Incredible Vegan Trifle! A British favourite with layers upon layers of vegan sponge cake, mixed berry compote, vegan custard, vegan whipped cream and fresh fruit. Dessert doesn't get better than this!
This vegan trifle is literally piled high with deliciousness. Those layers! Cake, jammy compote, rich custard, fresh fruit, whipped cream... I can't even handle it!
In this post - Everything you need to make an amazing Vegan Trifle:
Ingredients & equipment notes
Here's the rundown on what's going on in this vegan trifle recipe:
- Cake - We will be making a basic vegan vanilla cake for the base of the trifle. My recipe is super simple and quick, come with a gluten-free option, and is made using these basic pantry ingredients:
- Fruit compote - Made simply with frozen mixed berries, sugar and a lemon.
- Custard - For this, we will be following my vegan custard recipe. Here's what you need:
You will also need:
- Fresh fruit - This is optional. It's still great without. You can use your favourite fruits or whatever is seasonal. Soft fruits like berries and peaches can go in as they are and harder fruits like apples, pears, rhubarb etc should be cooked first. You can even add drained canned fruit if you want to.
- Liquor/juice - This is for drizzling over the cake pieces before you build up the layers for extra flavour and moistness. I love to use orange liquor, limoncello, brandy, sweet sherry or marsala but you can use any liquor that you enjoy and that will compliment the trifle. For an alcohol-free vegan trifle use freshly squeezed orange juice, pomegranate juice, grape juice or cranberry juice.
- Cream - This is a dairy-free trifle so we will be using vegan whipped cream. Use a store-bought vegan cream or make your own homemade coconut whipped cream. I like to use So Delicious Cocowhip. Don't use a spray/aerosol cream because it deflates quickly and turns watery.
A trifle bowl or any other large clear bowl is required for assembly. Even a large straight-sided glass vase will work. I used a standard sized trifle bowl for this recipe. It is 8 inches in diameter and 8 inches deep. It holds approximately 3696 mls ( 125 oz / 15½ cups).
How to make vegan trifle
(For detailed measurements and instructions, see the printable recipe card).
There are lots of steps when making vegan trifle but each one is simple and doesn't take much time. I recommend prepping each layer of the trifle (except the whipped cream) at least the day before so there's plenty of time for them to cool before assembling.
Prep the components:
Make the cake: This will become your vegan trifle sponges. The cake doesn't need to be perfect because it's going to be cut into pieces. It also doesn't matter if it's a bit stale when used in the trifle.
- Whisk the dry ingredients together, make a well in the center and add the wet ingredients.
- Fold gently together.
- Spoon into a cake pan and bake.
- Allow the cake to cool completely. You can make the cake up to 2 or 3 days before you are going to assemble the trifle.
Make the compote:
- Simply throw the berries, sugar and lemon in a pan.
- Cook down until thick and reduced, then allow to cool. You can make the compote up to a week ahead.
Make the custard:
- Add the dry ingredients to the pan.
- Slowly add the milk whisking as you go to work out lump.
- Stir constantly as it heats and thickens.
- Once it's thick and easily coats the back of a spoon, transfer to a container, cool and refrigerate. You can make the custard up to 3 days ahead.
Assemble the trifle: This is where the fun starts!
- Add a layer of cubed-up cake to the bottom of the bowl then drizzle with alcohol /juice. I like to tumble some fresh berries in amongst the cake cubes but that's entirely optional.
- Spoon the compote all over the cake layer.
- Add some optional fresh fruit of choice.
- Spoon the custard over the compote layer then let it set for about 30 minutes (or longer).
- Finally spoon whipped cream over the custard layer and decorate the top. Fresh fruit, toasted almond flakes, pistachio crumbles, a drizzle of compote juice, rose petals, pomegranate arils. You can have all sorts of fun!
Success tip: Refrigerate the trifle well before you dig into it. This allows the flavours to come together nicely and also lets the layers firm up a bit and settle. You'll have a much easier time serving!
