This Lemon Berry Gluten-Free Trifle recipe is seriously amazing. It’s a beautiful gluten free dessert with vibrant red, white, and blue colors. The gluten-free lemon cake plays together nicely with the berries and whipped cream.
This dessert is gluten, nut, and soy free. I’ve made this dessert with and without dairy and will give instructions for choosing a dairy free whipped cream if necessary.
If you need a dessert that is an absolute show-stopper, this gluten-free lemon berry trifle is it! The red, white, and, blue layers pop beautifully through your glass serving dish. It’s a dessert that looks as if it took all day but in reality, it’s actually quite easy to make. In fact, this gluten-free trifle is so easy I dare say it’s fool-proof. Unlike a traditional cake that can become lopsided or sloppy with incorrect frosting techniques, this trifle takes no skill to assemble. It’s just a matter of layering up each delicious component until you reach the top of your bowl.
What is a Gluten-Free Trifle?
Before I go on, maybe you’re sitting there thinking, what the heck is a gluten-free trifle? Well, let’s start with the more basic question – what is a trifle? Trifles actually have a very long history and have not always been made the same way we make them today.
According to Wikipedia:
Trifle is a layered dessert of English origin. The usual ingredients are a thin layer of sponge fingers or sponge cake soaked in sherry or another fortified wine, a fruit element (fresh or jelly), custard and whipped cream layered in that order in a glass dish.
This dessert eventually made its way to America and became particularly popular down South where the British settled in coastal South regions. Since then the variations have become endless. I’ve seen people use cake, cookies, poundcake, and ladyfingers for their cake components. I’ve seen custard, pudding, whipped cream, and jello. And then of course any type of fruit or jelly you could think of.
As you can imagine, this dessert lends itself beautifully to your own ideas and variations based on what is in season or what you have on hand.
How do I make my trifle gluten-free?
This brings us to the gluten-free trifle I’m sharing today. And back to the greater question, what is a gluten-free trifle? As you can see, trifle is not a science. Therefore, it’s incredibly easy to adapt to your gluten-free and/or dairy-free needs as I’ve done today.
I’ve actually been on a huge lemon cake kick lately. I love the way the bright lemon flavor contrasts nicely with a rich buttery cake. So naturally, I decided that was the best gluten-free cake to include in my trifle. That wonderful lemon flavor pairs beautifully with the berries and dairy free whipped cream I chose to use.
The gluten-free lemon cake recipe I’ll be sharing below is incredibly easy to make. However, if you want some other ideas for store-bought gluten free components for your berry trifle, here are two ideas:
Kinnikinnick Gluten Free Vanilla Wafer Cookies: Much like a banana pudding, you could try using some gluten free vanilla wafer cookies.
Schar Gluten Free Lady Fingers: Another common option for a trifle is ladyfingers, Schar makes some great gluten free ones.
How Can I Make Dairy Free Whipped Cream?
Since I am sensitive to dairy, I try and reduce the amount of dairy I consume the best I can. While I will bake with butter, using heavy cream for whipped cream would just send me over the edge. So while you can totally make this lemon berry gluten-free trifle with traditional whipped cream (either store-bought or homemade), I’m going to share how I make it with dairy free whipped cream.
This time I used the Silk Heavy Whipping cream to make an incredibly easy and delicious dairy free whipped cream alternative. In the recipe card below I’ll share how. This product is fairly new to the dairy free world, and I’m so happy it exists. If I were to eat real whipped cream my favorite was always homemade with only a tiny bit of sugar. I enjoy whipped cream that isn’t too sweet. That’s why I love the Silk Heavy Whipping Cream. You can make it yourself and add little to no sugar and still get an amazing result that in my opinion actually tastes like real whipped cream!
Cocowhip by So Delicious is another tasty option for a dairy free whipped cream. If you’re a cool whip fan, this product is for you. It’s thick and fluffy and has a nice sweetness. It’s very on par with what a real cool whip tastes like.
Reddiwip Whipped Cream is a dairy free canned whipped cream option. Again it’s very similar to dairy-full canned whipped cream. It’s very sweet and fluffy. I will say some people have trouble with the can, although I’ve never really experienced that. Personally, this wouldn’t be my first pick for a trifle though. For this trifle, I wanted big luscious scoops of whipped cream with beautiful placement and that could be hard to achieve with a spray whipped cream.
Prepping the Components for Your Lemon Berry Gluten-Free Trifle
This gluten-free trifle has three components. You have gluten-free lemon cake, lightly sugared berries, and whipped cream. Each of these components requires some degree of preparation before you can assemble the trifle.
Gluten-Free Lemon Cake:
This is a simple cake baked in a square pan. The recipe is quite simple to make. Once the cake is cooled you will need to cut it up into cubes. You can then store these cake cubes in a sealed container or plastic bag until ready to use. If you don’t plan on using them within a couple of days I suggest freezing them for longer storage.
For this trifle, I used a combination of strawberries and blueberries. By adding a small amount of sugar prior to use the berries will break down slightly and create a bit of sauce. This berry juice will drip down into your trifle cake and create some amazing flavor.
I won’t go too in-depth on the whipped cream component here as I already covered dairy free whipped cream at length above. However, if you do decide to do a homemade whipped cream option, some preparation will obviously be required.
