Layers of Cognac custard and warm pears are stacked between slices of gingerbread to create a dessert that's a perfect ending to your holiday feast.

Martha Stewart Living, December/January 1996


Recipe Summary



Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch-round-by-2-inch-tall cake pan; line with parchment.

  • Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, 1 teaspoon ginger, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in a large bowl, and set aside.

  • Beat 8 tablespoons butter in electric mixer on medium-high speed until lightened, 3 to 4 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula. Add 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup at a time; scrape down sides after each addition. Beat until fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes more. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Slowly add molasses, beating on medium speed, about 10 seconds. Slowly pour in buttermilk; beat to combine.

  • On low speed, slowly add reserved flour mixture in 3 parts, beating to combine after each addition. Transfer to prepared pan. Bake until cake tester inserted into center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool on wire rack. Gingerbread may be made 2 days ahead or kept frozen for 1 month.

  • Juice lemon; place juice and both halves in large bowl of cold water. One at a time, peel pears, quarter, core, and cut into 1- to 1 1/2-inch chunks; transfer to acidulated water.

  • Drain pears; transfer half to 12-inch skillet. Add 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons butter, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Place over high heat; saute, stirring, until sugar and butter melt and form caramel, 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium high, cover, and continue cooking 10 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Transfer pears and liquid to large bowl to cool; repeat with remaining pears, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons butter, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Let cool completely.

  • Slice gingerbread into 3 rounds of equal thickness. Cut each round into 8 triangles. Line bottom of trifle bowl with 8 triangles of gingerbread; trim to fit if needed. Spoon 1 cup Cognac Custard over gingerbread, followed by 2 cups pears. Repeat process in two groups, layering with remaining gingerbread, custard, and pears.


Reviews (2)

49 Ratings
  • 5 star values: 12
  • 4 star values: 14
  • 3 star values: 16
  • 2 star values: 5
  • 1 star values: 2
Rating: Unrated
I made this last Christmas and had guests asking for seconds. There were no leftovers. A delicious holiday dessert with an elegant presentation. This could become a holiday tradition (except I am so tempted to create so many of Martha Stewart's fantastic holiday desserts on this site).
Rating: Unrated
OMG! I have a couple of gingerbread cake layers in the freezer--they fell just a bit in the middle, so I decided to save them and make trifle for Christmas Eve dinner. Just received a box of pears as a gift. I was scratching my head, searching high and low for a great trifle recipe. I think this is it. I'll let you know!