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Looking for a last-minute dessert to add to your Thanksgiving dessert table? Our Pumpkin Chocolate Trifle is the perfect, easy addition! Layers of spiced pumpkin cake, chocolate pudding, and whipped cream come together in one delicious dessert.
If you’ve ever tried our very popular Soft Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies, then you already know that spiced pumpkin and chocolate are a surprisingly delicious flavor pairing! So we married them again in this creamy, decadent dessert that the entire family will love.
What is a Trifle?
A trifle is an English layered dessert, traditionally made with crumbled or cubed sponge cake (or sponge fingers) that are soaked in sherry or wine, plus custard, fresh fruit or jam, and whipped cream. It’s served in a tall glass bowl so you can see hints of the different layers that make up this luscious, chilled dessert.
For our Pumpkin Chocolate Trifle recipe, we took a lot of liberties with a proper trifle to simplify the recipe, change up the traditional flavors, and make it kid friendly.
In fact, your kids could help you make this dessert – just like ours did. They will be so proud of themselves, especially when everyone raves about the delicious dessert they help to prepare!
Why you’ll love Pumpkin Chocolate Trifle
- You can make this dessert as easy or as gourmet as you’d like! Bake a homemade pumpkin cake and cook up homemade chocolate pudding – or buy a cake mix and boxed pudding mix. The choice is yours.
- The kids will love helping you make this dessert – it’s totally fine if the layers get a little messy. This trifle will still taste amazing and you’ll get a little bit of cake, pudding, whipped cream in every spoonful.
- It’s a make-ahead dessert – in fact – this recipe is best made the night before you plan to serve it so the flavors have a chance to meld. So that will free up your morning to cook up the rest of Thanksgiving dinner.
Key Ingredients & Substitutions
- Pumpkin Cake – Buy a boxed pumpkin cake mix or make the homemade pumpkin cake from this recipe. (Make just the cake, no need to add the cider or frosting.)
- Chocolate Pudding – Make a decadent, homemade double chocolate pudding following this recipe, or buy boxed chocolate pudding mix.
- Heavy cream – To make homemade whipped cream. (We don’t recommend using Cool Whip or canned whipped cream for this recipe.)
- Powdered sugar – To sweeten the whipped cream.
- Pumpkin Pie Spice – To add a touch of spice to the whipped cream.
- Chocolate Baking Bar – You’ll use this ingredient to make chocolate shavings that garnish the top of the trifle. We used Ghiardelli Milk Chocolate Baking Bar which has the perfect amount of milk fat, allowing it to easily curl as you shave it.
- You can easily adapt this trifle recipe to suit your tastes.
Special Tools Needed
- 12-cup trifle dish
- 9×13-inch baking dish or pan to bake the cake
- Stand mixer – To mix the cake and to whip the cream
- Bowls and Whisks – To mix the pudding
- Vegetable Peeler – To shave the chocolate
How do I make Pumpkin Chocolate Trifle?
- Bake the cake according to this recipe or package instructions in a 9×13-inch baking dish or pan. Let cool – then cut into cubes, or crumble into large chunks.
- Make pudding according to this recipe or package instructions.
- Whip cream to soft peaks, adding in powdered sugar and pumpkin pie spice to sweeten and spice the cream.
- Layer some of the cake in the bottom of the trifle dish, then add dollops of pudding, then cream. Repeat the layers to fill the trifle, ending with a layer of whipped cream over the top.
- Use the vegetable peeler to shave the chocolate into curls or little pieces.
- Sprinkle the shaved chocolate over the top of the trifle for garnish.
There are two different ways to build this dessert.
- You can cut the cake into squares and line the trifle dish with even, neat layers of each ingredient – building up about six layers to the top.,
- Or, you can do as we did and crumble the cake so we could intersperse the cake, pudding and cream in a random pattern, which was much easier, a lot less fussy, and the kids can help too – even if it gets a little messy!
- Not matter which method you choose, end with a top layer of whipped cream, then add shaved chocolate.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can I make Pumpkin Chocolate Trifle ahead of time? Yes, this dessert actually needs to sit for several hours for the flavors to meld and the cake to soften before serving. We suggest assembling it the night before you plan to serve it.
- How do I store leftovers? Store covered and refrigerated for up to four days.
- Can I freeze? No – we don’t recommend freezing this dessert.
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Homemade Cake* (see Notes below)
4 whole eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 cup canola oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 box 5.9-ounce instant chocolate pudding mix
3 cups milk
Spiced Whipped Cream
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 chocolate baking bar – milk chocolate or semisweet
- PLEASE NOTE* that the ingredients list above and instructions below assume you are baking a homemade pumpkin cake and bought boxed, instant chocolate pudding – which is what we did for our photos. See additional Notes at the bottom of the recipe.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Spray a 9×13-inch baking dish with pan spray.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat eggs for four minutes until pale in color. Add sugar and beat two minutes.
- Add vanilla and canned pumpkin and beat one minute.
- With mixer running on low, slowly add in the oil.
- Scrape the sides and beat to smooth.
- In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice.
- With mixer running on low, slowly add in the dry ingredients.
- Scrape and beat only until combined.
- Scrape into the prepared casserole dish and bake 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center.
- Cool on a rack then invert on a cutting board and cut into large cubes (ours were about two inches square).
- Make chocolate pudding with whole milk per box instructions.
- Whip cream with confectioner’s sugar and pumpkin pie spice.
- Assemble in a 12-cup trifle bowl in any random order you wish. We just grabbed a few cubes of the pumpkin cake and broke them up a little, then interspersed pudding and whipped cream and kept adding a little of each as we built up to the top. Save some of the whipped cream to finish the top.
- Cover and refrigerate for a few hours to set up.
- When ready to serve, use a carrot peeler and run the blade on the edge of a thick 8-ounce milk chocolate bar to make chocolate curls. Shave directly over the top of the trifle.
- Serve in bowls by spooning out a little of each ingredient.
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*If you swap in a boxed cake mix instead, prepare it exactly according to package instructions. No need to buy all of the Homemade Cake ingredients and you can skip to step 13 of the Instructions.