Rebecca Shetler Fast

Chocolate Berry Trifle

Rebecca Shetler Fast
Chocolate Berry Trifle

This sumptuous dessert is my go-to for potlucks and large holiday crowds, and is pretty much the gooey mother load of comforting desserts. Despite its many layered parts, Chocolate Berry Trifle has a special spot in my small repertoire of slam-dunk, crowd-pleasing desserts. The trifle, for those not familiar, is a brilliant British concoction that layers cake (traditionally a sponge cake) with fruit, alcohol, cream and pudding. The great thing about this dessert is that you can make it entirely from scratch or buy all the components and assemble them for a creation that is much more then the sum of its parts. 

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Easiest Chocolate Cake (make and cool in advance)

  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 cup water


  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the dry ingredients (cocoa, flour, sugar, soda, salt) until evenly combined.
  3. Make 3 holes in the mixture and add the oil, vinegar and vanilla to each hole. Pour the water over the mixture and whisk briefly until evenly mixed.
  4. Pour the batter into a greased 9" cake pan.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick or knife inserted comes out clean. 
  6. Cool and remove from the cake from its pan.

Homemade Vanilla Pudding (make and cool in advance)

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 cups milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla


  1. Combine sugar, cornstarch, salt, and milk in a medium heavy bottomed pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. When the mixture comes to a boil, turn to low.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks until smooth. Slowly add 1 cup of the hot milk mixture to the yolks, whisking constantly to avoid curdling.
  3. Add yolk mixture back to the hot milk mixture whisking vigorously until combined. Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla, whisking until the butter has been fully incorporated.
  4. Cover with cling wrap and allow to cook for 2 hours prior to using.

Berry Whipped Cream (make immediately prior to Trifle assembly)

  • 2 tablespoons berry puree (can substitute a low sugar raspberry or berry jam)
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  1. Add all the ingredients to a large metal bowl, or a stand-mixer. Whisk with a handheld mixer or stand-mixer until the cream forms stiff peaks. 


  • 2 12 ounce bags mixed frozen berries
  • 1 container fresh raspberries for topping

To assemble the trifle:

  1. Both cake and pudding must be cold or at minimum room temperature prior to assembly.
  2. Start by selecting your largest and deepest clear bowl, it can be a trifle bowl specifically designed, a deep crystal bowl, or another deeper container. The goal is to be able to see the layers through the glass, but in a pinch, just find a large bowl.
  3. Layer 1: Cake. Next you will be tearing up the chocolate cake into large chunks and layering it on the bottom of the bowl, it doesn't have to be a perfect coverage, just try to keep it relatively even. 
  4. Layer 2: Pudding. Ladle a thin layer of pudding as evenly as possible over the chocolate cake, paying particular attention to the edges (this will be the part you will see through the side of the bowl). Also note here, that you want to be careful during the layering not to smudge the edges of the bowl if possible. 
  5. Layer 3: Frozen berries. In their still frozen form, scatter one 12 ounce container evenly over the pudding layer, it does not need to cover completely. For the best presentation, make sure to pay attention to lining the sides of the container fairly evenly with berries.
  6. Layer 4: Berry Whipped Cream. With a spatula, dollop and spread whipped cream carefully over the berry layer, again the coverage does not need to be perfect, and be mindful of the edges of the bowl.
  7. Repeat Layers 1-4 again (as space allows) in your bowl. If you are not able to do a full two layers of all the ingredients, make sure to end with the cream and a topping. 
  8. For my trifles, I tend to use fresh as opposed to frozen berries for the topping as I find the frozen ones don't hold up visually well in the hours the trifle sits before eating. Experiment here with whatever fruit you find most visually appealing, strawberries, berries, kiwis and chocolate all make great toppings.
  9. Cover and refridgerate until ready to serve, this trifle will hold for a few hours prior to serving, but does not keep as a leftover.