Easy Chocolate Cream Trifle

A little bit of chocolatey heaven

A little bit of chocolatey heaven

Whenever I need a dessert for a crowd (20+ people) I whip up an easy-peasy trifle.  Trifles are brilliant – they are easy as can be, 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 is in season. Normally I am all for making a cake from scratch, but in this case I really wouldn’t go to all that bother.  I also wouldn’t go to the bother of making some over-the-top pudding from scratch.  Ye olde Jello Cook and Serve will do just fine.   The one area where you must not cut any corners is with the whipped cream.  It must be real whipped cream.  Cool Whip is the devil.  Whenever I serve this dessert I invariably get comments like “oh my gosh!  is this REAL whipped cream!?”  like I’m serving gold bars dipped in diamonds.  Oh America, sometimes you make me sad. In this post I will walk you through a basic chocolate cream trifle and then in another post I’ll share some ideas for other flavor combos, some I’ve made, some I just haven’t had an excuse to yet. For a chocolate cream trifle you need the following things:

  • A really large glass bowl.  You can use an actual trifle dish (a large one), a punchbowl (finally, a use for gramma’s punchbowl!), or any clear, attractive bowl.  The operative words here are (1) clear and (2) large.
  • Your favorite deep, dark chocolate cake mix and all the ingredients to make it (eggs, oil, water- whatever the box says).
  • 2 large boxes of Jello brand Cook and Serve pudding and 6 cups of milk to make the pudding.  Don’t use instant!  Instant pudding tastes wonky and it’s just too soft to hold up in this dessert.
  • 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, fat) of heavy whipping cream or the cream layer will “fail” and you’ll have a mushy trifle.
The building blocks of a delicious dessert

The building blocks of a delicious dessert

  • And if you want to take approximately one extra minute to make it really fancy, you’ll need a bar of dark chocolate and a veggie peeler.
A bar of dark chocolate and your trusty veggie peeler.  Mine is obviously well-loved

If you grew up in the 70’s or 80’s “chocolate Mork” doesn’t sound very appealing, does it?  I just love Ikea!

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 the cake according to package directions.  Bake in a 13″ x 9″ pan, again according to package directions.  Let cake cool completely.  With a sharp knife, cut the cake into small cubes.

Cut the cake into small cubes

Go ahead and taste a few cubes, just to make sure the cake is good. Ha!

3.  After the pudding is chilled and cake is cooled, pour very cold 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 (Nielsen Massey rocks!) 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.

This whipped cream is fine for eating, but way too soft for this dessert - keep beating!

This whipped cream is fine for eating, but way too soft for this dessert – keep beating!

Here is what you are looking for - nice stiff peaks.  I just love a whisk attachment - so many tines to lick!

Here is what you are looking for – nice stiff peaks. Yay whisk attachments – so many tines to lick!

4.  Place a layer of cake cubes in the bottom of the bowl and top with a layer of pudding then a layer of whipped cream.  If your bowl has sloped sides, use about 1/3 each of the cake, pudding and cream;  if you are using a straight-sided trifle dish, use 1/2 the cake, pudding and cream.  Be sure to spread the pudding and whipped cream all the way to the edges so the dish will look pretty. 

A small offset spatula makes quick work of spreading the layers.

A small offset spatula makes quick work of spreading the layers.  Hmmm…didn’t do a good job spreading that pudding layer.  Do as I say here, not as I did…

5.  Put another layer of cake cubes on top of the whipped cream.  Don’t make this layer too deep (about an inch and a half).  If you don’t use all the cake, don’t worry – we’ll find a use for it!  Using the palm of your hand, gently press the cake down to set the layers, being careful not to squish any pudding or cream up the sides.

Press gently - you want an even layer of cake without squishing the other layers

Press gently – you want an even layer of cake without squishing the other layers

 6.  Spread on another layer of pudding and then another layer of whipped cream. Don’t make the layers too thick – about 1/2 an inch each.  Depending of the size of your bowl, you may have a bit of pudding and/or cream left.  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.

It's easier to spread small amounts evenly placed.

It’s easier to spread small amounts evenly placed.

7.  You should now have a magical bowl of chocolateness that looks like this:

A blank canvas, just waiting for a bit of adornment.

A blank canvas, just waiting for a bit of adornment.

8.  For an easy and impressive topping, use a veggie peeler to shave small curls off a bar of dark chocolate.

a sharp peeler + delicious chocolate = decorative goodness

a sharp peeler + delicious chocolate = decorative goodness

9.  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.   Feel free to lick your hands clean afterwards, tho!

Yummy chocolate perfection

Yummy chocolate perfection

10.  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.  When you are ready to serve the trifle, just dig right in with a serving spoon, making sure each bowlful has an equal amount of pudding, cake and cream.

Oh, what to do with any leftover ingredients?  Grab a small dish and make a mini trifle or two for the chef to enjoy!  This is actually a little bit of a tradition around here.  Whenever I make a trifle, I always hold a bit of the ingredients back to make a mini trifle for my husband.  It’s the little things, really, that make a marriage good.

Another excellent use for my awesome new tiki glasses!

Okay, so maybe my beloved tiki glasses were not the most aesthetically appealing choice for a mini trifle vessel.  But darn it, I love those glasses!

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