Tis the Season for a Holiday Trifle!

Holiday Chocolate and Strawberry Trifle

Trifles can be as easy or as complicated as you want to make them.  They usually contain some form of cake, a fruit and/or pudding and whipped cream. The particulars of what and how to layer are up to you.

I really appreciate order and symmetry (can you tell?) so my trifle looks a little less haphazard than some other recipes I’ve found online. Regardless of how you like to layer, coming up with a construction plan and writing it down ahead of time is essential!

My trifle construction plan:

  1. Genoise base and rolls with strawberry jam brushed with kirsch syrup with strawberries in the gaps
  2. Crumbled almond cookies
  3. Diced strawberries
  4. Chocolate and coffee pastry cream
  5. Crumbled  milk chocolate with almonds and sea salt
  6. whipped Chantilly cream


First, you’ll need to make the pastry cream and Genoise. I started with the pastry cream because it will need to cool before assembly.

Pastry Cream: 

  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2-4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 5-oz. chocolate bar, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons instant espresso

DSC_0006Beat the egg yolks and sugar until creamy. Add the cornstarch, adjusting the amount for how thick you want your cream. I used about 3.5 tablespoons because I want the cream fully set so each piece of trifle comes out of the bowl keeping it’s shape.

In a saucepan, bring your milk and salt to a low boil. Add the espresso. Mix a spoonful of warm milk in to the egg mixture fully to equalize the temperature before adding the rest of the milk. Now return all ingredients to the pan and cook over low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes). Be sure to stir constantly using a wooden spoon or whisk.

Chocolate Pastry Cream
Cooling Pastry Cream

Remove from the heat and mix in the chopped chocolate until fully melted and incorporated.  Pour the pastry cream into a shallow dish or baking pan to cool (the wider and flatter the surface, the faster it will cool). Cover directly with plastic film to prevent it developing a skin.

Basic Genoise:

  • 2/3 cup cake flour (or 53 grams Soft-as-Silk cake flour)
    • *I really like the light texture that Soft-as-Silk flour produces, but regular cake flour is just fine, too.
  • 2/3 cup cornstarch
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup superfine sugar
  • 1/3 cup melted butter, cooled
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • An instant read thermometer
  • 10-12 oz of seedless jam (I used Strawberry)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Butter and line pans for your sponge cake according the size of your trifle dish. My trifle dish has an 8″ top diameter that tapers to 7″ at the bottom. I used a round 6.5″ cake pan and a 10″ x 15″ baking pan. The small round will go on the bottom and I will make a jelly roll from the longer pan’s sponge.


Sift the flour and cornstarch together into a medium bowl.

The thick mixture will have a ribbon consistency

Beat the eggs and superfine sugar in a large heatproof bowl. Once beaten, create a bain marie over which you will continue to beat the mixture until the sugar has dissolved and it reaches 115 degrees.  Remove from the heat and mix with an electric mixer until it has become very thick and tripled in volume.

DSC_0018Use a rubber spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the batter. Add them gradually, sifting about 1/3 over the batter at a time.  Fold in fully to get rid of lumps, but do not over mix.

DSC_0021Spoon about 2 cups of batter into a small bowl and mix in the vanilla and melted butter. Fold the mix back into the larger bowl of batter. Adding the butter like this prevents the larger bowl from loosing air and becoming deflated.

Spoon the batter into the pans quickly (meaning don’t just let your batter sit around at room temp and loose its mojo) and bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on your cake pan dimensions. The cake will shrink away from the sides when it’s done, and be springy to the touch. **It’s better for the long pan (the jelly roll pan) to be a bit under-baked to prevent cracking when you roll it.

Invert the smaller cake onto a rack to cool.

DSC_0023Invert the longer cake onto a clean dish towel.

Roll your cake while it’s still warm. First, create a shallow incision at the short end of your cake to help in rolling (the end nearest you in the photo above). Now use the towel to help roll the cake into a spiral. Don’t worry if the towel gets rolled into the cake, but make sure it’s smooth. Put in the fridge to cool for 5 minutes until it is just cool, but not COLD.

DSC_0024 When your cake has cooled, but isn’t COLD, unroll it carefully. This pre-rolling creates a kind of muscle memory for the cake.

DSC_0025Spread the jam over the cake and re-roll into a spiral. Careful not to tangle any towel up in it this time! Refrigerate until completely cool (20-30 minutes).


Now it’s time for the fun part! As I said earlier, I used almond cookies, a milk chocolate bar with almonds and sea salt, and strawberries, but your ingredients may differ. Have fun using your favorite flavor combinations!

Let’s start building!


Cut the end off the roll for a clean edge and slice one piece at a time into disks that will line the trifle sides. The number of disks you need will depend on the size of your trifle dish.


Place the flat round sponge in the bottom of the trifle dish, leaving space around the sides to accommodate the thickness of your disks. Trim the round sponge as needed.

DSC_0032Continue placing disks snugly around the edge, pressing them gently but firmly into the glass so they’ll stick. Try not to leave any gaps between the slices.

DSC_0033Brush the sponge with kirsch syrup (a distilled brandy syrup from cherries), or your favorite liqueur. Use enough to taste but not so much that the sponge becomes overly saturated.

DSC_0035Crumble almond cookies or some other crunchy favorite on top of the sponge mix.


Next, add a layer of fruit. I used diced strawberries. I set aside several slices to use as decoration between the Genoise disks.


I pressed the strawberry slices between the Genoise disks and against the glass before adding the layer of chocolate pastry cream.


Atop the pastry cream, I crumbled the chocolate bar with almonds and sea salt. Oh my! This is sounding so good!


Finally, I piped whipped Chantilly cream as the last and top layer. As difficult as it is to do, let the trifle set in the fridge for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight. The longer it sets, the better it will retain its shape when you dig into it. What a fantastic and delicious centerpiece for a Holiday celebration!

Happy baking to you and Best Wishes in the New Year!









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