This vegan black forest trifle is just like your classic German gateau but easier to prepare and assemble! It's packed with soft and fluffy eggless chocolate cake, a light and dreamy chocolate custard, macerated cherries and whipped cream.
Just like my vegan black forest tart, this trifle is easier to make than a conventional black forest cake. This trifle won't collapse and messiness is embraced!
Ingredients you'll need
To make this black forest trifle, you'll need ingredients for a basic vegan chocolate cake plus cherries and whipping cream!
Notes about the ingredients
It may look like a lot of ingredients but many of them are used 2 or 3 times in the trifle! For example, sugar, dairy-free milk and cocoa powder are used for the cake and custard layers.
In addition, I use dairy-free chocolate to make the cake and custard a little richer.
Fresh and canned/jarred cherries because it's an essential ingredient in a classic black forest! If you can't get fresh, you can use extra canned/jarred cherries or even frozen.
A complete list of ingredients, quantities and instructions are in the gray recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Making the vegan chocolate cake
The chocolate cake is based on the recipe I made in mass quantities for my cake business (and is published fully in my cookbook). It's extremely easy and requires just one bowl.
I'd recommend baking the cake at least a day in advance and even chilling it in the fridge overnight. Cakes are always easier to handle the next day.
First, add all the dry ingredients to your mixing bowl and mix until combined. Add all the wet ingredients and whisk until there are no more lumps of flour etc.
I baked the cake in 2 x 8-inch cake tins but a large sheet cake will also work. I baked them at a lower temperature (160°C / 320°F) because I didn't want the cake to dome too much so I could cut more even cubes. Baking at a lower temperature also results in a slightly denser cake which is easier to handle.
Alternatively, you can bake the cake at 180°C / 350°F and crumble the cake into small pieces for your black forest trifle.
How to make vegan chocolate custard
For the custard, I'd recommend using a LARGE saucepan. The custard will boil up and it's easier to whisk when it's in a large saucepan.
First I'd recommend first combing all the corn starch with just 1 cup (250g) of dairy-free milk. This allows us to break down the corn starch so it's less likely to lump up later.
Then add the rest of your custard ingredients and place the saucepan over high heat.
Allow the custard to boil for 5 minutes then reduce to a simmer until thickened.
I simmered the custard for 10-15 minutes but you can do it for longer if you'd prefer a thicker custard. 10-15 minutes will give you a custard that is runny and thick but not scoopable.
But how can I tell if the custard is ready?
- When it reaches the ribbon stage where you lift a spatula and the custard can leave a ribbon for at least few seconds.
- When it can thickly coat the back of a spatula. If you run your finger in the middle and the custard holds it shape.
- Or when the custard is JUST before your ideal consistency
You can let the custard come to room temperature on the kitchen bench or chill it in the fridge overnight. If your custard sets at any stage, you can:
- Use an immersion blender to remove any lumps and to liquefy the custard
- Whisk the custard vigorously until it's runny again. However, this will be an arm workout!
Making the jammy cherry compote
One of the best things about black forest is the jammy cherries. First, drain the cherries from its soaking juice, reserving the liquid. We need about 375g of juice for a jammy compote so add more water until you reach that amount.
Combine the juice, corn starch and sugar in a very large saucepan/pot and whisk until combined. Place over medium heat and heat until thickened. Turn off the heat, add the cherries and mix until combined!
Taste the mixture and if you'd like to add more sweetener (or even kirsch), this is the perfect time to do so!
The cherry compote can be made a day or a few hours in advance. However, if you make it a day in advance, it may solidify into a jelly-like block (just like the custard)
If it does, simply heat it in a saucepan with a dash of water. Mix gently until the mixture is like a compote again. Add more water if you need to!
Assembling the vegan black forest trifle
This is the most rewarding part! I layered my trifle in the following order:
- Chocolate cake
- Cherry compote
- Chocolate custard
- Whipped cream
- And finally, fresh cherries
Don't have the time or patience for a particular layer? No worries! Here are a few shortcuts:
- Use store-bought (or old) vegan chocolate cake and crumble it up. If the cake has icing on it, you can keep it on or even scrape it off (and mix the icing into the custard).
