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Gingerbread-Brandy Trifle


Serves 8-10

This luscious dessert marries layers of gingerbread cake, chopped crystallized ginger, and a creamy filling spiked with brandy, sparkling wine, and black tea.

For the cake
  • 3 oz. (6 Tbs.) unsalted butter, softened; more for the pan
  • 6-3/4 oz. (1-1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour 
  • 1-1/2 tsp. ground ginger  
  • 1 tsp. baking soda 
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt 
  • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice 
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon 
  • Pinch finely ground white pepper 
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar 
  • 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest 
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature 
  • 1/2 cup unsulfured molasses 
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature 
You can find mascarpone, an Italian-style cream cheese, in the dairy section of most supermarkets.
For the ginger-tea syrup
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 4-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped (1/2 cup)  
  • 1 bag strong black tea, such as English breakfast 
  • 2 Tbs. brandy, such as Cognac 
For the filling
  • 2/3 cup sparkling wine, such as Asti Spumante
  • 8 large egg yolks  
  • 6 Tbs. granulated sugar 
  • 1-1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract  
  • 8 oz. mascarpone, at room temperature 
For assembly
  • 6 Tbs. coarsely chopped candied ginger 
Make the cake

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9x13-inch baking pan and line the bottom with parchment. 

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, ginger, baking soda, salt, allspice, cinnamon, and white pepper. 

Beat the butter, sugar, and lemon zest in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl with an electric hand mixer), on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the molasses. Add half of the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just combined. Add half of the milk and mix to combine. Repeat with the remaining dry ingredients and milk. 

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and bake until the center of the cake bounces back when lightly pressed and a cake tester comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes; then carefully invert the cake onto the rack and let it cool completely.

Make the ginger-tea syrup

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and ginger with 1/2 cup water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain the syrup through a fine sieve set over a small bowl, pressing on the ginger to extract all of the syrup. Add the tea bag to the hot syrup and cool completely. Remove the tea bag and add the brandy. 

Make the filling

Pour 2 to 3 inches of water into a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. In a medium stainless-steel bowl, whisk the sparkling wine, egg yolks, sugar, and 2 Tbs. of the ginger syrup. 

Set the bowl over the simmering water, making sure the bottom doesn’t touch the water. Whisk constantly until you can see the bottom of the bowl when you scrape the whisk across it, and the mixture is the consistency of pudding, about 8 minutes. Immediately remove from the heat and whisk frequently until cool. 

Meanwhile, beat the heavy cream in a large bowl with an electric hand mixer on medium high speed until it just starts to thicken. With the mixer still running, add the vanilla and 1 Tbs. of the ginger syrup. Continue beating until medium peaks form, about 2 minutes. 

Whisk the mascarpone into the cooled egg mixture. With a spatula, gently fold the egg mixture into the whipped cream. 

Assemble the trifle

Cut the cake into 1-inch cubes. Spoon a rounded cup of the filling into the bottom of a 7-1/2-inch-diameter, 14-cup (or similar) trifle dish. Arrange a third of the cake on top of the filling in an even layer. Drizzle 1/4 cup of the ginger syrup over the cake. Scatter 1 Tbs. of the candied ginger over the cake. 

Repeat this layering 2 more times. Spoon the remaining filling over the final layer and smooth with the spoon. Sprinkle the remaining 3 Tbs. candied ginger over the top.

Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least a day.


Remove the trifle from the refrigerator 1 to 2 hours prior to serving. Use a large spoon to scoop servings into individual dishes.

Make Ahead Tips

The syrup may be made up to 3 days before assembly; cover and refrigerate. You can also bake the cake up uo 2 days before; once cooled, wrap it well in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature. In fact, the entire trifle can be assembled up to 2 days ahead; keep it well wrapped and refrigerated.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 680, Fat (kcal): 36, Fat Calories (g): 320, Saturated Fat (g): 20, Protein (g): 8, Monounsaturated Fat (g): 1, Carbohydrates (mg): 80, Polyunsaturated Fat (mg): 2, Sodium (g): 240, Cholesterol (g): 285, Fiber (g): 1,

Photo: Scott Phillips

Have made 2 successive Christmases. Made individual serving trifles this year to even more rave reviews!

This was one the best desserts I'vs ever made! Worth the time that is involved to make. I put it together a day 1/2 ahead. All I can say is yummmmm!!

Beautiful presentation and very nice flavor. I think I served to the wrong company - very unappreciative - not a hit with them. Maybe I'll try again with other people. I, personally, enjoyed it.

Made this for Christmas dinner and it was a beautiful presentation. Adults loved this, teens not so much. Given the investment of time spent preparing the cake, the tea and the filling and based on the mixed reception I will likely not make again.

Made this for Christmas dessert and it went fast. I love the make ahead part. I followed the recipe exactly and it came out beautiful. My family says it is one of the top desserts they've ever had. Thanks for the great find!

Unbelievably, I went for seconds of this instead of chocolate!

unbelievable flavour!!!one of the best desserts i've ever had!!!it has a lot of calories but tastes very light!!!

Outrageously good! One of the best desserts I've ever had. Made it for a great Christmas meal and, like the other reviewer, it was the perfect ending. All the spices worked well together and I agree that adding any more of the ginger would tip the balance too much in that direction. Will definitely keep this for a once-a-year standard.

An absolutely wonderful dessert and one that can be made well ahead. It was an appropriate finale to an over the top Christmas eve feast. Everyone had second servings!

I made this for my company's Xmas party and it was devoured!! The balance of flavors was perfect. If you take the extra time to extract as much of the ginger as you can it is worth it. This will become a favorite for me

This recipe is unbelievable. I love when you use ingredients that surprise your pallet, and this so does that. the brandy, sweet champayne, and ginger syrup, Oh my God! amazing. I disagree with the other ratings on more ginger in the cake. I think it balanced perfectly. More ginger would have overpowered the other flavors. So worth the time and effort. Its a wow dessert!

I made this as part of a celebration meal for having lost 140 lbs. Obviously, I only took a 3 bite taste of it. I agree with the previous reviewer, it needs more ginger/cinnamon flavor in the cake. I don't think the tea bag added much to the syrup. Otherwise it was wonderful. Followed the recipe exactly and it turned out just like the picture, very festive considering the occasion. My guests loved and appreciated this very professional looking grown up dessert.

5 stars despite the muscle it takes to make a sabayon! ;) The cake is light and delicious, but could use a bit more ginger taste. The syrup is divine and the mascarpone sabayon cream was worth the work. I love that this dessert isn't too sweet. My husband fell in love with this trifle.

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