Looking for an impressive holiday dessert but don't want to work yourself to death making it? Say hello to trifles.
If you've never made holiday trifles, they're a worthy addition to your yuletide traditions. Originally a British dessert made with sponge cake layered with custard, and fruit, trifles are easy to make, delicious to eat, and beautiful to look at—plus they feed a crowd, which is always a bonus around the holidays!
Typically served in a large glass bowl so you can see the layers, trifles are a showstopping holiday centerpiece. Many trifles take advantage of fruits that we associate with summer, but you can convert almost any trifle recipe into a holiday trifle. Mix in some warm spices like nutmeg and cinnamon, swap in seasonal or frozen fruits, and add some holiday-specific decorative elements for a beautiful and festive holiday dessert.
We rounded up 10 of our favorite, prettiest holiday trifles, plus how-to tips for assembling them.
Tips for Making the Prettiest Holiday Trifles
- Choose a pretty, clear serving bowl so you can really see all those sensational layers. You can use a trifle bowl, but any large, clear, glass bowl will work.
- Alternately, for a fancier feel, make the trifle in individual glasses for single servings. Choose a stylish cocktail glass for an upscale vibe, or a mason jar for a more rustic aesthetic.
- Work from the side of the glass inward. Arrange slices of fruit against the side of the trifle bowl for a lovely presentation.
- Make holiday trifles more festive by getting creative. Make a Christmas tree out of cut kiwi, arrange gingerbread people along the sides of the bowl, or use candy to make a gingerbread house design on top.
- For the easiest garnish, add toppings. Scatter ingredients like chopped nuts, shaved chocolate, fruit, candy, or maraschino cherries over the top for a final flair.
10 Holiday Trifles to Try
With two quintessential holiday flavors in one dessert, this eggnog gingerbread trifle may just become a new tradition. "This dessert is easy to make and a crowd-pleaser!" says recipe creator Jen Graham. Reviewers agree; many said they'll be serving it every Christmas from now on, and ogshortey says, "This recipe is excellent! I made this for a holiday potluck and took home Best Dessert prize!" A few reviewers noted that if you can't find gingerbread cake mix, spice cake mix with molasses and ginger mixed in makes a great substitute.
Featuring spice cake, two flavors of pudding, pumpkin puree, whipped topping, crunchy pecans, and English toffee bits, this super-simple trifle has it all going on. "This is FABULOUS!!" raves home cook smith1048. "I have made it for two parties so far and everyone loved it! I did not use toffee but used walnuts and pecans and caramel instead—very good. I also did not mix the whipped cream and pudding together, so I could have three layers instead of two. It is a great trifle recipe for the holidays!"
Multiple—yes, multiple—reviewers said that they won bake-offs with this recipe. A few reviewers recommend taking it up a notch by adding caramel sauce as well. Talk about decadent! Another tip? A few folks said this holiday trifle was even better the next day—and who couldn't use more make-ahead desserts in their repertoire?
With an angel food base and a mix of pudding, whipped topping, and cream cheese for the layers, this simple but delicious trifle is a great place to start when you're building your dessert plans. "A fantastic recipe for making any occasion special...beautiful to look at and even better to eat. You will get raves. Use any flavor of pudding you like," says recipe creator Joy. While it might seem a tad summery, home cooks who made it during the winter season commented that it was a nice, light dessert after so much heavy food. If you use bananas, a few reviewers suggest soaking the slices in the pineapple juice to keep them from browning—brilliant!
This is one of those recipes that is a hit any time of year, and definitely makes a welcome, beautiful addition to the holiday table. "MARVELOUS! I made this recipe exactly as stated. It gave such a nice presentation. I crushed the vanilla wafers by putting them in a zip lock bag and using a rolling pin. When I dished the dessert out, I sprinkled the top with extra crushed vanilla wafers I had set aside. It was the hit of the night," raves SHORECOOK. Even reviewers who noted that they weren't typically fond of banana desserts said that this trifle was a total game-changer.
Recipe creator Teri snagged this crowd-pleasing recipe from a British friend who was kind enough to share her secrets. Cake, pudding, whipped cream, and fruit are layered together for a stunning dessert. "This is absolutely the easiest and most delicious trifle I've ever tried. I usually flop everything I make, no matter how easy the recipe is—but there is nothing that I could possibly mess up with this recipe, says home cook MISSKARENK. "My boyfriend said this is the best thing I've ever made." For a special look, pipe the whipped cream on the final layer and top with slivered almonds and maraschino cherries.
6. Chocolate Trifle
Although many trifles are pretty fruit-forward, this chocolate trifle shows that doesn't have to be the case all the time. Make all the chocoholics at your table happy this holiday season with this pretty and delicious dessert, which has been marked as "made" over 2,000 times on Allrecipes.com and has garnered more than 1,000 positive reviews. Made with layers of brownie, chocolate pudding, whipped topping, and chocolate, it's simultaneously rich yet light. Home cook luckymom says, "so tasty and so easy to make! I brought this to a neighborhood holiday party and everyone loved it."
Tiramisu isn't technically a trifle, but when recipe creator Carol suggested serving it in a trifle bowl, our trifle-loving wheels started turning! It does, after all, layer a creamy, mascarpone-based filling with ladyfingers, so it's definitely trifle-esque. This Italian dessert would certainly make a special holiday dessert. "This is beyond fabulous. It is a little more work than a standard dessert but tastes like a million bucks," says GoodCookin'. Many reviewers suggest seeking out soft ladyfingers for the best results.
Made over 1,000 times, this simple strawberry angel food dessert is a hit—and ready in just 15 minutes! "Great, easy, elegant dessert," says home cook Belinda Williams Duke. "Everyone raved about how light and delicious it was. I will definitely make this again and again." Gluten-free angel food cake makes this a great choice for anyone with Celiac's or gluten intolerance (or simply on a gluten-free diet). And if you want to cut down the sugar, take home cook Sheila Butler Andrews' tip: She cuts down the sugar to 1/2 cup, swaps in sugar-free angel food cake, and opts for no-fat whipped topping. For a special presentation, serve this layered in individual glasses rather than a large trifle bowl.
A fun take on the classic chocolate- and cherry-studded black forest cake, this holiday-appropriate trifle would be a welcome end to any meal. Recipe creator BRENDAJST says, "A trifle layered in a glass bowl that makes a beautiful display. Rich, yet light. Simple, yet still impressive and colorful. I've made it several times for family holidays and it is always a hit!" This trifle includes pound cake, cherry pie filling, hot fudge, and whipped topping, though reviewers successfully substituted in everything from brownies to angel food cake with great success.
This recipe flips traditional carrot cake on its head by transforming it into a trifle. Start with homemade carrot cake or a mix, and layer with a cream cheese and whipped topping-infused pudding. Then add the crunchy toasted coconut, almonds, and toffee bits for extraordinary results. "Yaaaaaaaaaas! I just brought this to Christmas dinner and it was a huge hit," raves home cook Shlemar. To give it an extra holiday boost, decorate the top with fondant or marzipan Christmas trees instead of carrots.
More Holiday Dessert Ideas