This gingerbread trifle is light and fruity, with a warm hint of spice, for a classic Christmas dessert with a twist.
It’s also easy to make. You can have this gingerbread trifle on the table within 45 minutes, with only 10 minutes hands on time, and no cooking.
What’s more, this gingerbread trifle recipe is perfect for using up all the leftovers!
Ready to make gingerbread trifle? Scroll down to the recipe
I created this to use up a carton of brandy sauce I always buy for my mum to have with the traditional Christmas pudding, but Covid Tier 4 prevented her from visiting. I hate waste. I put it down to being the daughter of a post war child – my mum is so intent on using things up that I once had to throw out a jar of horseradish sauce from her fridge that was 11 years out of date! Whatever it is though, I can’t bring myself to throw out food, so anything that will recycle is a good thing in my book.
You could use any fruit to mix with your ginger cake – I think bananas, orange or mango would work equally well – but we chose to go with pineapple. The addition of fresh fruit makes this trifle recipe an elegant Christmas dessert that’s less heavy than the traditional cakes and puddings, but with just enough creamy decadence to feel indulgent.
We always do a baked ham on Boxing Day – Nigella’s Ham in Coke is our favourite, with Dauphinose potatoes and a simple steamed cauliflower. But after the heavy food of Christmas day I really want something with fresh fruit, that’s still a treat, and so I turn to trifle. I’ve made so many variations over the years, always fancying something new, and this year I had the added complication of not one, but two items I couldn’t see us using, but that I’d hate to throw away.
The best part is that this gingerbread trifle is really easy to make. All you need to do is whisk the cream and mascarpone, then simply chop the cake and fruit, and assemble. We already had a gingerbread cake that was starting to get a bit dry, which is perfect for trifle, but you could buy a basic supermarket ginger cake, or make one yourself if you feeling like going the extra mile.
How to make an easy Christmas trifle
- 1 small ginger loaf cake or equivalent amount of home baked cake (about 250g)
- 1 435g tin chopped pineapple (260g drained weight)
- 3-5 pieces of stem ginger, depending how much ginger you like, plus 5 tablespoons of syrup from the jar
- 60ml gingerbread syrup (or you could use Malibu for a more tropical, alcoholic version)
- 10-15 mini-gingerbread men (like the ones you get in supermarkets, or around 8 home baked larger ones)
- 250g mascarpone
- 500g tub of ready made brandy sauce (or custard for a non-alcoholic version)
- 300ml double cream
- Trifle bowl or deep serving dish
- Electric whisk or large balloon whisk
- Measuring spoons or jug
Chop the ginger cake into rough chunks about 3-5 cm in size and put them in the bottom of a large glass serving dish or trifle bowl. You don’t need to be too precise here as the cake is going to be soaked in liquid eventually. As long as you have chunks not crumbs it will work.
Drain the pineapple chunks, reserving the liquid, and scatter these on top of the cake.
Finely chop the stem ginger and sprinkle over the cake and fruit.
Spoon 3 tablespoons of the syrup from the jar of ginger over the fruit and cake, then pour over the gingerbread syrup or Malibu. You could also substitute some of the reserved juice from the pineapple can if you prefer a more fruity flavour. Don’t overdo it though. You want moist, not slushy!
Lay the gingerbread men around the sides of the bowl, face out. they will show through the custard to make a delightful centrepiece!
Whisk the mascarpone with the brandy sauce until thickened and smooth, then pour over the cake and fruit, being careful not to dislodge the gingerbread men. Chill for 30-60 minutes.
Mix the remaining ginger syrup from the jar, or some of the pineapple juice into the cream, and whip till you get soft peaks. Spoon this over the top of the trifle, sprinkle with any decoration you fancy (I used edible gold glitter but silver balls/stars would work, or even a little cinnamon!) and serve immediately.
If you’re looking for dessert ideas for a party you won’t go wrong with this trifle. It’s an easy dessert recipe for dinner parties, for Christmas, or even as an alternative to a birthday cake. I’d love to add sparklers to this gingerbread trifle for a celebration!
Tips for making the perfect gingerbread trifle
Is a gingerbread trifle easy to make?
Yes, absolutely! The hands on time for this trifle recipe is only 15 minutes, and all you need to do is a bit of chopping and some whisking. As long as you leave 30 minutes for chilling, you can have this cheats Christmas trifle on the table in under an hour with no stress at all.
