The Best Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle Recipe

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A Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle that holds it’s own next to the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. Full of flavor, your guests are sure to come back for seconds!

Do you have a sweet tooth like I do?

If you have been with me for a while, you might know that I love to bake.  If I have to bring a dish to a party or gathering, most of the time it’s going to be a dessert!

And one of the desserts I love to make the most?  Trifles!

I’m often surprised that people don’t know what a trifle is when I mention it (have you made one before?).  I love that they are so easy to create for any “theme” or occasion, so versatile, and soooo yummy!  And they’re always a hit!

Anyway, all this to say that for Thanksgiving this year, I am super excited to make my Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle for the 13th year in a row (it’s that big of a hit!).

A Unique Thanksgiving Dessert

I’m not going to lie – making this dessert is a bit of a process. But it’s one of those once-a-year, special treats I’ve perfected. 

With layers of gingerbread cake, pumpkin pudding, whipped cream, ginger snaps, and caramel I make by boiling cans of sweetened condensed milk on the stove for about 4 hours (the kids are always impressed by this one – science in the kitchen!), this dessert is a true pumpkin pie contender at the holiday table.

Time consuming to make?  A little.  Worth it?  YES! 

A Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle that holds it's own next to the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. Full of flavor, your guests are sure to come back for seconds!

How to Make Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle

I’m not sure my pictures do it justice…you’re going to have to give it a try for yourself. To be quite honest, I am not a huge fan of pumpkin-flavored foods in general; but the flavors of this dessert are so good together!

Here’s what you’ll need and how to make each component of the trifle. Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable recipe.

Homemade Caramel

You’re going to start with making the caramel. This is the most time consuming part, but the easiest.

Take 2 cans (14 oz.) of sweetened condensed milk and remove the labels. Place the cans in a large pot of boiling water, covering them with at least 2 inches of water. Boil for 4 hours, adding water as needed. Remove from water and allow to cool completely when time is up – and voila! Beautiful, yummy caramel!

Now, one can would probably be sufficient for the trifle. However, since it takes so long, I usually make 2 cans just in case (I can always find a way to use any leftover caramel!).

If you’re interested in explaining the “kitchen science” behind this reaction with your kids, here is a short explanation and another fun caramel recipe.

There are also other ways you could make the caramel if you don’t want to boil it for hours. Here are some ideas. But boiling has always given me great results!

Homemade Gingerbread Cake

The first year I made this, I found a box mix for gingerbread cake. Since then, I haven’t been able to find a mix to save my life, so I had to go homemade with this, too. Here’s what you’ll need to make the gingerbread cake component of the trifle:

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup hot water

Make this while your caramel is boiling. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9-inch square baking pan.

In a large bowl, cream the sugar and butter. Beat in the egg, and stir in the molasses.

In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Blend into the creamed mixture.

Stir in the hot water, then pour into prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool.

Homemade Pumpkin Pudding

Next, make the pumpkin pudding! You’ll need:

  • 2 (3.4 oz) packages Instant Vanilla Pudding
  • 1 (15 oz) can 100% Pure Pumpkin
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk (I have also used 2% milk)
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

In a large mixing bowl, simply whisk together all of the pudding ingredients. Refrigerate for a couple of hours to set.

Layering Your Trifle

Now for the fun part – putting everything together!

You’ll need one 8 oz. tub of whipped topping, and some gingersnap cookies. You’ll use the crushed cookies for garnish, and I like to put them in-between layers as well. I crush the cookies with my Pampered Chef food chopper (here is a similar product).

Once the caramel and cake are cooled, and the pudding is ready, grab your trifle bowl and layer the following in thin layers:

  • Gingerbread cake (press down lightly)
  • Pumpkin pudding
  • Caramel (you can use a spatula to spread this on, but, it’s so much easier to use a piping bag or a decorator if you have one!)
  • Whipped topping
  • Crushed Gingersnap cookies
  • Repeat layers. Garnish with crushed Gingersnap cookies.

Sometimes I’ll decorate around the top with full gingersnap cookies to make it look a bit more festive. Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve…then enjoy!

Prepare for Leftovers

Fair warning: you will have leftover cake, possibly leftover caramel (depending on how many cans you boil), and possibly leftover pudding!

Some years I’ve picked up extra whipped cream and made an entire second trifle with this recipe if I know we are having a lot of people over for dinner. Lately, my kids get a kick if I make “mini trifles” in bowls for them to taste test.

Store any extra trifle covered in the fridge. It tastes even better after a day or two!

Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle

Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle

Yield: 1 trifle
Prep Time: 4 hours
Cook Time: 1 hour
Additional Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 5 hours 10 minutes

A dessert that holds it's own next to the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. Full of flavor, your guests are sure to come back for seconds!

Ingredients

Gingerbread Cake

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup hot water

Pumpkin Pudding

  • 2 (3.4 oz) packages Instant Vanilla Pudding
  • 1 (15 oz) can 100% Pure Pumpkin
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Remainder of Trifle

  • 8 oz. whipped topping
  • 2 cans (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
  • Gingersnap cookies, crushed

Instructions

  1. Remove the label from the cans of sweetened condensed milk. Place the cans in a large pot of boiling water, covering them with at least 2 inches of water. Boil for 4 hours, adding water as needed. Remove from water and allow to cool when time is up.
  2. Meanwhile, you'll make the gingerbread cake. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan.
  3. In a large bowl, cream the sugar and butter. Beat in the egg, and stir in the molasses.
  4. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Blend into the creamed mixture.
  5. Stir in the hot water, then pour into prepared pan.
  6. Bake for 1 hour, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool.
  7. Next, you'll make the pumpkin pudding. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all of the pudding ingredients. Refrigerate for a couple of hours.
  8. Once the caramel, pudding, and cake are ready, it's time to assemble the trifle. Layer the following:
  • Gingerbread cake (press down lightly)
  • Pumpkin pudding
  • Caramel
  • Whipped topping
  • Crushed Gingersnap cookies
  • Repeat layers. Garnish with crushed Gingersnap cookies.

Notes

  • I find it helpful to use a piping bag to layer the caramel in the trifle.
  • You will have leftover cake and pudding, and most likely leftover caramel. I like to pick up an extra tub of whipped cream and put together a second trifle with the leftovers (this is great if you have a large crowd, or want to enjoy the dessert for a few days!).

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 325Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 32mgSodium: 282mgCarbohydrates: 51gFiber: 1gSugar: 35gProtein: 4g

Enjoy This Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle Recipe

I hope you enjoy this pumpkin gingerbread trifle recipe. Although it has a few different parts, it’s really not that hard to make, or that time consuming (if you don’t count the boiling time for the caramel!). It’s certainly one of our family favorites, and a staple at our Thanksgiving dinner table.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments: have you made a trifle before? What’s your favorite? Let me know!

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