Black Forest Trifle with Brandy

Here’s a wonderful black forest trifle with brandy for today. This was a cake for one of my best friends in my residency here! We’re “red block schedule” buddies and work in the same Internal Medicine clinic for the underserved.

This trifle was a huge labor of love; luckily, better outpatient clinic hours allowed me to make it over three days. As my gift to my friends, I always try make a birthday dessert, and it’s fun to work with people’s requests – hers was chocolate and brandy. Add cherries and whipped cream, and we’ve got a dream combination!

This trifle, hosted at my apartment, was the main show after dinner out. I have come to realize my little studio (and the fact I have only 4 normal non-foodblogging plates) can’t entertain 20 people, but we stayed cozy.

My friends wanted to kick it up a notch, so lots of wine was to be had. Except I didn’t have a wine bottle opener to open up the wines people brought, nor did I have a lighter to light the lovely skinny twisty candles my friend brought (we were awe of the twisty fancy candles, but alas, they were not self lighting). Though we struggled a little (trying to use a drill and hammer to get the cork out), one friend finally arrived with both, and the party commenced.

Afterwards the birthday girl wanted to go dancing like what “the 99% of normal people our age” do. First we after swung by the hospital to drop off trifle for a poor friend stuck in the overnight Cardiac ICU shift. Then a couple of us went to a bar/dance club downtown around 11pm (even though that’s pretty much my bedtime haha).

You would think that people would be working the next day, but not from the massive number of people jam packed in the club. As an old grandma at heart, I don’t think I’ve been clubbing since my college days. At least dancing was a great way to burn off the calories and feel cool/young.

The trifle looks impressive, and it’s not hard if you take it one step at a time. I started the trifle with making the cake one day, then the pudding / whipped cream / cherries the next day, then assembling the day of the birthday.

B was very upset he couldn’t make the birthday event and insisted I had to save him some black forest trifle, or else he “would never, ever forgive me”. I ended up making a massive amount of dessert (I doubled the recipe quantity below), so it didn’t fit in my already large trifle bowl. I made sure to set some aside for him – because the birthday girl took my trifle bowl to eat the rest! That’s some great appreciation for a birthday gift!  Recipe adapted from Food Network and Eating Well.

Black Forest Trifle with Brandy

1 boxed mix or recipe here
1/4 cup brandy

1 cup Dutch cocoa powder
3/5 cup sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups milk
3 large egg yolks, beaten
1/3 cup brandy

2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups pitted cherries, canned or frozen
1/4 cup liquid (brandy + fruit/cherry juice)
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

CHOCOLATE CAKE: prepare cake according to mix box directions or recipe of choice. Mix in brandy into the batter before baking. Let cake cool.

CHOCOLATE PUDDING: In a large saucepan set over medium heat, combine the cocoa, sugar, cornstarch, salt, and 2 cups of the milk. Stir constantly as it boils and thickens, about 8-10 min to avoid lumps. Reduce the heat to low. Pour some of the hot mixture into another bowl with your egg yolks, then stir the egg yolks back into the hot mixture to temper. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens to the consistency of pudding. Add the brandy and the last 1 cup of milk to reach your desired thickness. Remove from the heat. Place plastic wrap over the saucepan to prevent a skin from forming, and then cool (I chilled mine in the fridge overnight).

WHIPPED CREAM: Using an electric mixer set on high speed, beat the cream and sugar until stiff peaks form. Store in the fridge until ready to use.

BRANDIED CHERRY COMPOTE: Combine cherries, liquid, and cornstarch in a saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the mixture boils and thickens, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely (I chilled mine in the fridge overnight).

ASSEMBLY: Crumble the chocolate cake in the bottom of a trifle dish. Layer pudding, cherries, and whipped cream and repeat until the trifle bowl is filled. Top with chocolate shavings and cherries. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 1 day. Enjoy!

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  1. This looks de-lish! I'll have to try the recipe on a day when I'm feeling ambitious though. At least I'll know what it's SUPPOSED to look like. Haha! Thanks for sharing.

    Ola |

  2. having made black forest cake before and deciding it wasn't worth the effort, i think this is a great alternative! the flavors are awesome and it's SO much easier!

  3. Am I reading something wrong on the pudding? The ingredient list is for 4 cups of milk but I can only see where three are used in the recipe. Please reply. I am in the middle of making this. My email is

  4. Whoops, you caught my typo. It's 3 cups (not 2 cups) of milk in the instructions (the last 4th cup is as needed to desired thickness since some people like it thicker and some like it thinner). I have updated the recipe instructions. Thanks for your sharp eyes!