With its pretty layers, pumpkin flavor, and make-ahead-friendly recipe, Pumpkin Spice Trifle is a festive dessert for all of your holiday gatherings.
When I shared a sneak peek of this recipe on Instagram the Friends references immediately started rolling in. Who can forget Rachel adding beef and peas between the layers of whipped cream in the iconic Thanksgiving episode? I promise you that this recipe does not include beef or peas. But it does include all of the classic fall dessert ingredients - creamy pure pumpkin, warm spices, tender cake, and fluffy whipped cream. This is a make-ahead dessert that is perfect for fall celebrations, and has the added benefit of being beautiful to look at.
Here’s everything you need to know.
What Is a Trifle?
A trifle is a layered dessert that typically includes cake, custard and / or whipped cream, and fruit. However, there are endless variations on the classic layers and this dish is easy to customize. For the best presentation, trifles are best served in a high-sided glass dish.
How to Make Pumpkin Trifle
- Make the cake layer. Bake a 9x13 spice or pumpkin cake. Let it cool completely and then crumble or slice into cubes.
- Make the pumpkin layer. Combine pumpkin puree, cream cheese, powdered sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and pure vanilla extract until smooth.
- Assemble the layers. Layer the cake, whipped cream, toffee bits, and pumpkin mixture in a trifle dish.
- Refrigerate for 4 to 24 hours.
- Top with some more toffee bits before serving chilled.
- Spice Cake - Almost any type will work, but I like to use boxed spice cake or pumpkin cake. If you have a favorite homemade cake recipe that will work with these flavors, that’s a great option, or you could make a double batch of my easy pumpkin cake.
- Cream Cheese - I always use Philadelphia Cream Cheese because I think it has the best flavor and smooth texture. Let it come to room temperature first which will make it easy to beat until smooth.
- Powdered Sugar - Powdered sugar will mix easily into the pumpkin layer. If you don’t have powdered sugar, light brown sugar will work as a substitute.
- Pumpkin Puree and Pumpkin Pie Spice - Be sure to grab pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie filling which already has some flavoring added in. Then add pumpkin pie spice so that the flavor is the best. If your pumpkin pie spice has been hiding in the pantry for a few years, be sure to grab a new small bottle so that you get the best flavor.
- Pure Vanilla Extract - For vanilla flavor.
- Frozen Whipped Topping - We tested this recipe both with frozen whipped topping and with fresh cream. In the recipe card below, you’ll find instructions on how to use either one. The frozen whipped topping was easier to work with and held its shape even over a long refrigeration time, so we used that as the default in the recipe.
- Heath Toffee Bits - Look for these pre-chopped Heath bars in the baking section of most grocery stores. Around the holidays you can sometimes find a version that doesn’t include the chocolate (it’s just toffee), but the dish is great with or without the chocolate flavor.
Tips for Success
The most fun part of this entire recipe is assembling the finished dish. Pay attention to the layers around the edges of the trifle dish since this is what people will see when you bring your dish out to serve. If you want it to look especially beautiful, just make the outer edges of each layer look good. Also keep in mind that you may need to adjust the layers slightly depending on the size and shape of your trifle dish. You may not need all of the cake or you might want to add some extra toffee bits.
For best results, serve the refrigerated trifle within 24 hours. The textures will change and the whipped cream may soften over time, but the dish will still be delicious served as leftovers for up to four days.
Yes. If all you have is pumpkin pie filling, it is fine to use it here. If the pumpkin pie filling includes sweetener, you may want to reduce the added sugar in the recipe by half.
A great substitute is toasted or candied pecans instead of the Heath Toffee Bits. You could also use mini chocolate chips for a more chocolate-forward dessert.
More Pumpkin Dessert Recipes
- Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
- No-Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust
- Slow Cooker Pumpkin Cheesecake
- One-Bowl Pumpkin Cider Bread
- Chewy Chocolate Pumpkin Cookies
- Silicone Spatula
- KitchenAid Stand Mixer
- Trifle Bowl
Pumpkin Spice Trifle
- Standing or Hand Mixer
- Trifle Bowl
- 1 box Spice Cake Mix or Pumpkin Bread, baked according to directions (see note)
- 1 8 ounce package Cream Cheese, softened to room temperature
- ¾ cup Powdered Sugar
- 1 14 ounce can Pumpkin Puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
- 1 Tablespoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
- 2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
- 1 16 ounce container Frozen Whipped Topping (this should be about 6 cups; see note)
- 2 cups Heath Toffee Bits
- Let the cake cool completely and then slice or crumble into bite-sized pieces.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer with the whisk attachment (or using a hand mixer), beat the softened cream cheese on high until very smooth. Add powdered sugar and beat again until the mixture is smooth, 2 to 3 minutes more, scraping down the sides as needed. Add pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla and mix until evenly combined.
- In a large trifle bowl, layer one third of the cake pieces, half of the frozen whipped topping, and one third of the toffee. Top that with one third of the cake pieces, pressing down gently to compress, then all of the pumpkin mixture, and one third of the toffee. Finally, add another layer of cake and all of the remaining whipped cream. Reserve the last third of the toffee.
- Refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours. Top with the remaining toffee right before serving. Serve chilled.
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