Indulge in the southern tradition of red velvet cake with a twist – Red Velvet Trifles! Assemble them ahead of time for hassle-free hosting during the busy holiday season.
The holiday season can be a whirlwind of activities, and having make-ahead desserts in your repertoire is a real time-saver. After many years of hosting during the Christmas season, I’ve learned to depend upon prep-ahead recipes, such as these Red Velvet Trifles. They are so pretty! And they’ll add a splash of Christmas color to your special holiday feast. Prepare them a couple of days ahead and store them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve. Simply add the garnishes a few hours before serving, and you’ll have a show-stopping dessert without the last-minute stress.
Before you get started mixing up the cake batter, here’s a couple of initial things to get in order to make the entire process smooth sailing.
- Choose your serving glasses. These Red Velvet Trifles are assembled in 8 clear 12 oz. rocks glasses (or other dessert glasses). I’m usually all about breaking out the finest tableware for Christmas, but I made these in plastic recyclable Tossware glasses. Each glass is made from 1 recycled plastic bottle. I’ve reused them loads of times, and have yet to toss them!
- Make room in your fridge. I don’t know about you, but my refrigerator during the holidays – oof! Space gets maxed out pretty quickly. Make sure you have enough space to store the trifles before you begin the recipe. It may help to put the serving glasses on a baking sheet so it’s easy to transfer to the fridge once all the glasses are assembled.
Make the Red Velvet Cake.
Now – the cake! Start by mixing up the wet ingredients in a large mixing bowl. It’s not a big job, so this can easily be done using a hand mixer. Add 2 tablespoons of liquid red food color at this stage. If you only have red gel food color, add much less – 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons should do it.
Sift in the dry ingredients: flour, unsweet cocoa powder, and leavening. Mix together on low speed. Again, a hand mixer is fine. It’s a quick bowl of batter that stirs up easily. I appreciate that!
Bake the Red Velvet Cake.
Spread the batter into a greased 13×9 inch pan, and bake for about 20 minutes at 350°F. Be careful not to over bake this cake, as the edges can get a little dry. If this happens, go ahead and trim off the crusty edges.
When the cake cools cut it into bite-size pieces with a large chef’s knife. You’ll notice the texture is dense like pound cake. This is by design, as the cake needs to be sturdy enough to absorb the raspberry rum drizzling syrup without falling apart. Yes – I said raspberry-rum drizzling syrup! More on that in a bit.
Make the Cream Cheese Filling.
This filling is so easy! It’s a simple mixture of cream cheese, whipped cream, sugar, and vanilla extract. However, it does require careful folding. Use a large rubber spatula to fold whipped cream into the sweet cream cheese mixture. It’s so delicious, and a nod to the classic red velvet layer cake with cream cheese frosting.
Assemble the Trifles.
Begin assembling the cake trifles in your 12 oz. rocks or dessert glasses. Place a layer of red velvet cake cubes at the bottom of each glass.
Something that pastry chefs know, that not all home bakers know, is that sweet, rich desserts like this one can benefit from a tart foil. The acid, or tartness form berries and fruit creates balance to an otherwise too sweet dessert. In this recipe, it’s the rum-raspberry drizzle. It’s a pleasant surprise flavor when you taste it in this dessert. And just the thing to give it balance. Stir together your favorite brand of prepared seedless raspberry jam, rum, and a little orange juice in a small bowl. Spoon a tablespoon of this mixture over the red velvet cake cubes.
Pipe or dollop the cream filling evenly over the cubes. The mixture pipes beautifully, so I like using a large closed star piping tip (Ateco #849) for a ruffled appearance through the glass.. Although, just dolloping it in looks fine too.
Repeat the entire process using more of the cake cubes and raspberry-rum mixture. Finish with a big swirl (or dollop) of the cream cheese mixture on top.
You’ll have some red velvet cake cubes left over, so crumble them with your fingers into a bowl. Then sprinkle them over each trifle for an easy topping.
Tips for Success.
