This year, it seems that many, including myself, are jumping on pumpkin spice bandwagon early. At the moment, there are 4 cans of pumpkin sitting on our pantry shelf, destined for all kinds of delectable desserts. This trifle was my first creation of the seasonal pumpkin mania. When I posted it on Instagram a couple weeks ago, I honestly thought it was too early, but it got a pretty good response. And so, I've written up the recipe to share with you today! If you're looking for something unique to serve at Thanksgiving, I would certainly consider this trifle, as it's a real showstopper dessert and has the same flavor profile as pumpkin pie. The warm fall spices in the cake are strong enough to hold up to the copious amounts of pudding and cream. :)
Admittedly, a trifle is a good deal of work. However, you could easily make it over the course of a few days. For instance, cake on one day, pudding on the next, then streusel, and finally the whipped cream on "assembly day." I highly recommend keeping the trifle in the fridge overnight before serving. This allows the flavors optimal time to meld.
For the spice cake
1/2 C. (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
1 C. brown sugar
1/2 Tbsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 Tbsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ginger
3/4 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 C. canned pumpkin
Brandy whipped cream
2 C. heavy whipping cream
4 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. brandy or to taste
For the pudding
2 boxes instant vanilla pudding, prepared according to directions
OR to bring it to the next level, I highly recommend the Betty Crocker recipe for vanilla pudding from scratch. If you have the time to do this extra step, it is entirely worth it... so much richer than instant pudding!
Combine equal parts pudding and whipped cream for a lighter mousse layer.
3 crushed graham crackers
1/8 C. cinnamon sugar
2 Tbsp. melted butter
1/4 C. ground walnuts
Preheat oven to 350⁰F. Prep two 9x13" rimmed baking sheets or jelly roll pans by greasing with butter and sprinkling with flour.
For the streusel, mix together ingredients until the butter has been absorbed. Spread into a pan and bake for 5-10 min. This can actually be done while the oven is preheating! Watch for the walnuts to be lightly toasted. Nuts will develop a slight sheen as they release their oils in the toasting process.
To make the spice cake, cream together butter, sugar, egg and vanilla. Then add dry ingredients (spices too!), mixing until just incorporated. Fold in the pumpkin puree.
Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pans.
Bake for around 15 minutes, or until top of cake springs back when touched. Also, take a peek at the bottom of the cake. If it still feels quite moist, bake it a couple more minutes. (Drier cake is completely OK in a trifle, as it will be surrounded by moist pudding and cream.) Allow to cool, then break the sponge into large bite-size crumbs, roughly 1 inch. Optional: Reserve one notecard-sized portion of cake to create a pumpkin decoration for the top of the trifle.
Prepare the vanilla pudding as directed. You might be able to complete this step while the cake is in the oven.
To make the whipped cream, whisk heavy whipping cream until it forms soft peaks (don't go too far or you will make butter!) gradually adding powdered sugar. Finish by whisking in a generous splash of brandy. Feel free to adjust the amount of sugar and brandy to taste.
Assembly (from bottom to top, as added to the trifle dish)
layer of cake crumbs
cake crumbs + streusel
I made a decorative accent for the top of the trifle by cutting a small pumpkin shape from the leftover spice cake. Then, I dusted it with powdered sugar (leaving the stem plain) and cut small slits to look like the ribbing in a pumpkin. It serves as a cute little hint as to what's inside the trifle. :)
'Til next time,