Chocolate Trifle – Easy, Elegant Party Dessert
Chocolate Trifle is one of those desserts everyone can get behind, including the cook. Who doesn’t love pudding, chocolate cake, and fresh, thick, whipped cream? This beauty looks fancy and elegant but it’s a snap to put together. My chocolate trifle is a perfect finish for a holiday dinner because it looks (and tastes) amazing, but it’s easy enough to bring to any potluck (and you will be the king or queen of that potluck!)
You can go all-in fancy by making your cake and pudding from scratch or grab your favorite mixes for both. One thing is non-negotiable tho – ya gotta whip your own fresh whipped cream. No Cool Whip allowed! 🤣🙅🏻♀️ Just trust me on that, okay? It’s the real whipped cream that takes humble chocolate cake and pudding from basic yum to sublime treat. ❤️
Ingredients for Chocolate Trifle
- 1 box of your favorite dark chocolate cake mix, prepared according to box instructions.
- 2 large boxes or chocolate COOK and SERVE pudding (NOT instant!), prepared according to package instructions for pudding (not pie filling).
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- ¼ cup powdered sugar
- ½ tsp. vanilla
- a large bar or either milk or semi-sweet chocolate – your choice. If you have a Trader Joe’s nearby, I highly recommend their Pound Plus bars!
- A great big bowl, like a punch bowl or large trifle dish. You can also make individual trifles in canning jars or pretty glasses if you want to go that route.
Preparation Steps and Tips
The first thing you need to do is bake up a 13″ x 9″ chocolate cake. Grab your favorite mix and make it according to the package directions for baking it as a 13 x 9 single layer. Make sure you choose a deep, dark chocolate cake mix, not a German Chocolate cake mix. If you want to bake a from-scratch cake, you do you boo. To me, this is one of those times when a mix will do! Once you’ve baked the cake let it cool completely.
While your cake is baking whip up your chocolate pudding. The most important thing to remember here is to use the COOKED kind of pudding – NOT instant!!! Seriously, the difference in quality and flavor is beyond worth the bit of fuss. Again, if you like to make your pudding from scratch go for it. You will need a double batch. And just like with the cake, make sure your pudding is thoroughly chilled before assembling the trifle.
Make sure you buy heavy whipping cream, not light cream or regular “whipping cream”. You want the highest fat option here because that will help stabilize your whipped cream, and thus ensure your trifle doesn’t turn into layered soup. 🤣
Also, some people say whipped cream comes out better if you chill your bowl and beaters first, so go ahead and pop them in the fridge while the cake and pudding cool. TBH I don’t really notice the difference, especially with heavy whipping cream, but I always do it “for good luck”. 🤷🏻♀️
When you are ready to put your trifle together combine the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Whip on high until STIFF peaks form. This is not the time for soft, billowy whipped cream. If your whipped cream isn’t stiff enough it will collapse under the weight of the cake and pudding layers and turn your trifle into a sad (but still tasty) mess.
Note: I have a snap below of me spreading on a layer of whipped cream so you can see how well it holds its shape.
You are going to use this chocolate bar to create easy chocolate shavings to decorate the top of the trifle. Milk and Semi-Sweet chocolate work best. Dark chocolate is a bit too “dry” in texture and you’ll end up with chocolate dust. It’s better to get a fairly good-sized bar to work with. You won’t need it all but it will make shaving the chocolate easier if the bar is large. And darn, you’re going to have to find something to do with the leftovers. 😉
You can absolutely bake your cake and make the pudding a day or two in advance. Pudding that has been completely chilled in the fridge will be pretty stiff, so you will need to give it a good stir before using it. Do not whip the cream until you are just about to assemble the trifle.
How to Assemble Your Chocolate Trifle
Step One – Cut up the Cake
Cut your completely cooled cake into small squares. Don’t worry about getting them perfectly even. You’re going to tumble them together in layers and they will break up a bit as you do that, so no worries.
Step Two – Start Layering
Cover the bottom of your dish with a layer of cake chunks, then spread about a ½ inch layer of pudding and an ½ inch layer of whipped cream. If you are using a bowl with sloped sides like a punch bowl, don’t use too much pudding or cream on this bottom layer – you want to make sure you have enough for the top layers. If you are using a straight-sided bowl, you will use equal amounts for each layer.
An offset spatula (see picture below) is the best tool to use here.
Continue layering cake, pudding, and whipped cream until you have used up all of your ingredients. Depending on the size of your bowl, you may not use up the ingredients before you run out of room. No worries. Any “leftovers” can be turned into individual trifles – or as we call things like that around here, “the cook’s treat”. 🤣😁
Step Three – Shave the Chocolate on Top
Once your trifle is all layered up it’s time to gild the lily. Grab a vegetable peeler and go to town on that chocolate bar. Sometimes when you are shaving chocolate it can get very static-y and fly all over the place. Also, you don’t want to handle the shavings as they will melt very quickly. So it’s best to just shave the chocolate directly over the trifle. You can also shave the chocolate onto a flexible cutting board so you can sprinkle the shavings over the top of the trifle without touching them.
Oh my word – look how beautiful that thing is. Don’t you just want to fall face-first into that!? 🤣😁
Step Four – Chill (or Not) and Serve
You can assemble this trifle a few hours ahead if you like, and just keep it chilled until ready to serve. Or – go ahead and dig right in. This isn’t like a fruit trifle that needs several hours for the fruit juices to soak into the cake. It is open for business when the last chocolate curl hits the top.
Definitely refrigerate any leftovers. If you’ve done a good job getting your whipped cream nice and stiff, the leftovers can last a day or two.
Now, I will warn you about something. Every time I’ve served this I’ve noticed that no one wants to take the first serving. It’s so beautiful that no one wants to “ruin” it by tucking in. So, you’re going to have to be ready to take one for the team and grab the first scoop! 🤣🤣🤣 Also, don’t get your heart set on bringing home leftovers.
Extra-Special Chocolate Trifle Variation
If you really want to get fancy with this and take it in a Black Forest direction, grab a can of best-quality cherry pie filling (the thickened stuff, not just cherries in juice). Spread the pie filling on top of the second layer of cake instead of the pudding. Top with whipped cream and continue layering with the rest of the cake, pudding, and whipped cream. Too YUM!
I hope you will give this easy, crowd-pleasing Chocolate Trifle a whirl at your next party or potluck!
Looking for some other family fave and easy desserts? Check out these recipes!
- large Trifle dish or punch bowl
- 1 box Chocolate Cake Mix - Prepared per package instructions and baked as a 13" x 9" cake
- 2 boxes Chocolate Cook and Serve Pudding Mix - Prepared per package directions for pudding
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- 1 large bar milk or semi sweet chocolate
- Bake cake and cool to room temperature. Cut into small cubes.
- Cook and cool pudding to room temp, or chill.
- Combine cream, powdered sugar and vanilla. Whisk until stiff peaks form.
- Spread a layer of cake cubes in the bottom of your bowl. Using an offset spatula, over the cake spread a ½ inch layer of pudding, then whipped cream.
- Repeat layers in that order until you either run out of bowl or ingredients, ending with whipped cream on top.
- Using a veggie peeler, shave the chocolate bar over the top of the trifle to decorate the top.
- Either chill for an hour or so or serve immediately.