Best Holiday Trifle

This holiday trifle is a unique showstopper of a dessert and is ridiculously easy. Every time I make it, I get raves because the presentation is beautifully dramatic and the flavors are unbeatable. Ideal for Christmas or Thanksgiving. When you bring this out, you will get "wow" from your guests. Make sure you include the topping, because that is what makes the presentation so elegant, belying the very easy nature of this recipe.

Prep Time:
45 mins
Cook Time:
35 mins
Additional Time:
1 day 30 mins
Total Time:
1 day 1 hrs 50 mins
12 servings


  • 1 (14.5 ounce) package gingerbread cake mix

  • 1 ¼ cups lukewarm water

  • 1 egg

  • 1 cook-and-serve vanilla pudding mix

  • 3 cups milk

  • 1 (30 ounce) can pumpkin pie filling

  • ¼ cup brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon rum (Optional)

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1 (12 ounce) tub thawed whipped topping (such as Cool Whip®)

  • 10 gingersnap cookies


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

  2. Combine cake mix, water, and egg in a large bowl using a fork. Pour batter into an ungreased 9x13-inch baking dish.

  3. Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 28 to 33 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely, about 30 minutes.

  4. Combine pudding with milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit and cool completely with a layer of plastic wrap directly touching the surface, to prevent a skin from forming.

  5. Meanwhile, mix pumpkin filling, brown sugar, rum, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and cloves together in a large bowl using an electric mixer on low speed until well blended, 2 to 3 minutes.

  6. Tear cooled cake into cubes or bite-size pieces. Arrange in a layer at the bottom of a large glass or trifle bowl. Pour 1/2 of the pumpkin mixture over cake; layer 1/2 of the whipped topping over pumpkin. Repeat layers.

  7. Pulverize 2 gingersnap cookies in a food processor or place in a plastic bag and crush using a rolling pin or mallet. Dust over trifle. Stand 8 whole gingersnap cookies up around the circumference of the trifle.

  8. Cover trifle with plastic wrap and refrigerate, 24 to 48 hours. Remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving.

Cook's Notes:

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.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

399 Calories
12g Fat
68g Carbs
5g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 12
Calories 399
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 12g 15%
Saturated Fat 7g 34%
Cholesterol 19mg 6%
Sodium 484mg 21%
Total Carbohydrate 68g 25%
Dietary Fiber 7g 24%
Total Sugars 16g
Protein 5g
Vitamin C 3mg 14%
Calcium 145mg 11%
Iron 3mg 16%
Potassium 341mg 7%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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