Cranberry Orange Trifle

Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 12 servings

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Vanilla cake, vanilla pudding, oranges and cranberry sauce layered together for the perfect holiday dessert — this Cranberry Orange Trifle is great for potlucks!

stemless wine glass filling with cranberry orange rifle topped with whipped cream mandarin orange slices and cranberry

I hope you guys aren’t tired of cranberry recipes (Cranberry Cake with Caramel Sauce or White Chocolate Cranberry Cupcakes anyone?). I’m not sure what it is, but I just can’t get enough cranberry once winter hits and Christmas is coming. Maybe it’s that vibrant red color that makes everything seem a little more festive.

I love how it works just as well with sweet and savory dishes, too. I’m a big fan of adding fruit and other sweet touches to my savory recipes to get that perfect balance of sweet and salty (and maybe spicy or sour).

close up of stemless wine glass filled with white cake vanilla pudding mandarin oranges and cranberry sauce

When I was coming up with my list of holiday recipes that I wanted to bring to you guys this Christmas season, I swear probably half of them had cranberry as a main component. Now, I’m going to try to get a little more adventurous and try some new things, too, but don’t be surprised if they’re taking up a lot of space here on The Recipe Rebel.

Tell me: what are your favorite flavors to add to holiday dishes? Cranberry? Citrus? Chocolate? Mint? Chocolate and mint is another of my favorite holiday combos, but I don’t make  a lot of chocolate and mint desserts for potlucks and gatherings because I know there are people who — gasp — don’t like mint (I know, right?). Tell me you’re not one of those people!

Do you have a must-have holiday dessert? A tradition that you make every year? I don’t really, because I just love creating new recipes, but I’m really interested to see what your favorite holiday dessert is!

cranberry orange trifle in two stemless wine glasses topped with whipped cream mandarin oranges and cranberries

If you wanted to keep things super simple, you can use canned whole berry cranberry sauce instead of making your own. The cranberry sauce is really, really simple, but it does take a little time to cool it completely (which is absolutely necessary!). You can also make it easier on yourself by using a vanilla cake mix (prepared) or go all out and make it from scratch. I love recipes like this that offer a variety of shortcuts for when you’re in a crunch, or homemade options for something really special.

The one thing I really like to take the easy way out on is the pudding. I have tried a few different vanilla pudding recipes, and I just can’t find any that I actually like as much as the boxed. Don’t tar and feather me just yet! It’s not that I haven’t tried (I’ve tried) but it just doesn’t taste the same, and I’m not really a fan. Who out there has a really great vanilla pudding recipe that can convert me??

glass of cranberry orange trifle with spoon taking scoop out of glass

If making vanilla cake from scratch, this is my favorite recipe!

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Cranberry Orange Trifle

5 from 3 votes
This Cranberry Orange Trifle is a fun, festive holiday dessert!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Cuisine American
Course Dessert
Servings 12 servings
Calories 424cal


Cranberry sauce:

  • 3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon water


  • 1 9×13″ vanilla cake (you can use a cake mix, or use my favorite vanilla cake recipe noted above the recipe)
  • 2 boxes instant vanilla pudding
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 284 mL cans mandarin orange segments or slice some up yourself if you want
  • 3 cups whipped cream or whipped topping


  • Make cranberry sauceIn a medium pot, add cranberries, 1 cup water and sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium and cook for about 10 minutes until berries are softened and starting to burst.
  • Combine corn starch and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl and add to cranberries, stirring until thickened.
  • Remove from heat and cool to room temperature (you can speed this up by stashing in the fridge or freezer).
  • Drain mandarin oranges and reserve juice — you should get about 1 cup.
  • Combine pudding mixes, reserve orange juice, and 3 cups milk (or enough milk to make 4 cups liquid) with a whisk until smooth. Set aside.
  • Cut cake into 1″ cubes.
  • In 12 small jars or dessert bowls, layer half of cake, pudding, cranberry sauce and mandarins, then repeat with the second half. Spread whipped cream on top and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 424cal | Carbohydrates: 70g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 47mg | Sodium: 439mg | Potassium: 131mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 49g | Vitamin A: 550IU | Vitamin C: 3.5mg | Calcium: 186mg | Iron: 0.9mg

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Meet Ashley

My name is Ashley Fehr and I love creating easy meals my family loves. I also like to do things my way, which means improvising and breaking the rules when necessary. Here you will find creative twists on old favorites and some of my favorite family recipes, passed down from generations!

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  1. Sharon Austin says

    I have been making trifles for decades, and while the instant pudding is convenient I don’t care for them – if they sit for long they start to get all watery. As I often make the trifle a day ahead so that it can set up well I make my trifles with cooked pudding per the recipe, using half and half, plus a teaspoon of good quality vanilla added – very rich. I am planning to make a cranberry orange trifle this Christmas, the twist this year will be that part of the milk used to make the pudding will in fact be eggnog! I use orange juice rather than water when cooking the cranberries, and when layering add chunks of fresh oranges that have been drained so they don’t make the trifle runny. Instead of vanilla cake my preference is the frozen Sarah Lee Pound cake – holds its shape well under the weight of the toppings. Original trifles were made with sherry sprinkled through, and Lady Fingers – a bit pricey for my pocketbook, and I like the buttery richness of the pound cake. Rather than sherry this time I will be sprinkling with Grand Marnier…

    • Ashley Fehr says

      Hi Kindra! I think it could be made a few hours in advance, I’d just be worried that if it sits too long the acid from the fruit will release too much juice into the filling.

  2. Kelly says

    I am totally not over cranberries yet so keep ’em coming 🙂 I don’t think I have a traditional holiday dessert except for thumbprint cookies that I make every year for our neighbours and family 🙂 Love this trifle, the colors are so so pretty!

  3. Amanda | The Cinnamon Scrolls says

    Wait a minute. There are people who don’t like chocolate and mint?! Say it ain’t so! That is such a depressing revelation. It’s one of my faves! I love the combo of cranberry and orange during the holidays — it just says Christmas to me like no other combination. Hands down, my favourite holiday dessert though has to be shortbread. I don’t know what it is but it’s just not Christmas around my house unless some form of shortbread is present! Lovely recipe, lovely photos, and it looks suuuuper tasty!

    • Ashley Fehr says

      Shortbread?? I have to admit, that’s kind of on the bottom of my list… The excpetion is these shortbread bars with caramel and chocolate that my mom always makes — now THOSE are good! 😉 Thanks Amanda!

  4. Dorothy Dunton says

    Hi Ashley! This looks so light and refreshing after the Thanksgiving pies! My favorite dessert at Christmas is apple date spice cake with whipped cream – what can I say I am a sucker for heavy, dense cakes! 🙂

  5. Jess @ Flying on Jess Fuel says

    You know, I’ve always thought of cranberries as a Thanksgiving fruit, but this year I am starting to realize that it’s TOTALLY a Christmas flavor too! They are soooo yummy! I’ve got to get my hands on some fresh ones this year. Cranberry and citrus are definitely a match made in heaven, so this trifle sounds DELISH!!

  6. Nora | Savory Nothings says

    I lovelovelove Cranberries! They’re the perfect holiday thing and I have a toddler-style tantrum when they’re sold out at the supermarket. And YES to mint. But my favorite holiday flavor of all time is gingerbread. Yeah, boring, I know 😀 I don’t really have a traditional holiday dessert, my mom changes it up every year as well so nothing ever stuck as a “must”. Though we do have a few cookie recipes I’ve been making every year since I was a little girl. I’m loving the look of your trifles, mandarin oranges and cranberries sound like the perfect pairing!

5 from 3 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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