Whenever I need a dessert for a crowd (20+ people) I make an easy-peasy trifle. Trifles are brilliant – they are quick to assemble, feed a ton of people, taste great, look amazing, always impress people and can be varied a jillion ways to suit your taste, what you have on hand or what’s in season. All you need are cake, pudding, maybe some fruit or nuts and whipped cream.
Some Up-Front General Trifle “Good to Knows”
- Normally I am all for making a cake from scratch, and if you want to go that route my Dark Chocolate Cake is quick to whip up and desperately, deeply delicious. However, if you want to save a few minutes, your favorite chocolate cake mix will do nicely for a trifle.
- I don’t go to the bother of making pudding from scratch. Jello Cook and Serve is great. Please note, you do need to use the cooked kind. Instant will NOT do – it tastes wonky and it’s too loose.
- The one area where you cannot cut corners is the whipped cream. It must be real whipped cream. Cool Whip is the devil. Hey, I ate my fair share of it in the 80’s and 90’s (were there any desserts in the 90’s that didn’t involve Cool Whip?), but it’s a hard NO for me now. Once you go real, you don’t go back, and you and your body are worth the small effort!
For this chocolate cream trifle you need the following things:
- A really large glass bowl– a large trifle dish, a punchbowl (finally, a use for gramma’s punchbowl!), or any clear, attractive bowl.
- Your favorite dark chocolate cake mix and all the ingredients to make it, or a from-scratch dark chocolate cake.
- 2 large boxes of Jello Cook and Serve chocolate pudding and 6 cups of milk to make the pudding. Again, don’t use instant pudding.
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream – be sure it is heavy whipping cream, not just “whipping cream” or “light cream”. You need the extra “oomph” (okay, glorious butterfat) of heavy whipping cream or the cream layer won’t hold and you’ll have a soggy trifle.
- If you are not feeding a crowd you can halve these amounts. For the cake either bake a mix cake in 2 layers and just use one layer. Or, choose a scratch cake recipe (like mine) that only makes an 8″ or 9″ square cake.
And if you want to take a minute or two to make it really fancy, you’ll need a bar of dark chocolate and a veggie peeler.
So here we go:
1. Make the pudding according to package directions.
Pour pudding into a large container, press plastic wrap onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming, and chill in the fridge until completely cold and set. I usually do this the nite before.
2. Make your cake and let it cool completely.
You can also do this the nite before and cover it with plastic wrap. With a sharp knife, cut the cake into small cubes.
3. When your pudding and cake are ready to go, make the whipped cream.
Pour 2 cups very cold heavy cream into chilled mixing bowl of stand mixer and attach the wire whisk beater. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use a hand mixer or the wire whisk attachment of a stick blender. Add 1/3 cup powdered sugar, 1 tsp real vanilla (let’s all take moment to pray that the price of vanilla goes back down!), and a pinch of salt. Blend on low until combined. Whisk on medium until slightly thickened and then on high until you have stiff peaks.
4. Place a layer of cake cubes in the bottom of the bowl and top with a layer of pudding and a layer of whipped cream.
5. Put another layer of cake cubes on top of the whipped cream, and gently press the cake down to set the layers.
Be careful not to squish any pudding or cream up the sides! Also, don’t make the cake layers too deep (about an inch and a half). If you don’t use all the cake, don’t worry – cook’s treat! Or you can freeze them to make cake and ice cream sundaes.
6. Spread on another layer of pudding and then another layer of whipped cream.
To make spreading the layers easier, dollop small amounts of pudding or cream around the dish, rather than dumping the whole amount in the center.
You should now have a magical bowl of chocolate heaven that looks like this:
7. For an easy and impressive topping, use a veggie peeler to shave small curls off a bar of dark chocolate.
8. Sprinkle the chocolate curls evenly over the top of the trifle.
Work very quickly, because the warmth of your hand will melt the delicate curls. If you have a bench scraper, you could scoop the curls up with it and shake them off so your hands never touch the chocolate.
9. Cover with plastic wrap and chill the trifle for a few hours for all the flavors to blend and the cake to soften a bit.
Plan to eat the trifle the same day you assemble it. If you’ve beaten your cream really well, the layers should hold up for a few days – that is if there are any leftovers!