Very Berry Cranberry Trifle

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The beauty of this festive holiday trifle is that it is flexible and forgiving. You can’t mess up a Trifle!! It’s layers of cake, cran-blue-raspberry sauce, and vanilla pudding/custard. You decide how much effort you want to invest. All three layers can be homemade, pre-made/store-bought, or a combination of homemade and shortcuts. Suggestions on how to zhoosh up each layer follow the recipe.

The white cake layer is a cake mix, baked in a 9×13 pan. I always have cake mix in my pantry and bake it the night before, so it’s ready to go. However, a store-bought Angle Food, Pound, or Sponge cake will work just as well.

There are also options for the berry layer. If you still have fresh cranberries on hand, this is a great way to use them up. Save a handful of the cranberries for the garnish. Sparkling sugared cranberries are a breeze to make and will spike the Impress-O-Meter to a WOW! If you don’t want to mess with making a cranberry sauce, substitute a can of cranberry sauce (see the recipe notes). It’s always on sale after Thanksgiving! When it’s mixed with the blueberries and raspberries, no one will know you used the canned version. I love using fresh berries, but if they’re not available, frozen berries work just fine. I like keeping a bag of frozen berries in the freezer for muffins, pancakes, and ice cream.

The cream layer can be a fancy homemade custard (I don’t make custard – it stresses me out!). There are instant custard mixes. Traditional trifles are often made with Birds Custard Powder, as it tastes “British”. Whatever! I like using a box of Vanilla instant pudding mix.

Prepare the layers in a large clear bowl, so all the pretty layers are visible. If you don’t have one, no worries, any large bowl will work. Top the trifle with swirls of whipped topping. I love using Reddi Wip – Whipped Topping (or store brand whipped topping) to create “artistic” swirls. When I’m craving “oohs & aahs”, I make sugared cranberries and orange peel as a unique garnish.

Enjoy this colorful, vibrant dessert!

This is a WOW dessert, it is sure to impress! While this is an easy recipe, it does require some prep work which gives it a “Coping” rating on the Stress-O-Meter.

Very Berry Cranberry Trifle

Recipe by Jane BruceCourse: DessertCuisine: AmericanDifficulty: Easy


Total time



Easy, colorful and festive Very Berry Cranberry Trifle has layers of soft cake, creamy pudding and a sweet, zesty homemade cranberry/blueberry/raspberry sauce.


  • 6 oz (1½ cups) fresh or frozen cranberries

  • 6 oz (1½ cups) fresh or frozen blueberries

  • 6 oz (1½ cups) fresh or frozen raspberries

  • Zest of 1 large orange (saving a small section to make peels for garnish)

  • ½ cup of brown sugar

  • ½ cup of granulated (white) sugar

  • 1 cup water or orange fruit juice

  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract

  • 1 baked 9×13 white cake , cooled and cubed

  • 1 box vanilla instant pudding – prepared as directed

  • whipped topping (Reddi-wip) for decorating

  • sugared cranberries (see Notes)


  • Mix cranberries, water or juice, brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla extract and orange zest in a large saucepan and bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat.
  • Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the blueberries and raspberries and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  • Place half of the cake cubes on the bottom of a trifle bowl. Top with half of the cranberry mixture and half of the custard. Repeat layers.
  • Top with whipped cream and sugared cranberries and orange peel if desired.


  • Berry Mixture: For a more complex flavor, add 1 teaspoon of almond extract in addition to the vanilla extract. Save time by using a canned cranberry (whole berry) sauce.  Pour canned cranberries in a saucepan with raspberries, blueberries, vanilla, orange zest in a saucepan.  NO SUGAR.   Stir until well combined and cook on medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Stirring occasionally.
  • Cake: Enhance box cake mix by substituting milk for the water and add a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Instead of messing with having to grease and flour my cake pan, I use baker non-stick spray that has flour added to it.  I love it!  I bake the cake the night before and cut it in cubes prior to assembling the layers. When I’m short on time, I will buy a store-made cake from the grocery bakery. Angel Food, sponge, or pound cake all work well.
  • Pudding: Enhance instant pudding by substituting evaporated milk for regular milk.  It makes for a rich texture and significantly improves the flavor. If you want “authentic” British flavor, use Birds Custard Powder. It’s available in most grocery stores and on Amazon.  It does require cooking.  I’m not a fan – but to each their own.
  • Garnish: To make sugared cranberries (and orange peel) dip the cranberries in egg white. Remove from egg white with a fork to allow excess to drip off and roll in a bowl of granulated sugar.  Once coated, carefully remove and allow to air dry for on a small plate. These are edible and are not only elegant but delicious.

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