Rating: 3.44 stars
9 Ratings
  • 5 star values: 4
  • 4 star values: 2
  • 3 star values: 0
  • 2 star values: 0
  • 1 star values: 3

No other dessert turns heads like a trifle. Festive in every way, this trifle recipe glows from within with scarlet layers of juicy cranberries. The filling is made from an astounding 6 cups of antioxidant-packed cranberries! We made the custard “skinny” with a combination of low-fat milk and light coconut milk. From-scratch brown-butter sponge cake, made with whole-wheat pastry flour, stands in for store-bought ladyfingers.

Katie Webster
Source: EatingWell Magazine, November/December 2011


Read the full recipe after the video.

Recipe Summary test

6 hrs

Nutrition Profile:



Cranberry Filling
Sponge Cake


Instructions Checklist
  • To prepare custard: Whisk 1/2 cup milk with cornstarch in a medium bowl; set near the stove. Whisk 3 eggs, 1 teaspoon coconut extract and 1/4 teaspoon salt in another medium bowl. Combine the remaining 2 1/2 cups milk, coconut milk and 2/3 cup sugar in a large saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until steaming but not bubbling. Whisk the hot milk into the cornstarch mixture, then return the mixture to the saucepan and bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.

  • Gradually whisk the hot milk into the egg mixture. Strain through a sieve into a bowl or storage container. Cover and refrigerate until cold, 4 hours or up to 2 days.

  • To prepare cranberry filling: Combine cranberries, cranberry juice, 1 cup sugar and honey (or agave) in a large saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until most of the cranberries burst open, 7 to 10 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Or transfer to a storage container and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

  • To prepare sponge cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large (12-by-16 1/2-inch) rimmed baking sheet (half sheet pan) with parchment paper. Trim the paper so it covers the bottom of the pan completely, but does not curl up the sides. Coat the paper and pan sides with cooking spray. Place 5 eggs (in the shell) in a stand mixer bowl or large mixing bowl, add very warm tap water and set aside to warm the eggs and bowl.

  • Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, swirling occasionally, until the white flecks of milk solids in the bottom of the pan start to turn golden brown, 4 to 8 minutes. Scrape into a medium bowl. Let cool to room temperature, then stir in 2 teaspoons coconut extract. Set aside.

  • Meanwhile, whisk whole-wheat pastry flour and cake flour in a medium bowl; set aside.

  • Drain the water and break the eggs into the warmed mixing bowl. Add 2/3 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt and beat with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until tripled in volume and very pale light yellow, 5 to 15 minutes (depending on the strength of your mixer). To test if it's beaten well enough, lift the beater from the batter: as the batter falls off the beater into the bowl, it should mound for a moment on the surface.

  • Gently fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture with a whisk, in two additions, until just incorporated. Gently fold about 1 cup of the batter into the reserved butter. Then gently fold the butter mixture into the bowl of batter with a whisk until just incorporated, being careful not to overmix. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared baking sheet.

  • Bake the cake until puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 8 to 12 minutes. Cool in the pan on a large wire rack for 10 minutes. Gently run a knife around the edges and turn the cake out onto the rack; remove the parchment and let cool completely.

  • To assemble trifle: Cut the cake into 1-inch cubes. Spread about 1 cup of the custard in the bottom of a trifle dish. Top with about 3 cups cake cubes and 1 cup of the cranberry filling. Repeat the layering 3 more times.

  • To prepare topping: Just before serving, whisk or beat cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Whisk in yogurt, confectioners' sugar and 1 teaspoon coconut extract until smooth. Spread over the top of the trifle. Garnish with coconut.


Make Ahead Tip: Prepare the custard and cranberry filling, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days; tightly wrap the cooled cake and store at room temperature for up to 1 day. Or prepare the trifle through Step 10, cover and refrigerate for up to 8 hours.

Equipment: Trifle bowl or similar 12-cup glass serving dish; 12-by-16 1/2-inch rimmed baking sheet

Agave syrup or nectar is the naturally sweet juice extracted from the agave plant. It has a lower glycemic index and is lower in calories than table sugar, but is even sweeter. Use it in moderation when substituting for table sugar. Look for it near other sweeteners in large supermarkets and natural foods stores.

Whole-wheat pastry flour is milled from soft wheat. It contains less gluten-forming potential than regular whole-wheat flour and helps ensure a tender result in delicate baked goods while providing the nutritional benefits of whole grains. Find it at large supermarkets and natural-foods stores.

Large thin flakes of dried coconut called coconut chips make attractive garnishes. Find them in the produce section of large supermarkets or at melissas.com. To Toast: Cook in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 5 minutes.

