featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

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Monday, September 2, 2019


Heather Haven is a multi-award winning mystery author. Her work includes the Silicon Valley based Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, the NYC trail-blazing WWII lady shamus of The Persephone Cole Vintage Mysteries, a stand-alone mystery noir, and an anthology of stories. Her latest endeavor is Christmas Trifle, Book One of the Snow Lake Romantic Suspense Series. Learn more about Heather and her books at her website.

A trifle is a wonderful thing. How can you go wrong when combining cake, pudding, jam, fruit, and whipped cream? Then for the adult version, there is the added touch of liquor. In short, trifle, any type of trifle, is going to be a winner.

Today we’re going to “build” a trifle that is not only delicious to eat but beautiful to look at. I am “repurposing” the recipe used by Chef Charly Harding, one of the two protagonists in Christmas Trifle, Book One of the Snow Lake Romantic Suspense Novels. As owner of an upscale, first-class restaurant, she does everything the correct and perfect way, long and arduous though that way may be. Not only is Charly an executive chef, but she has many underlings working for her who are able to perform the tasks required to do things the Cordon Bleu way.

But that’s fiction. This is real life. So we’re going to do things the Heather Haven way. Black Forest Christmas Trifle is actually based on a recipe I’ve been using for years as my grand dessert for parties thrown around the holidays.

First you need to decide how much time, effort and $$$ you want to put into this dessert, as well as how many you hope to feed. Then adjust the recipe accordingly. Through the years, I have made trifle a variety of ways, depending on which of the above three things I could afford.

I have baked my own cake or bought it. I have whipped up my own whipped cream or used Cool Whip. I have made pudding from scratch in a double boiler or bought instant. I have added expensive liqueurs or used inexpensive brandy. I have made trifle for four and for sixty. No matter. It has always been a showstopper, especially over the holidays.

Make this dessert your own. Shine with it. There are dozens of recipes out there, all of them no doubt just as wonderful. In fact, in Christmas Trifle, Charly’s former partner and husband Cliff, who is also a marvelous chef, created his own Strawberry Pistachio Trifle, which won numerous awards. And it is delicious.

But I’m a little prejudice. For the holidays, you can’t beat the colors and tastes of the Black Forest Christmas Trifle. Give it a try and see if you don’t agree!

Black Forest Trifle
Serves 8-12

Clear glass bowl, approx. 96 oz.
1 box chocolate cake mix that doesn’t require oil (You can also either purchased chocolate pound cake without icing or bake your own.)
32 oz. bag frozen dark sweet cherries
1/4-1/2 cup brandy (optional)
5.1 oz. box JELL-O Vanilla Instant Pudding & Pie Filling Mix
Red and green food coloring
Almond extract
Mint extract
Cherry extract
4 oz. almonds, blanched and slivered
12 oz. black cherry preserves
12 oz. Cool Whip or stabilized whipped cream*
Sprig of mint (optional)

The Night Before:
Bake chocolate cake divided into two pans. Allow to cool overnight.

Defrost the cherries. Add optional brandy. Mix well. Let sit in the fridge overnight.

The Day of:
Make your pudding according to directions but use 3 cups of milk minus 1 T. Divide evenly into 3 bowls. Add to one bowl 1/2 tsp. almond extract. Add to the second bowl 3/4 tsp. cherry extract and 3 drops red food coloring. Add to the third bowl 1/2 tsp. mint extract and 3 drops green food coloring.

Drain cherries, reserving the liquid to use elsewhere, such as over vanilla ice cream.

Cut cake into bite-size pieces.

If using whipped cream instead of Cool Whip, make the stabilized whipped cream:

Build the Trifle:
(Note: For a perfect appearance, if you splatter some of the ingredients as you’re layering your trifle, wipe inside of glass with a clean cloth as you work.)

To the bottom of the glass bowl add 1/4 of the chocolate cake spread in an even layer. Add 1/4 of the cherries scattered around.

Add the almond/vanilla pudding, spread evenly. Sprinkle the almond slivers evenly on top of pudding.

Add 1/4 of the chocolate cake in another even layer. Scatter another 1/4 of the cherries over the cake. Add dollops of cherry jam. Spread cherry pudding evenly on top.

Add 1/2 the whipped cream, spreading evenly, then another 1/4 of the chocolate cake and another 1/4 of the cherries. Spread mint pudding evenly over cherries and add more dollops of jam.

Spread the remainder of the whipped cream evenly over the cherries and jam. Cover with remaining cherries. Add a sprig of mint to the top.

Refrigerate several hours before serving.

* To make stabilized whipped cream, combine 2 T. sugar and 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar. Whip 2 cups heavy cream at high speed to form soft peaks. Add in your sugar/cream of tartar and 2 tsp. vanilla. Continue whipping to form firm peaks.

Christmas Trifle
A Snow Lake Romantic Suspense, Book 1

When chefs Charly and Cliff Harding divorce, she gets custody of their upscale restaurant and its namesake, Felix, the cat.  He gets custody of their dog, Oscar.  What they both still have custody of, though, is each other’s heart and seem to be the only two people in the small ski resort town of Snow Lake, Nevada, that don’t know it. 
When Cliff opens his own restaurant in direct competition with Charly, bad things start to happen. Death threats, accidents, and murder are now on the menu. Their ‘if-you-can’t-take-the-heat-then-get-out-of-the-kitchen’ battles are backfiring. Regrets consume them. But can they find their way back to each other?  Or is it too late? Because they just might spend the rest of their lives in prison unjustly accused of murder. Or can love triumph over even murder?

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Heather Haven said...

Thank you for hosting me, Cloris! Much appreciated.


We're always happy to have you stop by, Heather, especially when you come bearing gifts like that yummy trifle.