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Gingerbread-Brandy Trifle

Scott Phillips

Servings: 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 

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 

Nutritional Information

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


Make the cake

  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9×13-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.


You can find mascarpone, an Italian-style cream cheese, in the dairy section of most supermarkets.


Rate or Review

Reviews (15 reviews)

  • MDS1 | 12/30/2017

    I have been making this trifle every year for Holiday dinner since the recipe was first published. It is truly a festive, delicious dessert and always gets a “wow” from the tasters (and I make sure that there is some leftover for the hosts😊. It really looks more complex than it is to make it and it has a lovely, deep balance of flavors. I’ve never needed to adjust the recipe because it works, as is. Do try!

  • Doeboy | 12/29/2017

    I made this dessert the day before Christmas and the flavours had blended perfectly by Christmas dinner. It is very rich with interesting, complex flavours and textures. I am sensitive to alcohol and next time will revise the recipe to exclude the brandy from the tea-infused ginger syrup, for I believe that it can stand on its own. There are several steps to making this dessert, but worth the effort for a special occasion. It is, indeed, an adults only dessert.

  • MDS1 | 01/03/2015

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

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