These Impressive Holiday Trifle Recipes Are Actually Easy to Make

cranberry trifle

There's nothing trifling about these dramatic desserts, which are guaranteed to impress guests but are surprisingly simple to prepare—all you need to do is layer cake with fruit, custard, whipped cream, and other surprises to create a showstopping treat.

01 of 12

For years, the trifle—that extravagant, old-fashioned holiday dessert with English origins—meant layers of sherry-soaked sponge cake, jelly, custard and whipped cream, all displayed in a cut-glass bowl. As our recipes prove, there's a lot more to a trifle than just that. Yes, trifles look fancy, especially if they're served in a footed glass bowl that gives them a pedestal, but the secret behind them is that they are easy to make. In fact, a trifle is not really about the making; instead, it's about the assembling. Sure, some recipes call for baking sponge, almond, or another drier textured cake to layer with fruit, custard, whipped cream, and other delicious surprises, but many of our trifle recipes call for using store-bought cake, such as pound cake.

One thing that is non-negotiable is the serving dish. It doesn't have to be tall or footed, but it does need to be glass. As evidenced by the Strawberry-Banana Pudding pictured here, these are the types of a desserts that you need to see—there are layers and we don't want to hide them. Another thing to love about the trifle is how well it takes on different flavors, as you'll see from our collection of recipes here. Sure, there is magnificent Raspberry Trifle and other fruit-first versions featuring peaches (frozen ones so it can be made anytime of the year) and strawberries. We also have a Lemon Trifle that uses lemon curd rather than fruit and ladyfingers for the cake layer—you could say it's inspired by Zuppa Inglese.

Still, there's more to our trifle recipes than fruit. The trifle shines as an ode to chocolate and peppermint, sparkles in a doubly boozy version with sherry and brandy (which has a definite Italian accent thanks to the use of amaretti cookies and ladyfingers), and is a magnificent holiday dessert when gingerbread is used for the cake layer, pears serve as the fruit, and a cognac custard ties it all together.

02 of 12

Cranberry Trifle

cranberry trifle

With layers of sweetened cranberries, buttery pound cake, and fluffy whipped cream, this trifle is a truly easy and dazzling dessert. You can prepare all the components ahead of time and assemble it shortly before serving.

03 of 12

Gingerbread Trifle with Cognac Custard and Pears


Pears coated in ginger-cinnamon caramel are layered with sliced gingerbread and cognac custard in this spectacular trifle. This dessert is the perfect finale for a holiday dinner.

04 of 12

Lemon Trifle


Impress guests with layers of lemon curd, whipped cream, and ladyfingers soaked in sweet dessert wine.

05 of 12

Christmas Trifle


Store-bought pound cake, lemon curd, and frozen sliced peaches are super time-savers in this lovely layered Christmas dessert.

06 of 12

Triple-Chocolate Peppermint Trifle


Dip into spectacular layers of milk-chocolate pudding and snowy white-chocolate mousse balanced by chocolate-liqueur-soaked cake. Crumbled candy inside and on top adds crunch.

07 of 12

Chocolate Cream-Puff Trifle

Linda Pugliese

We've combined the holiday classic with another crowd favorite: cream puffs! They're layered with anisette-soaked fruit, ricotta cream, and blood-orange marmalade in this hybrid dessert. The best part? Everything can be made ahead.

08 of 12

Raspberry Trifle


Frozen raspberries macerated in sherry and lemon zest give a lively kick to the layers of this festive, coconut-crowned trifle.

09 of 12

Frozen Chocolate-Mousse Trifles


Chocolate angel food cake soaked in brandy and layered with chocolate meringue will have your dinner guests swooning.

10 of 12

Waffle-and-Strawberry Trifle

waffle strawberry trifle
Johnny Miller

Hosting a holiday brunch? Consider serving this breakfast trifle. Save time without sacrificing on flavor by using frozen waffles but making the creamy vanilla pudding from scratch.

11 of 12

Lemon Cloud Trifle

lemon cloud triffle
Ken Kochey

What is a lemon cloud, you ask? It's a mixture of homemade lemon curd, freshly whipped cream, and egg whites that makes a delicious foil for angel food cake and sherry syrup.

12 of 12

Sherry Trifle with Brandy Custard


Layers of brandy-spiked pastry cream, ladyfingers, raspberry jam, toasted almonds, and amaretti cookies make a lovely chorus of flavors and textures in this holiday trifle. The piece de resistance? The whole thing is doused in sherry.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles