Cranberry Trifle Recipe

Photograph and video: Vicky Wasik

Why It Works

  • Cranberry juice intensifies the flavor and color of the jam.
  • Elderflower liqueur softens the jam's acidity with a sweet floral note.
  • A pinch of cinnamon and clove add a subtle holiday flair to the mascarpone.
  • Bittersweet cardamaro tames the sweetness of angel food cake.

With layers of fluffy angel food cake, bittersweet amaro, tart cranberry jam, and creamy whipped mascarpone, this holiday trifle is a celebration of contrasting flavors and textures. There's plenty of wiggle room when it comes to the specifics, so long as substitutions can play the same general role, such as using a sour marmalade in place of the jam, or airy ladyfingers as a stand-in for cake.

Recipe Facts

Active: 45 mins
Total: 45 mins
Serves: 20 servings

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  • For the Cranberry Jam:
  • 24 ounces fresh cranberries, washed (about 6 cups; 680g)
  • 24 ounces pure, unsweetened cranberry juice (about 3 cups; 680g)
  • 4 ounces elderflower liqueur, such as St. Germain (about 1/2 cup; 115g), or a complementary alternative
  • 16 ounces plain or lightly toasted sugar
  • 1 (3-inch) strip of orange peel, optional
  • 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick, optional
  • For the Whipped Mascarpone:
  • 24 ounces mascarpone (three 8-ounce containers; 680g), straight from the fridge
  • 14 ounces heavy cream (about 1 3/4 cup; 395g)
  • 5 ounces dark maple syrup (about 1/2 cup; 140g)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • To Assemble:
  • 1 (10-inch) angel food cake, store bought or homemade, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Cardamaro, or other spirit, to taste


  1. For the Cranberry Jam: Combine fresh cranberries, cranberry juice, liqueur, sugar, orange peel, and cinnamon (if ussing0 in a 5-quart stainless steel or enameled Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Continue cooking until most of the cranberries have popped and the mixture looks rather jammy, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, set aside until needed, up to three hours at room temperature. Remove orange peel and cinnamon stick before using.

  2. For the Whipped Mascarpone: Combine mascarpone, cream, maple syrup, cinnamon, salt, and cloves in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Mix at low speed to start, then increase to high and whip until the mixture is thick and stiff, about 5 minutes. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate up to 2 days; if needed, briefly rewhip before use to restore its consistency.

  3. To Assemble: Scatter a layer of cubed angel food cake along the bottom of a trifle dish or large bowl, then sprinkle generously with Cardamaro (or an alternative of your choosing). Cover with a thin layer of cranberry jam, followed by a thick layer of whipped mascarpone. Repeat until the dish is full. Bring to the table immediately, or cover and refrigerate up to 6 hours before serving.

Special equipment

Stainless steel Dutch oven, heat-resistant spatula, trifle dish


In place of an elderflower liquor like St. Germain, try an equal amount of crème de violette, chrysanthemum honey liquor, or even apple juice doctored with a 1/2 teaspoon of rosewater.

In place of Cardamaro, try using another bittersweet amaro, or else more traditional options like brandy and rum. For a non-alcoholic version, try using an scented tea like Earl Grey or else an herbal tisane such as chamomile.

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