How to Assemble the Trifle
Assembly is quite simple but there is a technique to keep in mind. Essentially a trifle is assembled by alternating layering of each component in a glass bowl or dish. You can make each layer as thick or thin as you’d like depending on your desired flavors. If you want more berries, add more berries. If you’re crazy for whipped cream then make the thickest whipped cream layers you could imagine.
One important technique to maintain when assembling the gluten-free trifle is don’t pack it in or smoosh any of the layers down with your spoon. That would create a muddled appearance as opposed to the desired layered appearance.
Finding the perfect dish for your trifle
Traditionally trifles were simply assembled in large glass bowls. That’s certainly an option with this lemon berry gluten-free trifle. I chose to go with a flat-bottomed glass serving dish for my trifle so that the layers would be even all the way down. I actually found my dish at Goodwill and only paid a couple of bucks for it. I don’t even know if my dish was meant for food or if it was originally used as home decor. Regardless, it worked great and looked beautiful.
Most importantly you just need a dish that is clear glass so that you can make that showstopper dessert. Just keep in mind if your dish is a different size or shape you may need more or less of each ingredient.
Lemon Berry Gluten Free Trifle
Gluten-Free Lemon Cake
- 1 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup room temperature butter (soft to the touch) – margarine is also an option, country crock or earth balance sticks work well
- 2 eggs – at room temperature is best
- 1/2 cup milk – unsweetened plain dairy free milk is an option
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose gluten free flour -most all purpose or 1-to-1 gluten free flours will work here
- 1 teaspoon xanthan gum if needed **ONLY if your gluten free flour mix does not contain it already
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 pinch salt
- 2 lemons zest of two lemons
- 1 pound strawberries
- 1 pint blueberries
- 1 lemon juice from one lemon
- 1 tablespoon cane sugar
Dairy Free Whipped Cream
- 1 container silk heavy whipping cream *see blog post for other options
- 1 tablespoon powdered sugar *optional
Preparing the Berries
- Add sugar and lemon juice to your berries and mix well. Leave them in the fridge for a few hours while everything else is made. As they sit the sugar and lemon juice will become a little bit saucy with the berries.
Making the Gluten Free Lemon Cake
- Prepare a 9×9 baking dish by greasing with butter and lightly coating with some flour to ensure the cake does not stick. Preheat your oven to 350℉.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment combine the sugar and softened butter on medium until combined very well. Stop and scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula as necessary.
- Add in your eggs and mix again until combined very well and some air is incorporated (about a minute – as this is mixing you can prepare the next two steps), scraping down sides as necessary.
- In a separate bowl mix together your milk, lemon juice, and vanilla and set aside.
- Sift together your gluten-free flour, xanthan gum (only if your mix does not contain it), baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium-sized bowl. Then whisk in your lemon zest.
- Slowly add your dry and wet ingredients to the ingredients already in your stand mixer – to do this you're going to alternate adding the dry and wet in about 3 batches. Begin by adding one batch of your dry mixture, mix slowly in your stand mixer until completely combined, and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary. Then add 1/3 of your wet ingredients, mixing until completely combined, and scraping down sides as necessary. Continue on this way making sure to end with dry ingredients and combining completely each time.
- Pour into your prepared square baking dish, smooth out with a rubber spatula, and bake in the center of the oven for about 18-20 minutes or until the top is lightly golden and a toothpick inserted into the center no longer comes out wet (moist crumbs on the toothpick is ok). Another test for a cooked cake is lightly pressing the center, if it sinks or feels wet, it's not done. If it springs back up when lightly touched and feels spongey and firm then it's done.
- Let your cake cool completely then carefully remove from your baking dish and cut into cubes.
- Store in a ziplock bag or airtight container at room temperature until ready to use. If storing for more than a day or two I suggest freezing for optimal freshness. Then defrosting at room temperature before making the trifle.
Making the Dairy Free Whipped Cream
- In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment add in your silk heavy whipping cream. Whisk on medium to medium-high until fluffy – could take a few minutes. If you want it sweeter add in the sugar and mix well.
- Refrigerate if you don't plan to use it right away.
Assembling the Lemon Berry Gluten Free Trifle
- In a clear glass bowl or tall serving dish make even layers of each component. One layer of cake squares, a layer of fruit (including the flavorful natural juices), and a layer of fluffy spoonfuls of whipped cream. Continue until you have filled your bowl. I like to end mine with fruit at the top and top with a bit more lemon zest for a nice presentation.
- If you have extra ingredients: I actually had some extra cake chunks after assembling my trifle, depending on the size of your dish this could happen. If this happens to you and you don’t have a use for the extra cake chunks you can seal them in a ziplock bag and store them in the freezer for a future dessert.
- Storage: This trifle looks and tastes best the day of – so if you’re making it for an event you can make the separate components ahead but it’s best to assemble the day of. However, you can definitely store it covered in the fridge if you need to and enjoy it for a few days (I did and it was still quite good).
- For more details on making the trifle including pictures of the process please read the blog post.
- For ideas on ways to substitute the cake or the whipped cream used in this recipe card see the blog post.
- Notes on Nutrition: I am not a nutritionist. The nutrition facts provided are not always 100% accurate and are calculated using an automatic generator using general brands and estimates. If you need exact nutrition facts please consult a certified dietician or nutritionist.
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