- Don’t overbake: I mentioned this earlier, but it warrants repeating. This cake is like the pound cake version of red velvet, designed to stand up (and absorb) the rum drizzle. Baking it too long can yield a dry cake with crusty edges.
- Trim any tough cake edges: After testing this cake a couple of times, I found using a light aluminum pan helped to avoid tough edges. However, use whatever pan you have. And if you get some crust edges, just trim them away. These trifles should contain only the soft cubes of cake for the optimal eating pleasure.
- Fold the filling carefully: Whipped cream is folded into sweet, whipped cream cheese for a cloud-like filling. So, take your time when folding the two together. Otherwise you could knock too much air out of it and it could become runny.
- Variation: If you have more than 8 people to serve, consider assembling the components in smaller glasses. The 12 oz. rocks glasses called for make a hearty serving indeed. You could easily use 6 oz. glasses and double your yield!
Red Velvet Cake – A Southern Tradition.
Red Velvet cake, with its deep crimson hue and rich, velvety texture, is rooted in Southern tradition but is loved the world over. As a born and bred southern girl, I’ve tried almost every iteration. From red velvet cupcakes to Oreo-stuffed red velvet crinkle cookies and everything in between. I’ve always thought the vibrant color makes it ideal for the Christmas holidays. Now I especially love it as an elegant little dessert trifle that will stand out on your dessert buffet.
These individual Red Velvet Rum Trifles are not just pretty to look at, they’re rich, creamy and a little punchy with tart rum-raspberry syrup. I think they actually improve after a day in the refrigerator, because the flavors have a chance to marry, and the syrup absorbs into the cake cubes making them moist and flavorful.
Related recipe: Red Velvet Cream Cheese Swirl Bundt Cake
Red Velvet Trifles
- 8 rocks glasses, 12 oz. capacity
- Piping bag
- Large star decorator piping tip
- Piping bag
Red velvet cake
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3 whole large eggs
- 2 egg yolks from large eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter melted
- 2 tablespoons red food color liquid
- 1 1/3 cups cake flour
- 2 tablespoons unsweet cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon fine grain salt
- 1 cup seedless raspberry jam
- 1/4 cup golden rum or spiced rum
- 1/4 cup orange juice
Cream cheese filling
- 16 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Rosemary sprigs for garnish
Red velvet cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 13×9-inch baking pan with flour based baking spray, or grease and flour the pan.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the sugar, eggs, yoks, and vanilla extract. Mix on medium speed until thick and pale, about 5 minutes. Add the melted butter and food color. Mix again.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Sift the dry mixture over the wet mixture. Mix on low speed until just combined. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the bowl and fold in any streaks of flour.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until well risen and a toothpick tester inserted near the center comes out clean. Turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- When the cake is cool, use a large chef’s knife to cut the cake slab into 1” cubes. Remove 8 cubes to a small bowl and crumble them with your fingers. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
- In a small mixing bowl, combine the raspberry jam, rum, and orange juice.
- Whisk together until well combined. Cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and set aside.
Cream cheese filling
- Place the cream cheese in a large bowl and beat with a hand mixer until fluffy. In a separate bowl, beat the heavy cream while gradually adding the sugar. Mix in the vanilla and beat until soft peaks form.
- Add in 1/4 of the whipped cream to the cream cheese mixture and fold to combine. Add in the remaining whipped cream and fold in gently.
- Transfer the cream cheese filling to a piping bag fitted with a large open star tip.
Assemble the trifles
- Place red velvet cake pieces into the 12 oz. glasses about 1/3 of the way up the glass. Drizzle half of the raspberry-rum mixture over the cake pieces in the glasses (a little more than 1 tablespoon per glass).
- Pipe a swirl of cream cheese filling over the cake cubes in each glass. Top the cream cheese filling with more cake cubes and spoon over the remaining raspberry drizzle into each glass.
- Pipe a swirl of cream cheese filling over the cake cubes and immediately garnish the tops the reserved bowl of cake crumbles.
- Cover trifles and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Up to 4 hours before serving, add rosemary sprigs standing upright to one side of each trifle.