What Is a Trifle?

It's a gorgeous layered dessert that's surprisingly easy to make. Here's everything else you need to know!

This elegant dessert that has been around for ages, and anyone who has ever had a cake disaster (when it stuck to the pan or broke in half) should be familiar. In every trifle, layers of something cakey, something creamy and something fruity come together to make a delicious treat.

What Is a Trifle?

The traditional version of trifle that originated in England in the 18th century (or perhaps even before) consisted of three or four layers, including some sort of fruit, alcohol-soaked sponge cake and custard. The fruit and cake were often layered with homemade jelly. This classic interpretation was always served in a round bowl.

American trifles are similar but fortunately, a bit less complicated. They consist of multiple layers of crumbled or cubed cake, pudding and fruit. The flavors can vary widely, from raspberries with peach yogurt and angel food cake to brownies with white chocolate pudding and candy bar bits. They’re topped with whipped cream and some sort of crumbs or nuts to add texture. Trifle should be served in a deep, round dish—ideally one that’s clear so diners can see all of the layers.

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Why I Love to Bake Trifles

If you have a cake that didn’t turn out quite the way you’d hoped, a trifle is a perfect way to rescue it. You can use store-bought cake or brownies, too. (Here are more tips for trifle-making.) You don’t have to worry about your leftovers because trifles actually get better the longer they sit in the fridge—the cake softens and the layers mingle.

Whether you happen to have a busted cake or not, a trifle is a great option for a crowd-pleasing dessert. Keep it in mind the next time you need a showstopper to take to dinner!

More Crazy-Good Trifle Recipes
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Grace Mannon
Grace is a full-time mom with a Master's degree in Food Science. She loves to experiment in the kitchen and writes about her hits (and misses) on her blog, A Southern Grace.