For the love of the little things: Chocolate Amaretto trifle


With Valentine’s Day in the air, many of us are thinking about the old adage “Good things come in small packages.”  Good things like sparkly earrings, shiny bracelets, and of course that lover’s special, the diamond engagement ring. While you’re planning your romantic dinner, consider making these personal sized treats, Chocolate Amaretto Trifles, one for you and one for your sweetie.

I’ve always been a fan of small packages, bins and boxes. I adore apothecary chests with their tiny little drawers full of surprises. I use one for my earrings, and one for a medicine chest in our master bathroom. Finding the Advil feels more like finding a special treasure than just finding a plastic bottle.

I always save ring and earring boxes and have a stack of mini Chinese take-out boxes in my studio for wrapping gifts. If it’s tiny, unique, and pretty I’m a fan. Like these tiny treasures:




The girls. I know they aren’t little anymore, but I remember when they were, and they’ll always be treasures to me.


Chocolate Bon Bon Cookies

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And of course, diamond rings. I even got engaged at a mini golf course! Mini Coopers, mini peanut butter cups, mini muffins, Minnie the Moocher, it’s all good.

Let’s get started on our Chocolate Amaretto Trifle.


Rather than starting with the cake, you’ll be starting with the white chocolate ganache filling, as it needs to cool before whipping.

Begin by heating the milk to boiling on the stovetop. Add in the white chocolate, remove from the heat and stir until melted. Place in the refrigerator to cool while you make and bake the cake.



Line a half sheet pan with parchment and spritz well with cooking spray.


Separate the eggs and set the yolks aside.


Whip the whites and lemon juice in a stand mixer to stiff peaks, gradually adding the 1/2 cup of sugar as you mix. See how beautifully they stand up?

If you’re lucky and have two bowls for your mixer, you can leave the whites in one. But I transfer the whites to another bowl, and use the same mixer bowl for the rest of the cake batter.


Place the egg yolks and remaining sugar in the bowl and beat until lightened in color and texture.


Add the oil, buttermilk, and flavorings, and blend again.


In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt until aerated and well blended. Add this to the egg-yolk batter on low speed. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes.



By hand, fold in the egg whites in 3 stages. Take care to fold gently to keep the mixture light.

I know the picture is a funky angle, but I noticed the heart shape in the center, and couldn’t resist.


When the mixture is blended, pour into the prepared pan and bake for 15 to 18 minutes at 325°F. The cake is done when the center springs back when lightly touched and the sides of the cake begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.


With the aid of the parchment, lift the cake out onto a rack to cool.

What’s up with the towel? I was also making a buche de noel at the time, so added the towel but it really doesn’t belong there, so please leave it out.


While the cake is on the rack, brush it well with 1/4 cup Amaretto. This will keep the cake moist and flavorful.

If you don’t care for Amaretto you can use another liqueur or simple syrup. I wouldn’t skip this step, though;, it adds so much to the cake.


While the cake is mellowing with its Amaretto, it’s time to whip up the light and luscious filling. Remove the cooled and thickened white chocolate ganache from the fridge. It should be the consistency of pudding. If not, you may need to chill it for longer. Don’t worry, the cake will wait.

Place the ganache in the bowl of the mixer, add the Amaretto and use the whip attachment on medium speed to fluff the filling. The texture won’t look as fluffy and stiff as whipped cream, but the taste on the tongue will be light and airy.


Assembling a trifle is quite simply layering cake and filling, but you can finesse both to make the layers look more appealing when you’re using clear glass containers, like these mini dessert shot glasses.

Place a small amount of filling in the bottom of the glass. Use your fingers to break the cake into bite-sized pieces and layer over the filling.


Add more filling, using the tip of a spoon to encourage it to flow over the edges of the cake in those oh-so-tempting waterfalls of ganache goodness.


More cake I say, more cake! Add the cake layers gently and don’t pack them into the glass. That would cause the filling to compress and you would lose the pleasant look of the trifle.