Do I need any special equipment to make a gingerbread trifle?
No. As long as you have weighing scales, measuring spoons or jugs, and a whisk, all you need is a pretty trifle bowl or deep glass dish to show off your trifle layers. Everything else – chopping boards and sharp knives – is likely to be in your kitchen already.
Where can I buy stem ginger?
Most supermarkets stock stem ginger in jars. You’ll usually find them either in the home baking sections or with the dessert sauces and dried fruits. You can also buy stem ginger online.
You’ll usually get a jar of about 10 pieces, so you might want to consider making these stem ginger cookies to use them up. Stem ginger has quite a long shelf life though, so as long as you keep them in the fridge they will be usable for several months after opening.
Can I make gingerbread trifle with fresh ginger instead of stem ginger?
The beauty of stem ginger is its soft, succulent sweetness. Fresh ginger has quite the opposite feel to it, with a fiery kick more appropriate to stir fries or chilli. Whilst a little fresh root ginger works well in a smoothie, I feel it would be too intrusive in this sweet and sticky dessert recipe, and I’d avoid it here.
If you can’t get stem ginger, you could use tiny pieces of chopped crystallised ginger, available in the baking section of most supermarkets. Again, this has a much stronger taste, so I’d reduce the quantities. You’d also need to make up the liquid with one of the other ingredients listed here.
Where can I buy gingerbread syrup?
Gingerbread syrup is sometimes a bit difficult to find in your average supermarket, although Tesco do stock it around Christmas time. You can also order gingerbread syrup online. If you’re a fan of a Gingerbread latte at Christmas I recommend stocking up, if only to save money on Starbucks!
Is gingerbread trifle suitable for vegans?
This easy to make trifle recipe isn’t vegan due to the addition of the cream, brandy sauce and mascarpone. However you could substitute these with vegan alternatives quite easily to make a trifle that’s suitable for a vegan diet.
There are several brands offering vegan alternatives to custard and double cream, and a google search comes up with lots of recipes for making mascarpone using vegan cream cheese. I haven’t tried these in a trifle, so I’d love to know how it works if you make it.
You’ll also need to find some vegan gingerbread men and cake, or make your own using vegan spread in place of the butter. Try to find a brand with a high fat content, and lower water content, which doesn’t work well in baking recipes.
Is gingerbread trifle gluten free?
For an easy way to make trifle I’ve used a ginger cake that we already had, but you could make your own using gluten free ingredients. Make sure to use quality brands, and if making this trifle for a person who can’t eat gluten, always check the labels on all ingredients for any traces of gluten.
I’ve also seen a gluten free ginger tray bake made by Doves Farm, which would be an easy way to cheat on the cake as I did. Don’t worry that it comes iced – our ginger cake also had cinnamon butter icing, but we just scraped it off to be left with the sponge. (I do think it would be nice to throw a bit of the icing into the trifle though, if you have a very sweet tooth!
Is gingerbread trifle safe to eat while pregnant?
As long as all your ingredients are in date and fresh enough to be eaten normally, there shouldn’t be any problem with eating this Christmas trifle whilst pregnant. Ready made custards are usually made with pasteurised eggs, so will be safe if in date. Swap out the brandy sauce for a plain vanilla custard to avoid the alcohol, or even make your own with custard powder. And use the non-alcoholic liquids suggested in this recipe instead of the Malibu.
Egg safety advice varies from country to country so please check information local to you. In the UK check the NHS guidance on foods to avoid when pregnant. Eggs were considered safe at the time of writing (Dec 2020).
Can I make gingerbread trifle with different ingredients?
The joy of a trifle is that anything goes! As long as you have the basics of a moistened cake layer, fruit, a custard layer and cream, you’ve got yourself a trifle. For a true gingerbread trifle you need a ginger cake base layer, but traditional trifles use madeira cake. I’ve even seen trifle recipes using leftover Christmas cake!
You could definitely substitute the pineapple with other tropical fruits like mango or banana, and the sharp tang of an orange would be a nice contrast to the sticky gingerbread.
And you certainly don’t need to use brandy sauce or mascarpone to make a great gingerbread trifle. Any kind of custard will work, and the mascarpone could be left out without this trifle suffering. Without the mascarpone the pudding will taste a little less creamy, but you could add extra double cream if you’re aiming for a creamy trifle.
