Cooking from the Bar Cart: Berry-Champagne Trifle

A bit of bubbly livens up cake, strawberries, and whipped cream in this easy, elegant Valentine’s dessert for two

Two glass cups filled with a strawberries and cream dessert

Photo: katherine cobbs/BLUELINE CREATIVE GROUP

A trifle is an English layered dessert that combines sponge cake or ladyfingers soaked in wine or brandy with fruit, custard, or whipped cream. I’d venture to guess it’s called a “trifle” because it is hardly a bother to make. Consider it a kitchen dalliance requiring basic ingredients and all of a half hour to prepare. But do plan ahead because it’s best to let this rest in the fridge at least four hours or overnight before serving to let the flavors meld.

Soaking a cake with an imbibing syrup is a classic way to impart flavor and guarantee a moist crumb. Instead of the traditional wine or brandy trifle soak, this recipe enlists a more delicate Champagne syrup, which plays beautifully with the berries and permeates the cake bits and whipped cream. The end result is like a chilled, sweet bread pudding. Though I used strawberries here, any berries would work. The recipe makes more Champagne syrup than you’ll need, but it keeps well in the refrigerator for several weeks and can be used in cocktails, to dress a fruit salad, or for an encore of this dessert.

See other recipes in our Cooking from the Bar Cart series.

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  • Berry-Champagne Trifle (Yield: 2 servings)

    • ½ cup brut Champagne or dry sparkling wine

    • ½ cup granulated sugar

    • 1 pint (12 oz.) strawberries, stemmed and sliced

    • Tiny pinch salt

    • 1 cup cold heavy cream, divided

    • 2 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar

    • 2 cups cubed ladyfingers, angel food cake, or pound cake

    • Mint leaves, optional


  1. Chill a metal mixing bowl and the whisk attachment of a mixer.

  2. Combine Champagne and granulated sugar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat; stir until sugar dissolves. Transfer syrup to a glass measuring cup. You will have a scant cup. Cool syrup completely to room temperature (or make ahead and chill).

  3. Drizzle 2 tablespoons syrup over the sliced strawberries in a bowl. Add a pinch of salt. Set aside 5 minutes to macerate, tossing from time to time. 

  4. Pour ¾ cup of the cold cream into chilled mixing bowl, reserving remaining cream in the refrigerator. Add confectioners’ sugar and 2 tablespoons syrup. Beat with chilled whisk attachment on medium-high speed until medium-soft peaks form, 3 to 5 minutes.

  5. Assemble the trifles in individual trifle glasses or wine glasses, starting with a layer of whipped cream, then a layer of cake cubes, a drizzle of syrup, and a layer of strawberries. Repeat the layers a second time. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. To serve, whip the remaining ¼ cup cream on medium-high speed until medium-soft peaks form. Top each trifle with an equal dollop of whipped cream. Garnish with mint leaves, if desired.


Katherine Cobbs is a cookbook author and editor. Her most recent books are Pantry Cocktails (2021) and Tequila & Tacos (2020) published by Simon & Schuster. She also developed recipes for Garden & Gun’s The Southerner’s Cookbook – Recipes, Wisdom, and Stories.


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