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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.


Recipe Summary test

45 mins
35 mins
1 day
1 day
12 servings


Original recipe yields 12 servings
The ingredient list now reflects the servings specified
Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

399 calories; protein 5.1g; carbohydrates 67.6g; fat 11.6g; cholesterol 18.5mg; sodium 484mg. Full Nutrition