- Use store-bought plain vegan custard and mix it with some melted dairy-free chocolate.
- Use dairy-free yogurt instead of whipping cream.
- Skip the compote and just use canned cherries. You can drizzle some of the reserved juice onto the chocolate cake.
For some extra tips on how to make a trifle, check out this post by Better Homes and Gardens.
Or just make my vegan black forest tart instead!
More trifles and vegan chocolate desserts
Vegan Black Forest Trifle
Vegan Chocolate Cake
- 2 cups (250g) all-purpose plain flour, (note 1 for gluten free)
- 1 ¼ cups (225g) granulated, brown or coconut sugar, or a mixture
- ½ cup (50g) cocoa or raw cacao powder
- 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules, optional
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 ¼ cups (315g) dairy-free milk
- ½ cup (125g) light-tasting vegetable oil
- 40 g melted vegan chocolate
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
Dairy Free Chocolate Custard
- 4 cups (32 oz or 1L) soy milk, or dairy free milk of choice
- ⅔ cup (75g) corn starch / corn flour
- ½ cup (85g) roughly chopped vegan chocolate or chocolate chips
- ⅓ cup (55g) granulated, brown or coconut sugar, to taste
- 3 cups (24 oz or 720g) dairy free whipping cream, or as needed
- 500g fresh, jarred or canned cherries
To make the cake (a few hours or a day in advance):
- Preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F). Line or grease 2 x 8 inch (20 cm) round baking tins or a large sheet tray.
- Sift your dry ingredients if they're lumpy. Add all the dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl and mix until combined. Add all the wet ingredients and mix until there are no lumps.
- Pour the batter into your cake tin(s). Bake for 20 minutes or until you can insert a skewer in the middle and it comes out clean. Allow the cake(s) to cool in the tin.
- Cover the cakes and chill in the fridge until needed. Chilled cakes are easier to handle!
To prepare the chocolate custard (a few hours or a day in advance):
- Add around 1 cup (250g) of the dairy free milk and all the corn starch to a large saucepan and whisk until there are no lumps of corn starch.
- Add the remaining ingredients and place the saucepan over high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil for 5 minutes. Reduce to medium heat for 10-15 minutes while whisking frequently until it thickens to just before your ideal consistency or when it thickly coats the back of a spatula. Cook it longer if you'd prefer a thicker custard.
- Remove the custard from the heat. Set aside to cool, whisking it occasionally to prevent a skin from forming on top. Chill until needed (note 2).
To make the cherry compote (up to a day in advance or on day of serving):
- Drain the cherries reserving all the juice. We need about 3 cups (720g) of liquid for this so measure your juice and add extra water to make it 720g.
- Add all the liquid, corn starch and sweetener to a very large saucepan or pot and mix until combined. Place over medium heat and heat until thickened. Add the cherries and take the saucepan off the heat. Allow to cool until needed (note 3).
To assemble (on the day of serving):
- Whip the cream according to packet instructions.
- Cut your cake into 1 inch cubes or crumble into small pieces.
- Arrange half the cake into the bottom of an 8 inch (20 cm) trifle dish or large glass bowl. Fill any holes with more cake to form an even layer. Layer with half of the cherry compote, half of the chocolate custard and half of the whipped cream. Repeat all the layers.
- Top the trifle with fresh cherries. Chill until ready to serve. Leftovers can be stored covered in the trifle dish for up to 3-5 days.
- For a gluten free vegan chocolate cake, use a good quality 1:1 gluten free all purpose flour. Or use 1 ¼ cups (125g) almond flour and ¾ cup (120g) gluten free all-purpose flour.
- If you make your custard a day in advance and it sets fully, whisk it vigorously until there are no lumps. Alternatively, blend the custard with a hand or stand blender until it is runny again.
- If you make your compote a day in advance and it sets fully, reheat over low-medium heat in a saucepan and add a little water if needed. Gently mix until the compote is jammy again.
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