Thanksgiving Deliciousness: Pumpkin Pie Trifle!

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”
— Oprah Winfrey

During this season of giving thanks, well for this week at least, I am SO thankful for pumpkin! From Starbucks' infinitely sippable Pumpkin Spice Latte to Publix's deliciously scoopable Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream, I adore ALL things pumpkin. And here’s the truth: nothing embodies Fall quite like it!

Living in Florida where it's Summer all year long, leaves only a small window of opportunity to indulge my penchant for pumpkin. So when Fall finally arrives, this recipe for Pumpkin Pie Trifle goes striaght to the top of my "To Do" list! It’s so good, this dish has actually replaced pumpkin pie at our Thanksgiving table, yes - you heard me - it has R E P L A C E D it! But before you start to question my sanity (we can tackle that another time), let me explain.

In addition to being a pumpkin fanatic, I'm a big fan of the trifle as well and for a few compelling reasons: (1) it allows you to combine a variety of your favorite flavors and textures into one dish, (2) it brings the "wow" factor and looks beautiful on your holiday table, (3) it can be made the day before your meal and it actually improves overnight in the fridge as the flavors meld, and (4) it also travels remarkably well and is an excellent choice if you have to bring dessert to a lucky friend or family member's house.

Interested yet?

Historically speaking, the trifle originated in England in the 1500's and evolved from a similar dessert known as a "fool" (which might explain why Steve likes it so much - sorry, Honey!). Initially this dessert was made of thick cream flavored with rosewater, sugar and ginger. It wasn't until decades later that eggs were added and a custard was poured over the bread which was soaked in alcohol. While some people consider the inclusion of gelatin to be a recent variation, the earliest known recipe to include jelly dates from 1747. The well-known poet Oliver Wendell Holmes also wrote of trifles containing jelly in 1861.

Some trifles contain alcohol such as port, or, more commonly, sweet sherry or Madeira. Non-alcoholic versions may use sweet juices or soft drinks such as ginger ale, since some form of liquid is necessary to moisten the cake layers. Today, the ingredients are usually arranged in layers with fruit and bread or cake on the bottom, and custard and cream on top.

In order to display this dessert's beautifully colorful layers, I recommend investing in a trifle bowl designed specifically for this purpose. Crate and Barrel's Miranda Trifle Bowl ($29.95) is a wonderful basic to add to your culinary collection but any deep glass bowl will work. Once you discover how easy trifles are to make and how delicious they can be I think you'll be hooked! Plus, you can adapt them to suit just about any holiday.

To pair with the Pumpkin Pie Trifle, something lusciously sweet and decadent like a Late Harvest Gewürztraminer or Canadian Ice Wine is sheer perfection. When pairing wine with a dessert or something sweet, you want the wine to be as least as sweet as the dish but preferably sweeter in order to avoid any clashing of flavors. I hope you enjoy this recipe and wishing you a delicious and Happy Thanksgiving!



Makes 6-8 servings


  • 2 (15-ounce) packages pumpkin bread mix

  • 1 (4.6-ounce) box cook-and-serve vanilla pudding mix

  • 2 (15-ounce) cans pure pumpkin

  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

  • 1 tsp. ground ginger

  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves

  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

  • 1 (16-ounce) container whipped topping (such as Cool Whip)

  • 1/2 cup gingersnaps, roughly chopped


  1. Bake the pumpkin bread according to the package directions and cool completely (can be done the day before you assemble the trifle).

  2. Meanwhile, prepare the pudding and set aside to cool (can also be done a day in advance).

  3. Once ready to assemble the trifle, stir the canned pumpkin, brown sugar, and spices into the pudding.

  4. Next, you’re going to create your layers. Cube 1 batch of the pumpkin bread and arrange the cubes in a layer in the bottom of your trifle bowl. For a more stylish presentation, press the bread pieces flush against the glass bowl so they are easily visible. Depending on the size of your bowl, you may be able to make a double layer of the bread cubes. When you’re done with your first layer of pumpkin bread cubes, pour 1/2 of the pudding mixture over the layer and smooth to make it appear relatively even. Next, add a layer of whipped topping on top of the pudding mixture so from the outside of the bowl you can see two distinct layers. Repeat with the remaining pumpkin bread, pudding, and whipped topping.

  5. When assembling the trifle the night before (recommended), simply cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Remove the trifle from the fridge + sprinkle the top with the chopped gingersnaps about a half hour before serving. Enjoy!

Stephanie Miskew
Stephanie Miskew