Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Trifles

It's a gorgeous layered dessert that's surprisingly easy to make. Learn what is a trifle and everything else you need to know!

This elegant dessert has been around for ages and anyone who has ever had a cake disaster, like 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. Here’s everything you need to know about trifles.

By the way, these are some of our best trifle recipes.

What Is a Trifle?

The traditional version of trifle that originated in England in the 18th century (with less similar dishes being made even earlier) 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, peach yogurt and angel food cake to brownies, 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 Is It Called a Trifle?

According to FoodTimeline, the name trifle comes from “the Old French trufe (or truffle), meaning something of little importance.” For us, this means that dessert trifles should be easy to assemble, serve and eat. Take a look at these other easy dessert recipes that also come together in a snap.

Making a Trifle

Since trifles are relatively quick and easy to make, there aren’t a ton of steps or specific measurements required. That said, we put together a how-to make a trifle guide that will take you through the ingredients, tools and method you’ll need to make a delectable trifle.

What Is the Best Way To Layer a Trifle?

Your trifle layers will depend a bit on which recipe you’re following or what ingredients you’re using. But, in general, the best way to layer a trifle is, from bottom to top: cake, custard then fruit, repeating these layers until you reach the top of your dish. Typically, these layers will then be topped with whipped cream and a crunch topping, like nuts or crushed cookies. Additionally, your trifle recipe might call for a liquid layer of simple syrup, liquor or fruit juice, which would go between the cake and custard layers.

Can I Make a Trifle the Day Before?

Absolutely! In fact, letting your trifle rest overnight allows the flavors to meld, making it taste even better. If you have a top layer of fresh whipped cream, though, wait to add it until just before serving. Here are some more overnight dessert recipes that get better with time.

How To Store Trifles

To properly store a trifle overnight, or store a leftover trifle, cover the trifle dish tightly with plastic or beeswax wrap. Then, place the dish in your refrigerator where it can be kept for up to four days.

Will a Trifle Get Soggy Overnight?

Overnight, the liquids in the trifle will start to soften the cake layers, but they shouldn’t get soggy. It won’t be until about three days after being assembled that the cake layers will disintegrate and be soggy. That said, the level of sogginess will depend on what sort of cake and custard you’re using.

Can You Freeze Trifles?

We wouldn’t recommend freezing a trifle. This is because custard, which is dairy-based, does not freeze well and will likely separate. If you do freeze a trifle, expect that the texture to be drastically affected.

How Long Does a Trifle Last?

When stored properly, a trifle will last you three to four days in the refrigerator. After that, your trifle will start to get a bit gloopy, but will still be safe to eat.

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.
Caroline Stanko
As Editor, Caroline writes and edits all things food-related and helps produce videos for Taste of Home. When she’s not at her desk, you can probably find Caroline cooking up a feast, planning her next trip abroad or daydreaming about her golden retriever, Mac.