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How to Make a Trifle – Basic Trifle Recipe with Adaptations

How to make a Trifle - basic recipe with variations

Trifles are delicious and easy to make. They are gorgeous and the variations are as endless as your imagination! I have always considered trifles to be the “salvation” dessert because they can extend one measly cake to feed a crowd or turn a cake disaster into a triumphant dessert. I never plan to make a trifle, but I always have it in mind as my Plan B when a cake goes in the oven.

How to Make a Trifle - basic recipe with many variations (425x232)To make a trifle you need one cake, preferably a ruined cake, because rescuing a cake disaster and turning it into a trifle adds the sweet taste of victory to your dessert. If you don’t have a cake disaster to work with,  ruined muffins, burnt brownies, or even an epic cookie failure will work. Trifles are also perfect for stretching leftover cake into dessert for company. If you are short on time and need a lovely dessert, you can make a trifle with a store bought angel food cake or pound cake.

Trifles require Pudding or Custard. I usually have the ingredients on hand to make pudding or custard. You can rapidly cool the pudding or custard in the freezer, if you need to. Although I prefer homemade puddings, it never hurts to keep a box of instant pudding mix on hand for emergencies.

Trifles need Sauce or Jam. I base my sauce or jam selection on the flavor of the cake and the other ingredients I have available to me.

Optional Trifle Ingredients. Get creative with what you have on hand!

  • fresh fruits
  • dried fruit
  • nuts
  • chocolate chips

And you should top a trifle off with Whipped Cream. I keep shelf stable whipped cream in my cupboard so I can make Vanilla Whipped Cream any time I need to.

You can make one large trifle or you can make individual trifles in dessert cups. If I am serving a large crowd, I make one large trifle. If there are just a few of us having dessert, I make individual trifles and store the leftover ingredients separately so they do not become soggy.

How to Make a Trifle - Basic Trifle Recipe with Adaptations
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
  • cake, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 cups pudding
  • 1 - 1½ cups sauce or jam
  • 3 - 6 cups fruit, nuts, chocolate chips
  • 2 cups whipped cream
  1. Cut cake into 1 inch pieces.
  2. Spread ⅓ third of the cake pieces across the bottom of the trifle bowl.
  3. Spoon half of the pudding over the cake pieces.
  4. Sprinkle 1 - 2 cups of optional ingredients over the pudding.
  5. Drizzle ½ cup sauce/jam over the optional ingredients.
  6. Repeat steps 2 - 5.
  7. Spread the remaining cake pieces over the sauce/jam layer.
  8. Sprinkle 1 - 2 cups optional ingredients over the cake layer.
  9. Top with the whipped cream.
  10. Drizzle remaining sauce/jam over the whipped cream.
  11. Keep chilled until it can be served. Serve it as soon as possible.


How to Make a Trifle - Variation: Carrot Cake Trifle

Trifle Recipes:

Carrot Cake Trifle

Chocolate Brownie Trifle

Caramel Apple Trifle

Triple Chocolate Raspberry Trifle

Individual Apple Eggnog Trifles

What is your favorite combination of ingredients to use in a trifle?

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About Alea Milham

Alea Milham is the owner and editor of Premeditated Leftovers. She shares her tips for saving money and time while reducing waste in her home. Her favorite hobby, gardening, is a frugal source of organic produce for her recipes. She believes it is possible to live fully and eat well while spending less.


  1. I love how you turn ‘fails’ around to the tastiest treats!

  2. Love this basic recipe to create variations! You can also use yogurt instead of pudding or custard, like in this lemon – berry trifle:

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