I don’t want to spend hours in my hot kitchen as the summer heat really starts to set in. That’s where trifles come in…or more specifically this berry trifle.
We just got back from our mini-moon in Miami and Key West, and I wanted to whip up something quick and easy for the Fourth of July. To say I’ve been having a hard time getting back in the swing of things would be an understatement.
Sometimes I forget trifles exist, because I get so caught up in my world of layer cakes.
But trifles are seriously the perfect summer dessert. They’re are packed with light fillings, fruit, and are always so refreshing.
What Is a Trifle?
To be honest, I had to google the full-blown definition of a trifle. I know that trifles involve bits of cake, whipped cream, and berries. However, I wasn’t quite sure about the rest. I also didn’t know the proper order of the layers.
After a bit of sleuthing (thank you wikipedia), I learned that traditional English trifles are usually built with a base of spongecake or ladyfingers, soaked in sherry or fortified wine.
Custard, fruit, and jam are layered on top of the cake, and sometimes topped with whipped cream.
Most trifles these days are made a bit differently though! There also are about a million variations out there, from lemon to chocolate.
Keeping Things Simple: How I Like To Make Trifles
The best part about trifles is that you can fill them with whatever you want, and build them in whatever order you like.
I chose to use vanilla pudding instead of custard in this berry trifle. Why? To keep things simple!
The whole point of a trifle (for me) is that it’s easy to make. However, if you want to make your entire trifle from scratch, this is a great custard recipe.
I also decided to skip the sherry. Most sponge cakes need additional moisture of some sort, whether it’s from a soak of simple syrup, or sherry!
My trifle recipe uses my vanilla layer cake recipe, which is already plenty moist. It’s a butter cake, which has a wonderful fluffy texture. Adding additional liquid to my trifle would make the cake bits soggy.
The Perfect Summer Dessert
When you’re able to pile your fillings into a trifle dish, you don’t have to worry about frosting, or decorating your dessert.
As long as you create even layers of filling, your trifle will be a work of art by the time you finish.
This concept is still totally foreign to me. Once I assemble a cake, I usually still have hours of work ahead of me.
But berry trifles? They’re done in a jiff, and are a stress-free dessert. All you have to do is bake the cake, and gather your ingredients and fillings.
Then make some beautiful layers in your trifle dish, throw some fresh berries on top, and you’re all done.
Trifles are also great make ahead desserts, and can easily be made in advance. Just be sure to fully cover the trifle with plastic wrap to make sure its protected in your fridge.
My Trick To Make A Patriotic Berry Trifle
Berry trifles already seem a bit patriotic in nature. Most trifles are made with mixed berries, like strawberries, and blueberries.
The reds and blues of the berries, layered with white whipped cream remind me of the American flag!
However, I wanted to really get the point across! I used a small star cookie cutter to create some strawberry stars.
If you don’t have any on hand or don’t want the hassle, you can also use sliced strawberries.
The first layer of fruit in my trifle is made with blueberries. The second layer is made with the star of the show (no pun intended!), my cut out strawberries.
I alternated the direction of the strawberries as I added them. The seeds of the strawberries showed on half, and the inside of the strawberry showed on the other half.
Sadly the seed-side strawberries didn’t stand out as much as I had hoped. They were a bit curved since they are cut from the sides of the strawberry.
These strawberries didn’t suction to the sides of the bowl like the others. This caused the jam to seep in around them, making it harder to see their shape.
If I were to remake this berry trifle, I’d recommend orienting the strawberries in the same direction, with the inside of the strawberries placed against the bowl.
Let Me Know What You Think!
Nothing makes me happier than when I get emails or DMs with photos of your amazing creations. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with your triumphs, or questions <3
If you try this berry trifle recipe, please tag me @chelsweets. Also use the #chelsweets so that I can see your baking!
Vanilla Sheet Cake
- 2 cups + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour (276 grams)
- 2 cups granulated sugar (400 grams)
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder (6 grams)
- 1/2 tsp salt (3 grams)
- 2/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (150 grams) - 1 and 1/3 sticks
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract (4 grams)
- 2/3 cup egg whites (or about 5 egg whites) (185 grams)
- 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature (240 grams)
- 1 Tbsp vegetable oil (14 grams)
Vanilla Pudding Filling
- 2 packages vanilla pudding powder (cook and serve, 4.6 oz. size)
- 4 cups whole milk (980 grams)
Vanilla Whipped Cream
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar (60 grams)
- 2 cups heavy cream (or whipping cream) (460 grams)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (3 grams)
- 2 jars strawberry jam (16 oz. size)
- 1 large container strawberries (16 oz. container)
- 1 pint fresh blueberries
- blackberries and raspberries for garnish
- small star shaped cookie cutter
Vanilla Cake Layers:
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line one half sheet pan (9 x 13 inches) with parchment paper, and grease with non-stick cooking spray.
- Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle until fully combined.
- Mix chunks of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix, on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly.
- Pour in egg whites, and mix on low until just incorporated. Mix in the buttermilk in two installments, on a low speed.
- Add in vanilla and oil, and mix at a low speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds.
- Place two flower nails upside down in the cake pan, spread apart evenly. This will help the layer bake more quickly and evenly.
- Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans.
- Bake for 30-32 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the pans to cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan.
- Place cake layers into the freezer for 30 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process.Once the layers are fully cooled, carefully flip the pan and remove the layers.
- Use a serrated knife to trim away any caramelization and cut the cake into 1 inch cubes.
Vanilla Pudding Filling:
- While the cake bakes and cools, make the vanilla pudding.
- Pour vanilla pudding mix into a large, heat proof bowl.
- Heat whole milk over a medium high heat in a large sauce pan.
- Once it just starts to boil, pour it in the bowl with the pudding mix, and whisk until smooth.
- Cover with saran wrap, and place in the fridge to cool.
Vanilla Whipped Cream:
- Next, make the vanilla whipped cream.
- In a chilled metal bowl, add in the heavy cream, granulated sugar, and vanilla extract.
- Beat on medium high speed with a whisk attachment.
- Beat for 3-4 minutes, until medium peaks form. Don't hesitate to stop the mixer and check the consistency as it whips up.
- Keep your eye on your mixer during this process!!! Whipped cream can go from the perfect consistency to over whipped in a matter of seconds. If it is over whipped, it will look grainy, and broken in texture.
To Assemble The Cake:
- Place cubes of cake into the bottom of a trifle dish, fully covering the bottom.
- Add an even layer of pudding over the cake bits, using half the pudding mix.
- Carefully spread strawberry jam on top of the pudding, using one of the jars of jam.
- Create a layer of blueberries, and line the edge of the bowl completely with berries.
- Top with half of the whipped cream, spreading with an offset spatula to create an even layer.
- Repeat with remaining ingredients, but use strawberry slices in place of blueberries.
- Add a garnish of fresh berries to the top of the trifle, and enjoy!
I like to add the pudding before it's fully set, so that it can really fill between the cake bits, and be absorbed by them!
I use a TON of jam in my trifles, because I love it. However, if you don't love jam as much as I do, you can always use less.
These quantities are based on a trifle dish that is 8 inches in diameter. The amount of ingredients you need can vary based on the size of your trifle dish. Please adjust as needed 🙂
Amount Per Serving Calories 302Total Fat 18gSaturated Fat 11gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 6gCholesterol 49mgSodium 175mgCarbohydrates 33gFiber 0gSugar 30gProtein 4g