Best Holiday Trifle
Prepare cake mix as directed by individual package instructions. You can bake a homemade gingerbread cake recipe that fills a 9x13-inch pan instead of using a box mix.
Don't substitute instant pudding for this. The cook-and-serve makes a real difference in flavor and texture.
You can use light or dark brown sugar. You can use brandy instead of rum, if preferred. Flower- or star-shaped cookies work especially beautifully for this.
This is one dessert where whipped topping works better. That's because it has more volume, is lighter, and fluffier and spreads very easily, and it makes for a better appearance, texture, and taste. Use pumpkin pie filling, not pumpkin puree. You can tailor the spices to your personal taste, but I find this combo to be universally popular: you can really taste the spices without them being too strong. Feel free to add 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger as well.
It is absolutely essential to let this dessert rest in the fridge for at least 24 hours, and preferably 48. It makes a huge difference. Otherwise, it's just a layer of cake, a layer of filling, and cream.