too. Heck, you could make a trifle with leftover muffins if you really want to!
Once you choose your cake, cut it into 1-inch cubes and put it aside. You’ll need about 6 cups in total.
Now you have another choice to make! A classic trifle is made from strawberries, but you can choose any combination that strikes your fancy—or that’s on sale at the grocery store. Think mango and passionfruit. Go for mixed berries. Load up on pineapple. Again, this is your trifle so use whatever flavors speak to you.
The trick is that you need to gentle macerate the fruit. That means tossing it with an acid (like lemon juice) and some sugar, then letting it hang out in a covered dish in the fridge for 1-3 hours. The sugar and acid will make the fruit softer and juicier.
Adding a tablespoon or two of liquor at this point is totally optional. Some people like a boozy dessert. Others prefer to skip the alcohol. It’s totally up to you and the crowd you’re cooking for.
It’s not really a trifle until you bring some cream to the party. Now, if you’re fancy, this layer means custard or mousse, as well as fresh whipped cream. If you’re a little less fancy, it might mean instant vanilla pudding and frozen whipped topping.
I’m not here to judge you. Use whatever you think tastes the best. Sure, fresh whipping cream is amazing. But if you’ve grown up on the stuff that comes in tubs from the freezer case, it’s going to taste a little different.
My recommendation is to use instant pudding and blend it with half a tub of whipped topping. This gives you a lighter, mousse-like texture. Save the rest of the whipped topping for the final layer of your trifle!
The time has come! Start with a cake layer, then cream, then fruit. Repeat that pattern until you reach the top of your trifle dish. End with a layer of cream and then arrange fresh cut fruit on top.
If you really want to make it Pinterest-worthy, garnish with a sprig of fresh mint. Voila! You just made a dessert that your guests will absolutely love.