By Vanessa Greaves

Let's turn that cake frown upside down

Cake fails can happen to anyone. But when your homemade cake goes sideways, there's no need to toss it out and head to a bakery. Instead, here's how to turn a cake fail into a dessert so swanky, no one will suspect you messed up in the first place. (On a personal note, I wish I'd known about this when I ruined my little brother's birthday cake.)

Related: How to Bake Better Cakes

A Trifling Matter

A birthday cake I baked in middle school still haunts me. It clung to the baking pan like a barnacle, and when it finally came loose in chunks, no amount of frosting was going to right that wrong. But if I knew then what I know now, I would have turned that cake wreck into a gorgeous dessert the English call a trifle. You don't have to trash a cake to make a trifle, but it's good to know you've got backup just in case.

How to Make a Trifle

To make a trifle, simply take those pieces of broken cake (you can use brownies, too) and layer them in a glass bowl or individual glasses with your choice of pudding, whipped cream, fruit, chocolate shavings, caramel syrup, and/or nuts. You can also sprinkle the cake layers with flavored liqueur for extra oomph. Play with the ingredients all you want, because you are the boss of your trifle.

Because you're using a glass vessel, the trifle ingredients will be on display as you layer them up. Now, you can get as meticulous or as rustic as you want with your presentation, but build your trifle with the visuals in mind. And even if you go for casually rustic with ingredients tossed in any old way, you still have the opportunity to make the top-most layer a visual delight. Hold aside some of the fruit, whipped cream, toasted coconut, or chocolate to place on top so everyone will know you meant it to look like this.

Trifle Recipes to Try

Chocolate Coconut Trifle

This recipe uses ladyfinger cookies instead of cake or brownies for a base, but the basic structure is the same. You'll layer the pieces of cake (or brownies or cookies — you get the idea) with chocolate custard, coconut custard, and whipped cream.

Berry Trifle

Pound cake (or pieces of white cake or angel food cake) get layered with three kinds of frozen berries, vanilla pudding, and whipped cream. Rachel Wolkofsky Pollack says, "This is the ONLY dessert I have ever made where my husband asked for seconds...and he doesn't even like dessert!

Photo by clkalli

Banana Trifle

Layers of banana pudding, fresh bananas, whipped cream, and cake are topped off with vanilla wafers. "MARVELOUS!" says SHORECOOK. "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."

Photo by kayleighkathleen

All American Trifle

Here's a good example of how you can top off your trifle to make it look extra festive. What's inside? Layers of strawberries, blueberries, cake, pudding, and an optional sprinkle of coconut-flavored rum.

Photo by jesskajolene

Easy Pumpkin Cream Trifle

Spice cake, cheesecake pudding, English toffee candy, toasted pecans, and whipped cream go into this fall-flavored trifle. "This is FABULOUS!" raves 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."

Photo by Holiday Baker

Related

Check out more recipes for trifle. And heck, why not get to know its sexy Italian cousin, tiramisu?

Advertisement