Add a final layer of ganache. Each layer will use a bit more cake and ganache as the glass widens.


Some homemade whipped cream is a perfect topping, along with a cherry or two. Sliced strawberries would be lovely when in season. Or how about adding an extra layer of Cherry Dessert Sauce?


Don’t worry if you don’t have dessert shot glasses. While they make a beautiful presentation, the cake will fit in a large trifle dish, or even a glass serving bowl. Good things sometimes come in large packages too!

Please make, rate and review our recipe for Chocolate Amaretto Trifle.

MaryJane Robbins

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...


  1. Marianna

    I bought two sets of the dessert shot glasses right before Christmas. I was so busy with cookies, gingerbread, and other holiday desserts that I never got around to using them. This looks like the perfect reason to take them out! I even have a bottle of Amaretto in the cabinet so I am good to go! I am going to have fun this weekend making Chicago pizza and these little trifles. :)

  2. Ricardo Neves Gonzalez - Petrópolis, R.J. - BRAZIL

    I bake lots of cakes here, and i always suggest my customers to serve the cakes whit some kind of cream. I love cakes with creams on top, specially English Cake, Ginger Almond Cake, Fruit Cake. All of those cakes combine well with quality heavy cream.
    But i loved this combination of cocoa cake with ganache, and whipped on top!
    It turns better more delicious if you sprinkle some chopped nuts besides whipped cream!
    Nuts would be delicious with this as well. Toasted pecans, or even lightly salted walnuts. ~ MaryJane

  3. Jennifer

    Dang-it and just when I decided I was going to start my diet. I really shouldn’t read your Blog. Though Amaretto is my sister’s favorite drink… I might have to make it for her…
    That’s the ticket, make it for your sister and then share the love (and the dessert!). ~ MaryJane

  4. Kelly

    Oh man… Now I really need to get those dessert shots out of their box in the cupboard. This looks very similar to one of my favorite chocolate zabaglione trifle recipes which I have made in mini trifle dishes but not shot glasses. Maybe I should throw a build your own trifle shot dessert buffet. Good way to try a little bit of everything without blowing a whole week’s worth of calories!
    What a fantastic idea! Have bowls of cake, bowls of creams, fruits, “crunchy bits” and chocolate, of course. BYOT (build your own trifle) parties will be the hot topic of 2010 folks. You heard it from Kelly first! ~ MaryJane

  5. Erin in PA

    LOVE the idea of a Build Your Own Trifle buffet!!! I remember years ago my mom’s friend made a brownie trifle that involved Kahlua liquer…. yum, just thinking about it as I munch on a carrot stick LOL!
    Carrot sticks? You are a good girl Erin. I think you’ve earned your brownie (trifle) points for today. ~ MaryJane

  6. Pamela Jans

    I’m with Jennifer, this is definitely a diet blower: chocolate cake, Amaretto, creamy filling – what’s not to like?
    BTW I recently read that if you sign your full name to a blog comment, you are probably an old fogey. *smile* Well, I am proud of my old fogey status, but in the interest of privacy, I have decided to start signing my missives Moxie, because after months of lurking, I have finally gotten the moxie to post a comment.

    YAY, PJ! Thanks for coming out of the shadows, so to speak – glad you’re joining in. I never heard about the “full name/old fogey” relationship. Can you have an energetic young person inside an old fogey body? That’s what I feel like! PJH

  7. Kimberly D

    I agree with Pamela and Jennifer, there goes my diet! But I will not use amaretto or any other kind of liqueur. How about a extract flavor? Any suggestions on what flavor of extract would work nicely with this? I put my last name initial so I know its my post for I have noticed other Kimberly’s postings…lol!
    See the suggestions in the Bakers Tips box. You can use flavored syrup. Make a simple syrup and flavor it with an extract flavor you like. Joan D @ bakershotline

  8. Great-grandma B.

    Hi Pamela Jans and PJH. Old fogey? On my 86th birthday, I received a card with the following sentiment:

    Inside every old person is a young one wondering, “WHAT THE
    _______ HAPPENED?”

