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Christmas in the Caribbean

By Nancy Eisman
Image of Tropical Trifle
Fresh, unadulterated seasonal fruit will always be the best choice for a healthy, simple dessert. But for holidays and other special occasions, where “oohs” and “aahs” are the desired effect, something extra special that takes a bit of effort is in order.

The classic English dessert known as trifle is fairly easy to assemble and definitely has a “wow” factor. Traditionally made with layers of sponge cake or lady fingers soaked in sherry or Madeira, custard, raspberry jam, whipped cream, candied fruit, nuts, and grated chocolate, here at Plant-Based 411 we’re going in a lighter, sunnier direction.

To transport trifle from cold, damp England to a warmer locale, this version showcases fresh, vitamin-rich fruits that conjure up an island vacation. Along with delicious dairy-free versions of cake and pudding, juicy pineapple, mango, and kiwi are layered with toasted coconut and macadamia nuts and topped with a coconut whipped cream, taking all of your senses on a quick trip to the tropics.

Feed a crowd from a large, impressive, glass serving bowl, or make as many or few individual servings required for the number of guests at your table. And while other fancy desserts require stressful precision, trifle allows for imperfections that will be undetectable to everyone but you.

This tropical version is outstanding, but there are endless ways to make a trifle your own. Choose flavors of cake, pudding, fruits, nuts, and other embellishments, and take your trifle in whatever taste profile, direction, or destination you want. Anyway you layer it, trifle, full of lots of colorful, compatible flavors and textures, is a showstopper you and your guests will savor.

Tropical Trifle
(cut up fruit in a bowl to retain juices)
Image of Ingredients
2 cups fresh mango, cubed
2 cups fresh kiwi, cubed 2 cups fresh pineapple, cubed
2 cups macadamia nuts, toasted
2 cups shredded coconut, toasted
2 8” vanilla layer cakes*, each cut in ½ horizontally
3 cups vanilla pudding*
1½ cups coconut whipped cream*

*Use the recipes below or choose store-bought versions
Make the cake per the directions below and set aside.
Make the pudding per the directions below, and refrigerate until firm.

To assemble the trifle:
  1. In a tall, glass serving bowl, place 1 cake half-layer on the bottom, and drizzle with a little fruit juice.
  2. Spread the cubed mango over the cake.
  3. Spread 1 cup of pudding over the fruit.
  4. Sprinkle ¼ of the toasted coconut and macadamia nuts over the pudding.
  5. Repeat process, using kiwi on this layer.
  6. Repeat process, using pineapple on this layer.
  7. Finish with remaining half-layer of cake.
  8. Make the coconut whipped cream (see below).
  9. Top with coconut whipped cream and garnish with remaining toasted coconut and macadamia nuts.
  10. Refrigerate trifle at least 1 hour before serving.
Vanilla Almond Cake
(Adapted from Loving It Vegan)
Image of Vanilla Almond Cake
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 2-8” layer cake pans with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Sift the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt into a mixing bowl.
  3. Whisk the almond milk, extracts, oil and vinegar together, and then add to the dry ingredients and whisk to combine.
  4. Bake cakes for 30 minutes or until toothpick put into cake center is clean.
  5. Remove cakes to cooling rack and cool completely before removing from pans.
  6. Cut cakes in half horizontally and set aside.

Vanilla Pudding

1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon sea salt
2½ cups coconut milk
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

  1. Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in a saucepan.
  2. Over medium heat add the coconut milk, whisking until thickened.
  3. Add the vanilla extract and cook/whisk another 3 minutes.
  4. Pour pudding into a bowl, cool to room temp, and refrigerate until firm.
Coconut Whipped Cream

1 can coconut cream
¼ - ½ cup powdered sugar
  1. Refrigerate can of coconut cream overnight.
  2. Chill a metal mixing bowl at least 10 minutes.
  3. Remove lid of the coconut cream and scrape out the thickened cream into the chilled mixing bowl, leaving any liquid behind.
  4. Beat the thickened cream for 30 seconds to 1 minute until creamy.
  5. Add ¼ cup of powdered sugar and beat for 1 minute. Adjust sweetness if needed. Use immediately.
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