Vegan trifle is such a great dessert for feeding a crowd because everything you need is right there in the bowl and no accompaniments are required.
Making in advance & storing
The cake, compote, and custard can all be made well in advance. The cake up to 3 days before (or you can freeze it for up to 3 months), the compote up to a week before and the custard up to 3 days before.
For the best eating experience, the trifle itself should be assembled no earlier than the day before you need it, but leftovers will keep for 4 or 5 days if covered in the fridge.
Freshly squeezed orange juice, pomegranate juice, grape juice or cranberry juice all make great alternatives to alcohol in a trifle.
No, you don't have to use jelly in a trifle. In this recipe fruit compote replaces it. Vegan jelly is pretty hard to come by but it is possible to buy I believe. If you want to use jelly make it up as per the instructions on the packet then pour it over the cake pieces in the bottom of the bowl. Put in the fridge and allow to set before adding any more layers. If you do this you can omit the compote or add it in addition to the jelly.
Yes! This recipe is really easy to scale up or down and it looks really pretty made in small glass bowls or glasses.
For the cake
- 2 cups (250 grams) all purpose flour , (plain flour in the UK). Use Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free 1 for 1 Baking Flour for GF
- ⅔ cup (133 grams) white or cane sugar
- 1½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda , (bicarbonate of soda in the UK)
- ½ tsp salt
- ¾ cup (180 ml) plant milk , unsweetened and unflavoured
- ½ cup (120 mls) oil or melted vegan butter
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
For the vegan custard
- 1 cup (120 gram) cornstarch , (cornflour in the UK)
- ½ cup & 2 tablespoons (125 grams) white or cane sugar
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 4 cups (960 mls plant milk , unsweetened & unflavoured
- 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 tablespoons vegan butter
For the compote
- 32 oz (900 grams) frozen mixed berries
- ½ cup (100 grams) white or cane sugar
- 1 medium lemon , zest and juice
For the cream
- 1½ to 2 x 9 oz (266 ml) tubs So Delicious Cocowhip , or approx 2 cups (480 ml) any other vegan whipped cream
- ½ cup (120 ml) liquor or juice of choice , such as orange liquor, limoncello, brandy, sweet sherry, marsala, freshly squeezed orange juice, pomegranate, grape or cranberry juice.
- Approximately 400 - 500 grams / 14 - 17 oz fresh berries or other fruit , optional but recommended
- decoration for the top , I used chopped pistachios & pomegranate arils. You could use sprinkles, berries, flaked almonds.
For the cake
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C) and grease then line an 8 or 9 inch cake pan.
- To a mixing bowl add the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk to combine. Make a well in the middle and pour in the milk, melted butter/oil, vanilla & vinegar. Using a spatula mix together to form a thick batter.
- Spoon into the cake pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a skewer or toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave in the pan for 10 minutes then tip out carefully onto a wire rack. Allow to cool completely then wrap and store until you want to assemble the trifle.
For the vegan custard
- Add the cornstarch, sugar, salt and turmeric to a saucepan. Add a little of the milk very gradually, stirring as you go to work out any lumps until you have a nice smooth paste. Gradually add the rest of the milk while stirring.
- Place the pan over a medium-low heat and stir gently but constantly, making sure you cover the bottom surface of the entire pan with your stirs. Do not stop stirring or lumps will form. Keep going until you have a smooth, thick custard. It should take about 10 minutes and will be like a thick sauce or gravy in texture. It should easily coat and cling to the back of a spoon and if you run your finger down the back of the spoon a clear, clean line should remain.
- As soon as it reaches that stage turn off the heat, then add the vanilla extract and vegan butter. Stir until the butter is melted and incorporated then cover and leave to cool.
For the compote
- Add the frozen berries, sugar, lemon zest and juice to a pan. Turn the heat to medium and wait until the berries have mostly defrosted. Do not add any liquid, other than the lemon juice. Give it a good stir, bring to a gentle simmer and let it cook away uncovered until reduced by half. You will be able to see when this has happened by the berry juice marks on the side of the pan. It will take a good 30 to 35 mins and will still look quite liquidy when done. Once reduced, turn off the heat, allow to cool then transfer to a covered container and refrigerate. It will thicken up a lot as it cools.