    I’ll let you supply the appropriate expletive.

    I really enjoy these KAF recipes, pictures, and posts even though I don’t bake anymore . . . can’t afford the calories. It took much too long to pry off all those pounds. Where desserts are concerned, I have no won’t-power, and too much “will.”

    GG, thanks for starting my day – at 4:20 a.m. (sleeplessness, another hallmark of “young fogey”?) – with a great big laugh! I’m going to remember that line… I’m glad you can still enjoy desserts, if only vicariously… PJH
    Your line reminds me of another favorite. “Everyone has to believe in something. I believe I’ll have another piece of pie.” Thanks for sharing. ~ MaryJane

  9. Karen

    Can I use a Jelly Roll Pan ?

    This is too much batter for a jelly roll pan to handle all at once. You can use 3-9″ pans if you like. Frank @ KAF.

  10. Cathy from MD

    These look lovely, but I don’t have the little glasses. I got some martini glasses before Christmas, do you think they’d be about the right size?

    Those sound great! Just be careful, they may get a bit top heavy. Frank @ KAF.

  11. Valleygirl from CO

    I “volunteered” to make shot glass parfaits for a fare well party at work. What was I thinking! I made 175. Since I didn’t have that many glasses, I found a 2 oz. shot glass (plastic) at a party supply store (50 to a bag). They worked great and were a big hit. I’ve since found glass for use when I have company for dinner. This recipe sounds delicious and I’ll add it to my list…black forest, banana cream pie, brownie sundae. There goes my diet too.

    What a GREAT idea for a huge party – plastic shot glasses and tiny desserts. So much more festive than cookies or brownies, and bet the assembly-line method of putting them together was actually quite fast, no? Thanks for sharing – PJH
    I think we need to put this on the list for a KAF party. Save up our scrapes of cakes and cookies, fillings and toppings. BYOS, bring your own spoon! ~ MaryJane

  12. Great-grandma B,

    MaryJane, I’m having a problem writing this because I’m giggling too much. “. . . believe I’ll have another piece of pie.” Yes, indeed, that’s me!
    Do we bakers have a new career in stand up comedy? Doubtful, but wrinkles only go where the smiles have been, so laugh it up when you can. :)~ MaryJane

  13. Tonia

    Oooh! I love trifle! And the earlier posting about a trifle buffet is a great idea. As I was reading I was thinking “brandied sweet cherries would be good!” — even more Black Forest-like!

  14. AJ

    As usual, something delicious and decadent! However, didn’t GG’s quote hit it right on the head! I laughed all day long then put the quote on my
    calendar so I wouldn’t forget!

    I shared that with a lot of people here too, AJ – Thanks, GG! PJH

  15. Moxie (Young Fogey)

    OK, I made this yesterday. What! You think I’d wait until Valentine’s Day?
    Actually, I had been planning on making an authentic English trifle to take to work, and when I saw this recipe I decided that chocolate trumps authentic.
    Quite a while ago, “someone” complained that there were too many photos in your blog – I say fie on him! As for me, I could have used MORE photos than what you had. I felt quite nervous about mixing that cake dough for 2 whole minutes, and would have liked to have seen what “well blended and smooth” looked like (according to the printed recipe).
    Also, I am a goof when it comes to folding in egg white and would also have liked a picture of what it looks like when “only a few streaks of white show”.
    My white chocolate filling never did get to the consistancy of pudding, even though I left it in the fridge to cool for over an hour, and also put it in the freezer for another 10 minutes. It stayed liquid when I beat it, and was not “light and airy”.
    All in all, I felt like a definite newby when it came to this recipe. (I have been baking for over 40 years).
    The taste was still good, even with all my mishaps, but ended up looking rather messy, the cake seemed tough, and I didn’t take it to work. Cheers! This is what makes baking fun, try again another day. Thanks for all your good ideas. PJ

