Layers of Fall

Posted on September 26, 2010

This fun fall dessert is full of layers like apple pie filling and pumpkin cake.  The trifle combines your favorite fall desserts into one!

One of my favorite desserts for entertaining (and eating) is a trifle.  It allows you to incorporate lots of different textures and flavors into one dish.  It also is visually impressive but almost always EASY to make.  Historically I have made summer trifles with berries, angel food cake or pound cake and cool whip and pudding.  It’s September, now, so fall flavors are constantly on my mind.  Pumpkin. Apples.  Cinnamon.  This Fall Trifle takes some prep time but is very easy to put together.

Fall Trifle: This fun fall dessert is full of layers like apple pie filling and pumpkin cake.

First thing I do when making a trifle is figure out how I will get in all of the textures I want: Creamy, Crunchy, Soft.  I also consider the look of the trifle, what are some colors that will go well together but not blend too closely to one another?

For crunch a few cookie options came to mind (graham crackers and gingersnaps especially), so when I found these in my parent’s kitchen I grabbed them!  I think of them as a ginger-spiked Oreo:-)  Regular gingersnaps would have worked too.  I like the little spicy bite with all of the other sweet ingredients.

ginger cookie

I just crushed them in a Ziploc bag.  No food processor required since you don’t want crumbs, just small chunks of cookies!

crushed cookies

Next I thought about the creamy ingredients.  I always include cool whip in trifles because it is light and creamy and tailors well to any flavor profile.  Fresh whipped cream would be even better (hmmm maybe cinnamon whipped cream!), but I was going for some less indulgent ingredients.  In addition to the whipped cream I chose to use vanilla pudding which is creamy but thicker in texture.

pudding ingredients

One of my favorite guilt-free EASY recipes is pumpkin spice cake.  All that you need is spice cake mix, pumpkin, egg whites (or egg beaters) and water.  I can promise you that the cake will be moist and flavorful.  No one ever knows that it is low fat.  Use this as a base for muffins or cupcakes with cream cheese icing!

spice cake ingredients

In the summer, berries are usually a perfect trifle component.  Sliced banana is also tasty, but sometimes the mushier texture doesn’t provide enough contrast.  What dessert is more fall than apple pie?  Enter, apple pie filling!

cropped apples

When you are ready to build your trifle, layout all of the ingredients and decide on an order for layering.  Consider texture and color for this.

trifle parts

For this trifle, layer the apple pie filling on the bottom of your trifle dish (a large glass bowl would work too).  The apples are a little too heavy to have in the upper layers.

apples in trifle

Next is the pudding.  Apples + pudding = slightly crunchy + creamy.

pudding on apples

The crumbled spice cake is next.

cake on pudding

Then cool whip for that cool and creamy addition.

cool whip on cake

Cookies next for another crunch layer.

This fun fall dessert is full of layers like apple pie filling and pumpkin cake.

After that, you repeat the prior layers except for the apple pie filling.  Leave cool whip as your final layer and decorate as you wish.  I scattered cookie crumbs and a couple pieces of the apple.

Fall Trifle: This fun fall dessert is full of layers like apple pie filling and pumpkin cake.

The layers don’t have to be perfect, does that mean I should call this rustic??

Fall Trifle: This fun fall dessert is full of layers like apple pie filling and pumpkin cake.

Serve with a long spoon for scooping.  Dig deep for that apple pie filling!

Fall Trifle: This fun fall dessert is full of layers like apple pie filling and pumpkin cake.


Fall Trifle

Serves 10-12


Prepared apple pie filling (recipe below)

Vanilla pudding, 2 small boxes prepared (use instructions on box)

1/2 of prepared pumpkin spice cake (recipe below), broken up into small pieces

2 8-ounce containers of cool whip

2-3 cups of cookie crumbs (gingersnaps or a similar variety are recommended)


Layer ingredients as follows-

Apple pie filling


Spice cake

Cool whip

Cookie crumbs

Repeat, except for apples, leaving cool whip as final layer

Decorate as desired

Refrigerate prior to serving


When layering ingredients, cover each prior layer completely.  You want to get a taste of each component in every bite.  Plus, the view from the side is prettier when you can see each element

Instead of or in addition to the cookies, toasted walnuts or pecans would make a great crunch layer

If you like butterscotch, butterscotch pudding would probably be a great replacement for vanilla

I chose to use lower fat ingredients in this recipe because 1) I knew that the way it comes together it does NOT taste low fat, and 2) the rest of the desserts planned for our night were extra indulgent.  This version was made with fat free cool whip and fat free, sugar free pudding

Spice Cake:


1 box spice cake mix

1 small can (15 oz.) pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling

2 egg whites or 1/4 cup egg replacement

1/2 cup water


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray 9×13 pan or baking dish with cooking spray (if you want to, you can make into 24 cupcakes instead and save the extra; they will freeze well)

Combine all ingredients until batter is smooth.  A mixer is easier but this can also be done by hand

Spread batter into baking dish and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until knife or toothpick comes out clean

Allow to cool before using in trifle

Apple Pie Filling


3 golden delicious apples, sliced (peeling optional)

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon all-purpose flour

Dash of cinnamon

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons granulated sugar


Combine apples, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon.  Set aside

Melt butter in medium pan over low-medium heat

Sprinkle in granulated sugar and stir until mixture is lightly browned

Pour apple mixture into pan and stir

Cook over medium heat for approximately 30 minutes or until apple slices are softened

Allow to cool before using in trifle


What are your favorite flavors of fall?

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