Dessert First: Cranberry Gingerbread Trifle

Like a lot of people, I love to bake during the holidays. BUT I like to keep my “complicated” baking to cookies, the occasional pie, and of course my Grandma’s Waldorf Astoria Cake. So what do I do when I’m short on time and have to whip something together a dessert to take to a holiday party? I take some help from a boxed cake mix or, even easier, my grocer’s bakery and make a trifle. There’s nothing better than cake, some fancy whipped cream and loads of fruit layered up in an impressive cloud of deliciousness. It’s so easy but will be a showstopper as soon as you walk in the door!

There’s something classic and old world to me about the combination of gingerbread, cream and cranberries.

Cranberry Gingerbread Trifle
Serves: 10-12, Cooking Time: 1-2 hours depending on if you make the gingerbread

For the gingerbread:
1 (15.25 oz) box gingerbread cake mix, prepared according to package directions OR ½ a gingerbread pound cake from your grocer’s bakery*

For the cranberry compote:
1 lb. fresh cranberries
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup dry red wine
Pinch of salt
Cracked black pepper

For the mascarpone cream:
1 lb. mascarpone cheese, softened (2 8 oz. containers)
1 pint heavy whipping cream
2 Tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cut gingerbread cake into 1-2 inch squares and set aside.

In a large saucepan, combine ingredients for the cranberry compote. Cover and cook over medium heat until the cranberries start to pop. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 15-20 minutes until the cranberries start to release their juice and it reduces and gets jammy. Remove from heat and let cool completely before assembling trifle.

In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy. Add 1 cup heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla and beat another 2-3 minutes or until you get soft peaks. Keep cold until ready to assemble.

In another bowl, beat the remaining heavy with a teaspoon of powdered sugar until you get stiff peaks. This will be for the very top of the trifle. Keep cold until ready to assemble.

To assemble the trifle, add a layer of cubed gingerbread to the bottom of a deep clear bowl (any large glass bowl will work but this is the time to use that trifle dish collecting dust in your cabinet. Just make sure to wipe out the dust first!). Spread about half the mascarpone cream over the top making sure you can see the layers around the outside. Top with half the cranberry compote. Continue with another layer of cake, mascarpone and cranberry. Add a final layer of cake and cranberry and then top with the final layer of whipped cream. Garnish with a few gingerbread crumbs, powdered sugar or a light dusting of cocoa powder or chocolate shavings.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.

*If you can’t find a gingerbread cake mix or prepared cake at your grocery you can easily whip one up with a boxed spice cake mix. Mix together a box of spice cake mix, 1 tsp. ground ginger, ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, ½ cup milk, ½ cup molasses, ¼ cup vegetable oil, and 2 eggs. Spread in a 9×13 baking pan and bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool completely and then cut into cubes for the trifle.

Source: Ruth’s Table, 2022.

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