I’ve always been a fan of Sticky Toffee Pudding with its dense cake and luscious caramel sauce, so I was eager to try this lighter, caramel-custard version with its drool-worthy trifle presentation. I took it to a friend’s house recently as a contribution to their post-Thanksgiving dinner dessert party and it was a huge hit.

My only objection to a large trifle is it gets quite messy in the bowl about halfway through the dishing out. For that reason, it’s nice to do individual trifles in parfait glasses or mason jars such as I did for the Black Forest trifles.

The recipe for Sticky Toffee Pudding Trifle fills a 4-quart trifle dish, making three sets of three layers. I used a 3-quart dish, making two sets of three layers and had leftovers of all the components.

I froze some of the cake for snacking later in the season, anticipating an afternoon with a cup of brandy-laced coffee topped with whipped cream. The rest of the leftovers were happily consumed as samplers. We wouldn’t want to take a dessert that hadn’t been tested,  now would we?


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Sticky Toffee Trifle

This trifle is a modern twist on a British classic, sticky toffee pudding. Perfect for a standout holiday dessert, the spongey cake studded with dates is layered with caramel custard and whipped cream, and topped with chopped crystalized ginger.



For the cake

  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 c boiling water
  • 287 g (10 oz) dates, pitted and chopped
  • 227 g (8 oz) butter at room temperature
  • 300 g (10.6 oz) brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest (from about 1/2 lemon)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 360 g (12.7 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

For the custard

  • 450 g (15.9 oz) granulated sugar, divided (400 and 50 g, respectively)
  • 1/2 c water
  • 4 c milk, warmed
  • 86 g (3 oz) cornstarch
  • 8 egg yolks*
  • 113 g (4 oz) butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

For the Whipped Cream

  • 4 c heavy whipping cream
  • 28 g (1 oz) confectioners’ sugar
  • 70 g (2.5 oz) crystalized ginger, chopped


Make the custard

  1. In a large, deep skillet or 8 quart stockpot, combine 400 g of sugar and 1/2 c water. (The mixture will foam up considerably at the next step, so make sure you use a large pot).
  2. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is honey coloured. Don’t worry about the odd crystalized clump, it will smooth out later. Carefully whisk in the warm milk until the mixture is smooth. Don’t be alarmed at how much this fizzes up at the beginning. It’s normal! 🙂
  3. In medium bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and the remaining 50 g of sugar. Add the egg yolks, whisking until the mixture is smooth. Whisk in a couple of ladlesful of the warm milk mixture to temper the egg mixture. Then add the egg mixture to the pan with the milk mixture, whisking until smooth. Cook over medium heat until the mixture is thickened and bubbly (8 to 10 minutes). Remove from the heat, add the butter and vanilla extract and stir until the butter is melted.
  4. Pour the mixture into a heatproof bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap down onto the surface of the custard to prevent a skin forming. Refrigerate at least six hours and up to 3 days.

Make the cake

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the baking soda and 1 1/2 c boiling water. Add the dates, stir and let sit for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 325°F convection or 350°F regular. Grease and flour a 13×9″ pan, or spray with baking spray containing flour.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar and lemon zest at medium speed until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined after each addition. Gently beat in the date mixture. Beat in the flour mixture in three additions, scraping down the bowl between each addition. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  5. Bake until a wooden toothpick or cake tester inserted in the centre comes out clean (40-45 minutes). Let cake cool completely in the pan.

Make the Whipped Cream

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream at medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add the confectioners sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.

Assemble the trifle

  1. Check your trifle bowl for volume and decide on the number of layers you will be making (see notes ).
  2. Cut the cake into 1″ cubes, and place one-third of cake cubes in the trifle dish. Spread one-third of the Caramel Custard over the cake. Top with one-third of the Whipped Cream. Repeat layers according to the size of your trifle dish. Garnish with crystalized ginger.


  • This recipe will fill a 4-quart trifle dish, with the ingredients presented in three sets of three layers. If you’re using the more common 3-quart dish, two sets of three layers is about right. You’ll have leftovers for smaller, individual trifles each comprising one set of three layers, or in our house, taste testing!
  • *you can freeze the egg whites and use them later. I like to have them on hand for Swiss or Italian Buttercream frosting
  • Author: Helen Kain


  • Serving Size: 12


I’m sharing this post with Between Naps on the Porch.