What goes well with gingerbread trifle?
Well I’m biased, but a traditional trifle calls for a glass of sherry in my book. I went completely retro this year and bought a bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Cream. It brought back memories of sneaking the odd sip through my childhood Christmases whenever I thought no one was looking!
For a non-alcoholic accompaniment I like a small glass of ginger ale (not beer), or you could finish off with a gingerbread latte, in place of your usual end of meal coffee.
Can I add extra fruit to this recipe?
Yes you could add in a little more fruit, and you could even do a mix of pineapple and mangos, but be careful not to overdo it. You need each layer to be fairly equal so that the whole thing stays trifly, rather than turning into a cakey fruit salad.
Can I freeze this gingerbread trifle?
No. Trifle doesn’t freeze well at all, and you’ll end up with a sloppy mess if you try. Try to make only what you need and finish it all in one meal.
Can I make gingerbread trifle ahead of time?
Trifle will only stay nice for a few hours, so I’d recommend making this gingerbread trifle recipe on the day you plan to serve it. You could make it in the morning for an evening dinner, but that’s as far as I’d push it. It also doesn’t keep well, so it’s definitely an occasion dessert for one meal only.
Can I make this trifle recipe in different quantities?
Yes. Bearing in mind that trifle doesn’t keep well over time, it’s definitely a good idea to make only what you need. I’d recommend doing the maths all in one go and writing down your quantities so you don’t accidentally use the full quantity of one ingredient. This is a fail I’ve made many times! Bear in mind that you’ll also need a smaller trifle dish to showcase the layers nicely.
Why did my trifle turn out wet and sloppy?
You need to be very careful about the quantity of liquid you use in a trifle. The measures used above should be enough for a 200-250g cake base, but if you’ve added extra fruit you might need less liquid.
The other possibility is that you made your trifle too far in advance. As the custards and cream sit together with the fruit they tend to break down and become more liquid, so it’s best to make a trifle just before you’re ready to serve it.
Can I change the flavours in this trifle?
Yes. As long as you have a cake layer, some liquid to moisten, a fruit layer, a custard layer, and a cream topping, you can use any flavour combinations you like. You could make a summer version of this easy trifle recipe using a rose or lavender flavoured cake, with strawberries and a passion fruit custard. Or try using Christmas cake as your base, with some Tia Maria and a vanilla custard for a rich trifle recipe to use up leftover Christmas cake.
- Glass trifle bowl
- Electric or balloon whisk
- 1 small ginger loaf cake (around 250g)
- 1 435g tin chopped pineapple, 260g drained reserve the juice if making an non-alcoholic trifle
- 3-5 balls of stem ginger from a jar
- 5 tbsp syrup from the stem ginger jar or use Malibu for an alcoholic version
- 10-15 mini gingerbread men supermarket biscuits are fine
- 250 g mascarpone
- 500 g brandy sauce or custard
- 300 ml double cream
- sprinkles to decorate
- Chop the ginger cake into rough chunks about 3-5 cm in size and put them in the bottom of a large glass serving dish or trifle bowl. You don't need to be too precise here as the cake is going to be soaked in liquid eventually. As long as you have chunks not crumbs it will work. Drain the pineapple chunks, reserving the liquid, and scatter these on top of the cake. Finely chop the stem ginger and sprinkle over the cake and fruit.
- Spoon 3 tablespoons of the syrup from the jar of ginger over the fruit and cake, then pour over the gingerbread syrup or Malibu. You could also substitute some of the reserved juice from the pineapple can if you prefer a more fruity flavour. Don't overdo it though. You want moist, not slushy!
- Lay the gingerbread men around the sides of the bowl, face out. they will show through the custard to make a delightful centrepiece!
- Whisk the mascarpone with the brandy sauce until thickened and smooth, then pour over the cake and fruit, being careful not to dislodge the gingerbread men. Chill for 30-60 minutes.
- Mix the remaining ginger syrup from the jar, or some of the pineapple juice into the cream, and whip till you get soft peaks. Spoon this over the top of the trifle, sprinkle with any decoration you fancy (I used edible gold glitter but silver balls/stars would work, or even a little cinnamon!) and serve immediately.
Looking for more Christmas leftovers recipes?
Try this Christmas pudding ice cream.