Nutrition Facts

357 calories; protein 7.2g; carbohydrates 60.2g; dietary fiber 2.8g; sugars 45.5g; fat 10.3g; saturated fat 6g; cholesterol 111.3mg; vitamin a iu 434.1IU; vitamin c 7.2mg; folate 27.4mcg; calcium 88.1mg; iron 1mg; magnesium 14.1mg; potassium 175mg; sodium 179.8mg; thiamin 0.1mg; added sugar 39g.

Reviews (6)

9 Ratings
  • 5 star values: 4
  • 4 star values: 2
  • 3 star values: 0
  • 2 star values: 0
  • 1 star values: 3
Rating: 1 stars
This recipe sounded really good to me but made so many servings that I waited an entire year to make it. NOT worth the wait. Given the poor reviews for the cake portion of the recipe I made a cream cheese pound cake for the cake portion. The cranberry compote I omitted the honey and found 1 c. of sugar made it sweet enough. The custard was a disaster! I followed that portion of the recipe as written and it was the consistency of a custard you would churn in an ice cream maker (before churning). It never set up after cooling it so I put it back on the stove and stirring constantly brought it back up to 180 and then it thickened like a pastry cream should. After tempering the egg mixture make sure you put the mixture back into the sauce pan and cook it otherwise it won't set up right. What a dud of a recipe!! The taste was good once the pastry cream was fixed and was all said and done but there are better trifle recipes out there for sure. Pros: good flavor combination Cons: custard missing a step Read More
Rating: 1 stars
I love the concept for this dessert and the idea works just not with the full recipe provided here. I rated this poor because if you would follow the recipe as it is it would be horrible. If you change out the cake to a different cake recipe it is wonderful. Its a waste and terrile to put a recipe in a magazine and have people waste their time and money for something that end up in the garbage...My cake did! To say I cook alot is an understatement Its my hobby. I have professional experience and I am certain I was not mistaken in my execution. Pros...The recipe for the cake part is horrible. I can't imagine it was truly tested but it was chewy in texture. On the up side the custard section worked very well and was delicious! In regards to the cranberry...I think the use of the unsweetned cranberry juice is an unneccessary expense. Its pricey and unless you really like the taste of that to drink (extreme tartness) I would pass because to buy a whole jar and only need a small amount for the recipe is extravagent in my opinion. I substuited 3/4 cup fresh meyer lemon juice since I had it on hand and added a 1/4 cup water to the full cup called for of the cranberry juice and it was great! As a solution to the poor cake recipe I found an amazing coconut pound cake to stand in and paired with the dessert wine Jana Angel Eis by Scott Harvey. It was a true holiday dessert that everyone was so blown away it was worth the work! I served it in antique wine classes as single se Read More
Rating: 5 stars
So creamy and delicious. The cranberries add just the right amount of tart to balance the sweet. Read More
Rating: 4 stars
First a note: I made everything in the recipe except the homemade sponge cake. I opted to use a white box cake for times' sake. This trifle was a HUGE hit with my family - so much so that they want me to make it again this year! Read More
Rating: 1 stars
Cake recipe didn't work at all! I diligently followed the cake recipe and as I was spreading it in the pan I had my doubts. There didn't seem to be enough dough for the half-sheet pan. And indeed when it baked I was right. It made a pancake instead of a cake. I don't think it rose at all and came out very chewy. I don't bake that much but I've never had this much of a failure. Very disappointed. And now I have to come up with an alternative cake to go in the trifle for a party tomorrow. Guess I might end up with store bought pound cake. Pros: Good combinations otherwise Cons: Cake recipe didn't work! Read More
Rating: 4 stars
Cake Recipe needs tweaking but otherwise gets raves! I have made this recipe twice for holidays to rave reviews. I made it the first time and followed the cake recipe. The cake was disappointing but I still served it and everyone in my family still liked it. The cake recipe made a flat chewey cake...resembling fluffy leather more than cake. So the next year I replaced that cake with angel food cake and I swapped out plain greek yogurt for honey vanilla greek yogurt in the whipped topping and shaved a little white chocolate over the top. Let me tell ya...OMG! Amazing spot on! No complaints I will make this again. One person said she could not get enough of it & it reminded her of the beach. Since I served this at Thanksgiving & Christmas it is great for serving a crowd at holidays. Coconut and Cranberry are an nontraditional combination at holidays but you will find that everyone is pleasantly surprised and will come back for seconds! Pros: Amazing flavor healthy untraditional yet crowd pleasing Cons: Cake recipe does not work Read More