- Cut the cake into 1-inch cubes. Discard the edge pieces (by discard I mean eat ;O). Place the cubes in the bottom of a trifle dish or large glass bowl. It should be a nice thick layer. At this stage you can scatter some optional fresh berries in amongst the cake cubes if you want to.
- Carefully drizzle the liquor/juice over the cake making sure it covers evenly.
- Spoon the compote evenly over the top making sure it goes right to the sides. If using fresh fruit, scatter some over the compote.
- Give the custard a quick whisk, then spoon evenly over the compote. Give the bowl a gentle shake to even the top then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes so the custard firms just a little before you add the cream.
- You can add the final cream layer now or just before you serve. Add as much as you have room for in your bowl. Swoosh it about with a spatula to make it look pretty then decorate. I love to use chopped pistachios and pomegranate arils because they look pretty and the crunch is really nice with the soft trifle.
- Refrigerate for at least 3 hours (or overnight) before serving. This allows the flavours to come together nicely and also lets the layers firm up and settle. You'll have a much easier time serving!
Question: ugh...I added the butter and vanilla at the beginning of the custard recipe. Will still be ok?
Excellent flavour, really held together nicely into day 3 (by then we had eaten it all). I used orange juice to soak the cake instead of alcohol and it still worked beautifully. I made a mistake with the custard so I used vanilla pudding and will work on custard, as I am sure it would be much better!
This makes a HUGE Trifle. I made it and there are only two of us....we'll be eating trifle for weeks to come! Haha! I would like to know the traditional alcohol of choice for British trifle. Is it sherry? I didn't have it and used 1/4 cup Grand Marnier which is what I had but it didnt feel right with my berries/compote. Or maybe I just needed MORE of it?! I didn't really taste it and I think I should have. My mum's trifle was very boozy but we can't recall what she put in it! Haha! One other comment about the custard. It's my second time making it and this time was much more successful but as it cools in the trifle it runs to a rubbery layer. What am I doing wrong? I hate eating firm chunks of cold custard in my trifle! Help!
Melanie McDonald says
Sherry is definitely the traditional alcohol to add. Orange liquor, limoncello, brandy (plain or cherry), or marsala are all good choices though. I have a local distillery that makes amazing lemon gin and that's amazing in it too. It all comes down to what you enjoy best so have fun experimenting! If you want to taste it though, you really need to add half a cup as per the recipe or it won't come through.
It's odd your custard got rubbery. Mine stays creamy. I'm thinking maybe you're cooking it a bit too long. Reduce the cooking time a bit. Only cook until you can just run your finger down the back of the spoon and a track forms. Don't go past the point, turn it off right away and remove from the heat. Then add the butter and vanilla immediately because they cool it down and stop it cooking any more. That should solve the issue.
I made this too! Yum yum! I had mango available, not fresh strawberries...and I used rum as my alcohol. Now my husband is asking if he can have trifle for breakfast! I think he definitely likes it!! Haha! Good.
Wow. Just wow. I made this earlier ready for tomorrow. Every part of it is delicious and it looks seriously impressive. I just know it’s going to be perfect. Thank you so much. You’ve made feeding everyone for the holidays so worry-free.
When I made the custard and it was warm, it was perfect! Very yummy and a great consistency. I popped it into the fridge for a day and when I took it out it had thickened so much it came out of the pot in one lump.
Was this because I let it get too thick when I cooked it? When this happens, is there anyway to save it?
I am confident it was something on my end as every recipe I have tried of yours has been a hit!
Melanie McDonald says
You might have cooked it a little too much, but it’s normal for it to thicken up a lot when it gets refrigerated. Just add it to a pan and heat gently and it will loosen up again as it heats. As per my reheating instructions in the recipe notes you can add a bit more milk to thin if it’s still too thick once heated through.