When I think about my life in food—the dishes that have made me who I am or remind me of how I was raised—Strawberry Shortcake Trifle is at the top of the list. To me this signifies that my childhood was spoiled and filled with excellent dessert. Both are true.
I grew up eating my Grammy’s strawberry shortcake.
Every Fourth of July, she adds blueberries to make it red, white, and blue (my idea of patriotism), but spoiled privileged granddaughter that I was, I would often request strawberry shortcake on other occasions (it was Tuesday, for example), and my too-generous Grammy would oblige.
Strawberry shortcake dates back more than 100 years, and as with any dish that has been around for a while, it has developed many iterations—some make it with pound cake, others angel food cake, and still others biscuits, to name a few.
I am going to state declaratively that my Grammy’s simple, classic recipe for shortcake is the absolute best.
A fluffy, buttery cross between a flakey biscuit and a tender cake, my Grammy’s shortcake recipe takes less than 10 minutes to prepare, requires only one bow and one pan, and was created to be combined with fresh strawberries and homemade whipped cream.
To me, Grammy’s strawberry shortcake is the epitome of that glorious culinary phenomenon where the simplest combinations turn out to be the most delicious.
(If you’d like the recipe for my Grammy’s shortcake, you can find it in this post for Peach Shortcake.)
In addition to strawberry shortcake, berry trifle is another one of my Grammy’s signature desserts.
Soft layers of pound cake (my Grammy actually uses sliced Little Debbie jelly rolls, which look beautiful and taste shockingly gourmet in the completed dish), shortbread cookies, fresh berries, pudding, and real whipped cream, berry trifle is a show-stopping dessert that tastes like fluffy whipped berry heaven.
My Grammy is the ultimate hostess, and trifle is one of her favorites for entertaining.
It can be made up to two days in advance, feeds a crowd, and looks stunning enough for the cover of Martha Stewart Living; yet, it is straightforward to prepare.
Thanks to Grammy, any time I need a dessert for a summer party, berry trifle is at the top of the list.
My Grammy and I are very close, and it was she who first taught me to bake.
Every Thursday during the summer, she would pick out a dessert recipe for us, shop for the ingredients, then bring my sisters and me to her house and teach us to make it.
This is both how I learned to bake, and what I assume to be the origin of my voracious sweet tooth. I am grateful for both.
I still call Grammy with baking questions on a regular basis, including today’s Strawberry Shortcake Trifle.
I fell for the idea of combining her shortcake and her trifle into one stellar dessert, and I immediately called Grammy for advice.
Grammy’s words of Strawberry Shortcake Trifle wisdom:
- Resist the urge to eat the trifle the day you make it. It needs to sit overnight to soften properly and for the flavors to meld.
- Instant vanilla pudding is ok; homemade whipped cream is mandatory.
- Layer as follows: shortcake; sprinkle with rum; shortbread cookie; sprinkle with rum; vanilla pudding; sprinkle with rum; whipped cream; sprinkle with rum; berries; sprinkle with rum. Repeat.
Most importantly, and I quote:
- It will seem like too much rum, but it isn’t.
My Grammy’s “sprinkle” rum technique came out to be about 1/2 cup rum, which does sound like a lot, but after a few bites, I found myself wanting to add an few extra splashes for good luck.
I left the recipe at 1/2 cup, but feel free to adjust. As my Grammy said, “It will seem like too much rum, but it isn’t.”
The Strawberry Shortcake Trifle assembly process is a bit like stacking blocks, but way more fun since we are going to eat it at the end.
First, we split the shortcake and spread the middles with strawberry jam.
The jam adds extra berry sweetness and makes the layers ultra pretty.
Place a bit of pudding at the base of the dish to anchor it, arrange a few pieces of the shortcake, then sprinkle with rum.
Next step is shortbread cookies. I used buttery Lorna Doone (my Grammy’s recommendation).
For super bonus points, you can make them from scratch, but a good quality store-bought cookie will do just fine here.
A second sprinkling of rum, then pudding, more rum, whipped cream, more rum (be thorough!), and the ruby red berries.
At this point, I reached the top of my mini dessert glasses, but if you are using a larger trifle bowl, simply repeat the layers, ending with whipped cream and berries.
Let the trifle rest in the refrigerator overnight, and you will be rewarded with an absolutely ethereal dessert.
The layers blend together into something greater than each could be alone. Part pudding, part cake, and total berry bliss, Strawberry Shortcake Trifle is heaven in a dish, topped with a cloud of whipped cream…plus rum
Keep your spoon handy.
Strawberry Shortcake Trifle is fit for a special occasion, but you’re going want to eat it directly from the fridge at midnight.Trust me—I am very well informed on this point.
A very special thank you to my Grammy for providing help and direction on this recipe! Grammy’s recipes elsewhere:
Strawberry Shortcake Trifle
Grammys Classic Shortcake:
- 2 Cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 Cup granulated sugar
- 4 Teaspoons baking powder
- 1 Tsp. kosher salt
- 1/8 Tsp. nutmeg
- 1/2 Cup 1 stick unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
- 1/3 Cup whole milk
- 1 egg beaten
- 1 Cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
- 1 Tbsp. rum
- Trifle Assembly
- 3 Cups whole milk
- 1/2 Cup strawberry jam
- 1/2 Cup dark rum
- 32 Ounces fresh strawberries hulled and sliced
- 1 Package 10-ounce shortbread cookies Lorna Doone or any other brand
- 1 5.1 ounce box instant vanilla pudding mix
- Place rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8×8 inch pan and set aside.
- In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade or a large mixing bowl, sift flour with sugar, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Add butter and lightly pulse (or cut in butter by hand), until the butter is the size of small peas (you should still be able to see the pieces of butter.) Add well-beaten egg and milk, just until incorporated.
- Quickly press the batter into the prepared pan, touching it as little as possible with your fingers to keep the butter cold. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the top is lightly golden. Cut into squares.
- Let cool, then cut into 24 rectangles (4 rows of 6). Split each shortcake in half, so that the bottom is separated from the top. Spread with strawberry jam then reassemble so that you create a strawberry jam shortcake “sandwich.” Repeat with remaining pieces.
- Prepare the pudding according to package directions. Place in the refrigerator to chill.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer or a large mixing bowl, beat the heavy cream, sugar and rum together on medium low speed until foamy, then slowly increase the speed to high. Continue to beat just until you have soft peaks, about one minute. Set aside.
To Assemble the Trifle
- Spread a thin layer of pudding in the bottom a large glass trifle bowl, mini dessert bowl, or other serving bowl to anchor the dish. Top with the following layers: shortcake; a sprinkle of rum; shortbread cookies; rum; pudding; rum; whipped cream; rum; fresh berries, arranged with the tops pointed up. Repeat the layers until the serving dish is full, ending with whipped cream and berries. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours or up to 2-days. Serve chilled.
- Refrigerate leftover trifle in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
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