    Thanks for your enthusiastic review of our blog. Some of us are visual people, who benefit from all the help we can get with recipes (read all the pictures here). The pictures help explain what we may doubt in our interpretation. When you are in doubt, you can always call our Baker’s Hotline at 802-649-3717 for immediate help with recipes or results. Irene @ KAF

  16. Charlene Lyle

    Ok, so I made (or tried, that is) to make the trifle for my husband’s birthday. WELL……I agree with Moxie in that I could have used more pictures and a few more specifics. I wasn’t sure exactly what size a “half sheet” pan was, and your pic looked like a jelly roll pan, so that’s what I used. Too much batter, but it fit, just took about 15 minutes longer to bake, BUT mine did not come out as dark a chocolate as yours. It tasted good, and was very moist and tender but I don’t think the Amaretto flavor came through strong enough. Next, it said to turn it out onto a clean towel and allow to cool completely. Hah! mine stuck to the towel terribly – probably should have flipped it onto a clean sheet of parchment paper. I didn’t have all the stuff for the cream, and was in a hurry to do it while my husband was out, so I used the white chocolate vanilla pudding. It was good, but I think it could have been a little thinner, and could have used more, even though I only used about half the cake. I will try again and make the cream next time. More pics and any other tips would be most appreciated!
    Thanks for sharing your feedback my dear fellow bakers. All duly noted for blogs to come. ~ MaryJane

  17. cindy leigh

    I love the little dessert shots. We are on a healthy eating plan (I hate the D word!), but I’d love to work something like this in. I’d probably try to modify to a lower fat and sugar cake- got any ideas? Im not opposed to replacing half the sugar with Splenda. Can I cut down the egg yolks or oil any? Relace half with something else? Prune babyfood maybe? Is skim milk or evap milk OK vs the cream? How about half the flour for white whole wheat?
    Next thought, after making, can thse small “shots” be frozen? Portion control is easier when “out of sight, out of mind”.
    Thanks….. now, back to the Wii Fit.

    PS- a big belated THANKS. Before Christmas my daughter’s team hed a cookie fair and several of my recipes came from here, to round out my old heirloom favorites. I baked about a hundred dozen all told, used for 2 Cookie Fairs, as well as for ourselves. Daughter’s inaugural Cookie Fair earned over $1000 for her team. AND we had fun baking together.

    Ah, the “D – season” has begun – it usually follows the C (for cookie!) season. The magic of this cake (and trifle) is the ingredients used – not a great place to do substitutions to make it calorie friendly. The good news is that it IS a smaller portion, and your quest includes portion control. Maybe your lower calorie version could be a special trifle of yogurt and angel food cake? Low fat pudding or whippped cream and cake? The magic is in the presentation (as well as the combination of flavors). Happy Baking! Irene @ KAF

  18. Kathy Appellof

    This recipe looks wonderful, and I’d like to make it for an upcoming dinner party. Do you have any make-ahead suggestions? I’d like to enjoy the conversation of my dinner guests without having to spend more than a few minutes preparing an elegant (and surprise) dessert.
    Hi Kathy,
    You can certainly make the cake ahead of time and freeze it, then take it out the night before and leave it on the counter to thaw. Make the white chocolate ganache the night before, but don’t whip it yet. On the morning of the party, whip the ganache and assemble your trifle(s). Then you can just enjoy your company until you are ready to serve. Have a great time! ~ MaryJane

  19. nancy rodgers

    Can you use clear gel to stabalize whip cream ? If it does ,how much clear gel to whip cream do you use?
    To use as whipped cream stabilizer :
    take 1 3/4 cup heavy cream, chill, mix 1 tbsp
    sugar and 1 tbsp clear jel, sprinkle over chilled
    cream, beat cream as usual . Joan D@bakershotline

    can you

  20. lorraine

    o you have any make-ahead suggestions? I’d like to enjoy the conversation of my dinner guests without having to spend more than a few minutes preparing an elegant (and surprise) dessert.
    Hi Lorraine,
    The trifle can be prepared 2-3 hours ahead of time, no need for last minute prep. ~ MaryJane


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